You Can't Get There From Here

Burlington's Jarvis Auto Tours offered visitors a variety of automobile tours with a car and driver during the early 1900s.

Getting from one place to another was a task for a native Vermonter, let alone a tourist. Railroad lines reached most of the major cities and towns by 1900. But visitors to the outlying countryside still usually found themselves riding in horse-drawn wagons to get to their final destinations. Automobiles were a novelty and farmers frequently had to pull the noisy underpowered machines up a steep hill or provide water for the overheated engines.

Many saw the potential of the automobile for tourism and farmers were quick to recognize the value of trucking and improved roads for transporting milk to market. The Automobile Club of Vermont was founded in 1903. Its goals were to promote automobile users’ rights, maintain a social club devoted to “automobilism,” and most important, to improve roads. Promotions like Burlington physician Horatio Nelson Jackson’s cross-country trip in 1903 and the 1910 Munsey Tour heightened public awareness and interest.

Mud season in Vermont during the early 20th century.







Automobile touring became a popular pastime for Vermont’s tourists, though traveling on some of the state’s 15,000 miles of public roads was often an adventure.

Planning for a federal highway through Vermont began in 1914 but implementation took another fifty years. By 1920 more than 37,000 cars were registered in Vermont. With the devastation of the railroads caused by the 1927 Flood and growing public support for and dependence upon automobiles, increased state support for road improvement and construction was inevitable.

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