Ever wondered what it was like to ‘roar’ around the country during the Roaring Twenties? Back when the country was young and restless, and a cross-country road trip was a wild adventure full of danger, excitement, and lots and lots of dust? Back then, travel wasn’t just hopping on a flight; it was an escapade replete with suspense, novelty, and a sprinkle of grit.
How Your Great-Grandmother Traveled
Travel has definitely improved over the past 100 years. And by the way, if you’re thinking 100 years ago was back in the 1800s, you might be showing your age…100 years ago was 1923 and Americans were hitting the road in their new-fangled automobiles.
Here are ten things you might expect if you traveled across America 100 years ago.
1. Ford Model T
You’d need a sturdy vehicle, and not just because of the rough roads. If you were lucky, you might have a fancy new Ford Model T, but more likely you’d be driving a rickety old jalopy that would break down every few miles. Better pack some spare parts!
Fun fact: In 1923, more than half of all cars in the US were Model T Fords!
2. Rough Roads
Speaking of rough roads, they weren’t kidding. Forget the smooth asphalt highways of today. Back then, you’d be lucky to find a dirt road that wasn’t full of potholes, ruts, and boulders. Better hold onto your hat!
Fun fact: In 1923, more than half of all cars in the U.S. were Model T Fords!
3. Plan to Camp Out
If you wanted to see the sights, you’d better be prepared to camp. There weren’t a lot of fancy hotels back then, and the ones that did exist were often full of bedbugs and other unpleasant surprises. Better pack a tent!
Fun fact: It wasn’t until 1956 that the US government started building a nationwide interstate highway system.
4. Better Bring a Book!
You’d need to bring your own entertainment, too. There were no smartphones or streaming services to keep you amused on long, dusty stretches of road. Better pack some books!
Fun fact: Camping as a recreational activity really took off in the 1920s, thanks in part to the availability of affordable cars.
5. Leave Your Furry Friends Home
If you were traveling with a pet, be prepared for some odd looks. People weren’t as used to seeing dogs and cats in cars back then, and some might even accuse you of being a witch. Better pack some extra treats!
Fun fact: In the early 1900s, some people believed that driving with a dog was dangerous because they might jump out of the car and cause an accident.
6. Pack a Lunch
Food and drink were a bit more limited back then, too. Forget about grabbing a Frappuccino at the drive-thru or ordering a burger and fries at a roadside diner. You’d be lucky to find a dry sandwich and a lukewarm soda. Better pack a picnic!
Fun fact: The first fast-food restaurant in the US, White Castle, didn’t open until 1921.
7. Also, Pack Games
If you were traveling with kids, be prepared for some whining. There were no iPads or DVD players to keep them occupied, and the backseat of a Model T wasn’t exactly spacious. Better pack some games!
Fun fact: Coloring books were first introduced in the US in the early 1900s, but they didn’t become popular until the 1930s.
8. How’s Your Morse Code?
If you wanted to communicate with people back home, you’d need to send a telegram. Forget about texting or emailing. Better brush up on your Morse code!
Fun fact: The first transcontinental telephone call was made in 1915, but long-distance calls were still expensive and unreliable.
9. Dress in Layers!
You’d need to be prepared for all kinds of weather. There were no air-conditioned cars back then, and if you were traveling in the summer, you’d be sweating like a pig. In the winter, you’d be freezing your butt off. Better pack some extra clothes!
Fun fact: The deadliest tornado in US history, the Tri-State Tornado, occurred in 1925 and killed 695 people.
10. Which Way Is North?
Finally, be prepared for some serious adventure. With no GPS, no maps, and no reliable guidebooks, you’d be exploring the great unknown. Who knows what kind of strange and wondrous sights you might encounter? Better pack a sense of humor!
Fun fact: In 1916, the US government created the National Park Service to protect the country’s natural treasures, and Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the world.
So there you have it, folks. Traveling across America 100 years ago was a wild and woolly adventure full of thrills, spills, and chills. But hey, at least there was no traffic!
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This post was produced by Our Woven Journey. Featured Image Credit: Deposit Photos.
Demi Michele is a seasoned traveler, turned freelance writer. Having explored most states and ventured internationally, her love for outdoor cafes, new cuisines, and cultural immersion shines through her wide range of articles. Based in Texas with her family and two Scottish Terriers, Demi turns her adventures into captivating travel narratives to share with readers.