The National Highways Association (NHA) was established in 1911 to promote the development of an improved national road network in the United States. Under the slogan “Good roads for everyone!” the NHA proposed a 150,000-mile (241,402-kilometer) network of roads, based on a four-fold system of national, state, county, and town or township highways and roads.
This map, issued by the NHA in 1915, shows the tentative routes of the most important highways in this network, totaling 100,000 miles (160,934 kilometers) in length. The table at the top provides estimates of the numbers and percentages of people living in counties traversed by the proposed national highways or counties adjoining them. The map associates the cause of good roads with the “preparedness” debate concerning possible U.S. intervention in World War I that was underway at this time. The map also contrasts the purported benefits of the Panama Canal, opened the previous year, with those of the proposed national road system, claiming (on what basis is unclear): “They cost the same.” Besides issuing brochures and circulars aimed at convincing citizens of the need for a national road system, the NHA was a prolific producer of maps.
Cartographic work was done at an office in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, where approximately 40 people were employed on the property of Charles Henry Davis (1865–1951), president and cofounder of the NHA. Davis believed that these maps would be helpful to a national highways commission that he hoped would be established and that they would assist the states in integrating their roads into a national system. Congress never embraced the plan put forward by the NHA, but the organization and its maps helped to promote the cause of a national road network.