The National Road

Introduction

In 1806 Congress authorized the establishment of a road running from Cumberland, Maryland to the Ohio River.  This National Road (sometimes referred to as the National Turnpike, Cumberland Road, or Cumberland Turnpike) facilitated Americaís westward expansion and would eventually stretch to Vandalia, Illinois. 

The National Road was Americaís first federally funded highway, enabling thousands to travel into the heart of the new republic, especially so after Marylandís General Assembly authorized a turnpike from Baltimore to Cumberland, linking that important port city to the interior.  The road would incorporate older roads such as the Braddock Road, carved out during the initial campaign of the French and Indian War, and Zane's Trace, cut through part of Ohio by Colonel Ebenezer Zane in what was then the Northwest Territory.  When the nationís focus on transcontinental transportation shifted to rail, federal funding was not renewed and the National Road officially stopped at the courthouse in Vandalia.

During the early 1920's the National Road became designated as U.S. Route 40 as part of the emerging Federal Highway System, at which time the new highway was made to stretch from Delaware to California.  With the implementation of the Interstate System, parts of Route 40 would become Interstate 95, Interstate 70, and Interstate 68.  The photographs in this document packet offer an insight into the transportation network that existed prior to the Interstate System and illustrate the evolution of travel in America in the 20th century alone.

The National Road serves as a metaphor for America's westward migration as the nation reached into the interior of the continent, driven by the ideology of "manifest destiny" toward the Pacific coast.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 4: Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)

STANDARD 1: United States territorial expansion between 1801 and 1861, and how it affected relations with external powers and Native Americans.

Standard 1C: The student understands the ideology of Manifest Destiny, the nation's expansion to the Northwest, and the Mexican-American War.

5-12: Explain the economic, political, racial, and religious roots of Manifest Destiny and analyze how the concept influenced the westward expansion of the nation. [Examine the influence of ideas]

STANDARD 2: How the industrial revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed the lives of Americans and led toward regional tensions.

Standard 2A:  The student understands how the factory system and the transportation and market revolutions shaped regional patterns of economic development.

5-12: Explain how the major technological developments that revolutionized land and water transportation arose and analyze how they transformed the economy, created international markets, and affected the environment. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Primary Resources

  1. TITLE:  An Act, To regulate the laying out and making of a road from Cumberland, in the state of Maryland, to the state of Ohio.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  Washington, DC, December 30, 1805
    NOTES:  Congress authorizes the establishment of a road from Cumberland, MD, west to Ohio.
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  2. TITLE:   Carte des E'tats-unis d'Amerique 1836
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1836
    NOTES:  This map of the United States during the early republic depicts the "Route Nationale" extending from Cumberland to its terminus in Vandalia, Illinois
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  Map Collections: 1500-2004
    REPOSITORY:   Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540

  3. TITLE:  "Roll along, roll along, shout the campaign battle song."
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1876
    NOTES: An illustrated sheet music cover for a song composed in honor of Republican presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes. Uncle Sam sits atop a hay wain labeled "Hayes," as a group of farmers or herdsman accompanies the wagon past a signpost in the middle ground reading: "National Road Ohio to Washington." (Hayes went from being governor of Ohio to President of the United States.)
    SOURCE:  Library of Congress
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress Music Division Washington, D.C. 20540

  4. DESCRIPTION: Rutted National Road full of melted snow
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Leo J. Beachy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: n. d.
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5722
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  5. DESCRIPTION: National Road going thru covered bridge
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: n. d.
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5146
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  6. DESCRIPTION: Rooftops, looking down National Road
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Leo J. Beachy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: n. d.
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5760
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  7. DESCRIPTION: Hotel Victoria on Main Street, National Road
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Leo J. Beachy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1905
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5746
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  8. DESCRIPTION: Old stone bridge on National Road
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Leo J. Beachy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: ca. 1915
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5657
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  9. DESCRIPTION: Castleman Hotel on National Road
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Leo J. Beachy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: ca. 1915
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5744
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  10. DESCRIPTION: Repairing a flat tire on National Road
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Leo J. Beachy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: 1918
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5735
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  11. DESCRIPTION: People posing with automobile on the National Road
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Leo J. Beachy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: ca. 1920
    SOURCE: Robert G. Merrick Archives of Maryland Historical Photographs, MSA SC 1477-5733
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  12. TITLE:  National Road, Tollhouse, Sharpsburg vicinity, Washington County, MD (view from Northeast)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  Documentation compiled after 1933.
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE: Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  13. TITLE:  National Road, Tollhouse, Sharpsburg vicinity, Washington County, MD (view from Southwest)
    CREATED/PUBLISHED:  Documentation compiled after 1933.
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  14. TITLE:  Milestone of Zane's Trace, Route 22, Kinderhook vicinity, Pickaway County, OH
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  Eugene F. Schrand, Photographer, June 22, 1937 
    NOTES: In an age before the green signs we have become accustomed to on the nation's interstate highways, distance and direction on roads were marked by milestones lining the shoulder of turnpikes such as the National Road.  According to some estimates, less than 20% remain along the road side.
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  15. TITLE:  Casselman River Bridge, National Road (U.S. Route 40) at Little Crossings, Granstville vicinity, Garrett County, MD
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  A.S. Burns, Photographer, December 1933
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  16. TITLE:  National Road, Wilson Bridge, Spanning Conococheague Creek at Route 40 (Old), Hagerstown vicinity, Washington County, MD
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1969
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  17. TITLE:  National Road, Wilson Bridge, Spanning Conococheague Creek at Route 40 (Old) - showing damaged arch 1982
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1982
    NOTES:  This photograph and the preceding photograph illustrate the effects of time and usage on a section of the National Road.  Note the damaged section of arch on the Wilson Bridge.  This bridge was built in 1819 and has since been repaired and the road re-routed over the bridge pictured below.
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  18. TITLE:  National Road, Concrete Arch Bridge, Spanning Conococheague Creek at Route 40 (Old)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1983
    NOTES: Photograph of the concrete bridge that replaced the stone bridge (Wilson Bridge) spanning the Conococheague Creek near Hagerstown
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  19. TITLE:  An automobile accident on the U.S. 40 between Hagerstown and Cumberland, Maryland
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Arthur Rothstein (1915- )
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  November 1936
    NOTES:  Photograph illustrates the nature of transportation on America's roadways, like the National Road, early in the 20th century as automobiles already a significant part of American life.  Compare and contrast conditions in 1936 to present.
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  20. TITLE:  Old Covered Bridge, West of Zanesville Post Office, U.S. Highway 40, Hopewell vicinity, Muskingum County, OH
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  A.S. Burns, Photographer, November 1933
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  21. TITLE: Bridge on Old National Road, North of U.S. Highway 40 at Saltfork, Cambridge, Guernsey County, OH
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  Documentation compiled after 1933
    NOTES: Defense worker reading a letter from home. He works at the proving grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland and lives in one of the FSA (Farm Security Administration) dormitories for defense workers.
    REPRODUCTIONS: Rights and Reproductions
    SOURCE:  Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record 1933-Present
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540

  22. TITLE:  National Road Milepost
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  Made about 1844
    NOTES: This marker was used on the National Road, West of Frostburg, Maryland. It is believed to have been cast in the foundry of Major James Francis, at Connellsville, Pennsylvania and was probably set up in the late 1830s or 1840s. It remained outside until January 1963.
    SOURCE: National Museum of American History, America on the Move
    REPOSITORY:  National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Additional Media Resources

Route 40, America's Golden Highway

Maryland National Road Corridor Partnership Plan

The National Road. An excerpt from History Magazine

National Museum of American History, America on the Move

Maryland State Highway Administration. Maryland Scenic Byways: Historic National Road

Additional Instructional Resources

The National Road: All Roads led to Baltimore.  Teacher Guide

Traveling the National Road: Classroom Activity Program

Secondary Resources

Raitz, Karl B., ed., The National Road, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996

Longfellow, Rickie, "Back in Time: The National Road", United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, 2004

Bruce, Robert, The Old National Road, Washington, D.C., and Old Slip, NY: National Highway Administration and Author. 1916

Day, Reed B., The Cumberland Road, Clossen Press, 1995

Ierley, Merritt, Traveling the National Road: Across the Centuries on America's First Highway, Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press. 1990

Schneider, Norris Franz, The National Road: Main Street of America, Columbus, OH: Ohio Historical Society. 1975

Some journal articles linked to this site require password access due to copyright and other restrictions. Teachers participating in the Teaching American History in Maryland program with a valid University of Maryland (UMBC) Library card can access these materials through ResearchPort.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Maryland National Road Partnership
Maryland Department of Planning
 
301 W. Preston Street, Suite 1009
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 767-4544
Maryland Historical Society
201 West Monument Street. 
Baltimore, MD
(410) 685-3750
Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Blvd.
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 260-6400

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Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Derrick Lapp.

 

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