Among Lincoln Highway fans, two of the biggest, most important names are Carl G. Fisher and Henry B. Joy. Carl Graham Fisher was the Prest-O-Lite headlights man who came up with the idea for the cross-country highway, and Henry Bourne Joy was the Packard Motor Car man who decided the road should be made a memorial to Abraham Lincoln.
Also Henry Joy was the first president of the original Lincoln Highway Association, and there are many beautiful old black-and-white photos of him in his Packard in the Lincoln Highway collection at the University of Michigan Library.
Well, the great-grandson of Henry Bourne Joy was at this conference! He’s a filmmaker in Michigan and he was part of one of the morning sessions on Thursday, offering some familiar insights into the life and attitudes of his great-grandfather.
Then that afternoon about 5:15, he and his family helped unveil a new plaque that was installed on the American Trust Bank Building at the corner of Washington and Michigan Streets in downtown South Bend. That would have been an intersection of the original Lincoln Highway and the Dixie Highway, and the bronze plaque honors both of the highways, the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, and both Fisher and Joy for their work that helped get Americans onto the highways.
The next morning I happened to end up sharing an elevator with the young Henry Joy and his kids, and I had a chance to chat and say hello. I think they might have been pleasantly surprised by how much attention is paid by the Lincoln Highway Association to their ancestor’s work with this road. I gave them a DVD of A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY.
In our PBS program, we didn’t include anything specifically about the Henry Joy monument out in Wyoming, but we shot it back in 2007 when we stopped at the Lincoln Statue at the rest area on I-80 near Cheyenne.
I still think that’s the most interesting rest area I’ve ever been to. Interesting art. A welcome center full of information. And an Art Deco style Henry Joy monument that might lead you to believe he’s buried here. But he’s not.
As I understand the story, the old Henry Joy once said that he hoped to be buried out in Wyoming at the spot (on the Continental Divide about 30 miles west of Rawlins) where in 1915 he saw the most beautiful sunset of his life. But he wasn’t interred there. Instead, in 1939, this striking monument was erected at that remote spot, and it sat there for years, but fears of vandalism led to its being moved to the rest area off I-80 in 2001. I don’t care where it is. It’s beautiful and well sculpted, and striking. And surrounded by 4 Lincoln Highway markers.
I especially like how the stone cutters used little simplified Lincoln-Highway-sign marks at the top and bottom of the main text.
The Joy quote at the top of the stone is simple and direct: “That there should be a Lincoln Highway across this country is the important thing.”
Some people leave pennies near the base of the monument, leaving a little copper Lincoln as a tribute, a thank you, a token of hope that one day you’ll be back or that one day you’ll drive again along this stretch of the Lincoln Highway.
I’m not sure why people throw nickles, dimes and quarters.