Bridgestone Firestone trucks to retrace Eisenhower’s 1919 route

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It was called “an epic journey for man and machine” when the First Transcontinental Motor Train traveled 3,230 miles from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco in 1919. This June, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials will retrace the historic route to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Interstate System.

Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire is participating in every mile of the “greatest road trip in American history.” AASHTO plans to begin the journey in San Francisco on June 15, with stops to celebrate along the way. The convoy, including two Firestone tractor-trailers, will roll into Washington D.C. June 29.

Most Americans know Eisenhower made the Interstate system a reality, but some may not know that Harvey Firestone and his soon-to-be famous pneumatic tires played an important role. On July 7, 1919, Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower began a coast-to-coast trip to learn whether troops and supplies could cross America by truck successfully. One week later, Eisenhower reached Columbiana, Ohio, where Harvey Firestone invited Eisenhower and his men to enjoy a fried chicken dinner at Firestone’s farm. As the convoy set out the following day, Firestone added two of his own trucks to the group.

Firestone had his innovative pneumatic tires, Eisenhower mostly solid rubber. The convoy reached San Francisco 55 days later, achieving an average speed of 6 miles per hour. By then, Eisenhower was sold on Firestone’s pneumatic tires, and on Firestone’s idea for an interstate highway system. A year before the historic convoy, Firestone created the “Ship by Truck” movement, encouraging manufacturers to move their products to markets by truck. In 1956, Eisenhower, then president, signed the bill creating our modern interstate system.