Romancing the Road: a Visual History of California Roadways

Peter J. Shields Library Lobby
Spring and Summer 2008

From the narrow path that in 1823 connected the San Diego and San Francisco Missions, California's roadway system has grown to a massive 75,000 miles of state and county highways. The early routes often followed Native American trails. Hand labor and mule power used to drag Fresno Scrapers eventually widened the roads to allow passage of stage and freight wagons. In 1895 a Bureau of Highways survey team recommended a plan to update California roads to accommodate the state';s increasing reliance on horse-drawn freight wagons. Ironically, however, the call for paving roadways came only at the end of the 1890s from bicycle enthusiasts tired of fighting their way through ruts and mud. By the early 1900s it was apparent that the growing number of private automobiles required a more developed roadway system. Not until 1912 did the actual construction, recommended by the 1895 Bureau of Highways survey team, begin on the alignments. The first paved roadway linked South San Francisco and Burlingame.

Romancing the Road: a Visual History of California Roadways uses selected texts and photographs from a variety of subject areas held by Shields Library to depict this colorful development.