For several years, the town of Springfield, Missouri, has proclaimed itself as the “Birthplace of Route 66” and in recent years launched a fast-growing festival of the same name.
Now it appears new historical research has deepened the link between Route 66, Springfield and its birth date of April 30, 1926.
From a news release Friday by the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau:
The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program of the National Park Service is making available research conducted by Thomas Peters, dean of Library Services at Missouri State University. Relying heavily on an analysis of historical records from the Cyrus S. Avery Collection and others, the research reveals new insights and details about events that may have taken place that day and solidifies Springfield’s position as the “Birthplace of Route 66.” MSU participates in the Route 66 Archives and Research Collaboration, which strives to connect people with Route 66 history. Peters’ research chronicles in detail activities that took place in Springfield April 30, 1926, leading up to a telegram announcing the highway number “66” being sent to Washington, D.C., from the Colonial Hotel. The telegram was the first recorded reference of the number “66” as the name of the highway.
Peters said the research is the result of years of work and the information being shared is an excerpt from a biography of John T. Woodruff he will publish soon. Woodruff played a major role in business development in Springfield as well as Route 66.
“I felt he was unfairly neglected and forgotten for all the things he did for Springfield,” Peters said. “One of many things he was involved in was the birth and development of route 66.”
Naturally, this news can be interpreted that today is the 90th birthday of Route 66. Some historians will claim the actual birth date is Nov. 11, 1926 — the date when U.S. 66 and other national highways were officially certified.
However, it’s good to see a legend — that Springfield, Missouri, is the birthplace of Route 66 — actually become augmented by historical facts.
And this does nothing to dilute Cyrus Avery’s long-known title as “Father of Route 66,” nor should it be interpreted as such.
(Image of the April 30, 1926 telegraph containing “route 66” sent to Washington)