Oklahoma’s First Highway Map

1916 map of Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s first highway map published in 1916

Oklahoma’s first highway map was published one hundred years ago, and I think provides a fascinating look at the development of the state at that time.  This was also an important milestone in mapmaking, with the focus of travel maps switching from railroads to roads.

This is a portion of the 1916 map available for download from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation State Highway Map Archive page.  There is a 1907 map listed, but this one shows the railroads existing at the time.  The 1916 map does not show highways as we know them today, but it was a good attempt to map the road network at the time.

I am guessing that none of these roads were paved, and they were not designed for cross-country travel.  The map includes a black line for every section line in the state (spaced one mile apart), with red lines for the roads that the mapmaker determined were travel worthy.  Some diagonal roads seem to be on railroad right-of-way.  Some may be older roads that did not follow the section lines, but this was before there was a formal Highway Department in the state and thus before the state started buying right-of-way for highway use.

The sample map above shows a section of the state from Oklahoma City to Norman.  What looks like a loop around Oklahoma City appears to be the route of Grand Boulevard (of which only portions remain today while other sections have been turned into freeways or Interstate highways).  Some other features on the map are representative of the entire state–many roads dead end without connecting to other roads, and many river crossings look very problematic.

Some of the roads shown on this map later became part of U.S. 66 and other highways, and I think many Federal and state highways were stitched together from the previously existing roads.  Of course, it is interesting to look at the later maps on the ODOT web site to see how these roads were developed.

Although not directly related to food, I thought it would be particularly noteworthy to celebrate the 100th anniversary of this historic map–and in how much travel has developed since that time.

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