Major Migration Route
Originally launched as part of America’s first Federal highway system in 1926, route 66 was a mash-up of local, State, and national roads. The initial purpose of the new road was to replace deteriorating county roads and State highways that had been neglected.
During the Great Depression, thousands of people migrated from the Dust Bowl regions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Texas to California via the newly paved road in search of opportunity. This movement inspired John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
Symbol Of Freedom
During the Great Depression, a significant number of people took to route 66 looking for a better life. The road became a symbol of freedom for the American public and also inspired many movies, music, and books.
Agricultural workers headed west to California, hoping to find employment. This migration was a major factor in the development of California.
Symbol Of Americana
Route 66 was a great symbol of Americana and American culture. It embodied freedom, adventure, and a sense of independence that defined a generation of American youth.
After World War II, a surge in automobile ownership and the expansion of leisure time created a large population that became increasingly mobile. This drove a boom in travel along Route 66 as families headed west for the Grand Canyon or Disneyland.
Roadside cafes, diners, and gas stations sprung up along the route to meet demand from travelers heading westward. You could also pay to see live rattlesnakes, tour caves and Jesse James hideouts, ride horses, watch a Wild West show, or marvel at giant dinosaur statues.
Sadly, many of these businesses have long since closed but others still operate. You can eat in a classic diner, sleep in a simple but clean family-run motel, and do a guided tour of the same cave as those who traveled the road in the 1950s.