Google celebrates Route 66, touchstone of American culture

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The latest Google Doodle celebrates the anniversary of the creation of Route 66, the famous highway that connected Chicago to Los Angeles and serves as a historic touchstone in American automotive culture.

In the 1920s, automobiles were on the rise in the United States. By comparison, Ford had just begun production of its affordable Model T in 1908, opening up car ownership to the middle class.

During the first two decades of the new century, groups and corporations designated “car trails” across the country, marking recommended routes for travelers across states and across the country. During the 1920s, the United States began to formalize some of these trails as official routes of the United States Numbered Highway System.

On April 30, 1926, portions of three different automobile tracks—The Lone Star Route, Ozark Trails, and National Old Trails Road—were grafted together to form U.S. Route 66, running 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. Route 66 – which would not be fully paved until 1938 – passed through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before arriving in California.

Between an intense publicity campaign and the nature of a relatively easy-to-travel path through a significant part of the United States, Route 66 brought enormous traffic (if you pardon the pun) to communities and businesses that are steadily developed along it, with significant opportunities for gas stations, restaurants and attractions of all kinds.

Things only grew from there after World War II, with many Americans moving west to start new lives in California and the love of cars and driving blossoming further. Some of the enduring aspects of American culture originated near Route 66, including Red’s Giant Hamburg, the first drive-thru restaurant, and the very first McDonald’s.

Of course, all good things come to an end, and Route 66 was no different. The 1950s gradually used the charm and necessity of Route 66, especially with the beginnings of the American interstate system. Ultimately, Route 66 was removed from the American road network in 1985, but the mark it left on American culture lives on.

To celebrate the history of Route 66, Googler responsible for today’s Doodle, Matthew Cruickshank, walked the entire 2,448-mile stretch of Route 66. Along the way, he drew and painted over 100 different works, which came to life in today’s Google Doodle video, set perfectly to the classic track “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66”.

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