Travel Through Maps & Narratives: An Exhibit on Travel & Tourism
Changes in Transportation
Changes in transportation have a direct effect on travel. Travelers are limited by the methods of transportation available to them, and such methods can imbue a journey with a specific character. A religious pilgrim going from Canterbury, England, to Rome, Italy, mostly on foot would have a very different travel experience than a tourist flying from Detroit, Michigan, to Honolulu, Hawaii. Transportation and travel are closely intertwined. The act of travel would not be possible without a means of movement.
The United States tourism industry was aided by advancements in transportation efficiency. By 1860 all major U.S. cities were connected via railway, and by 1869 the first trans-continental railway line was established. These linkages allowed for easier movement from place to place, and as a result travel and tourism increased. The United States’s transportation landscape changed once again with the invention and popularization of the automobile. Cars led to individual freedom of travel on a scale never before seen. In the early decades of the 20th century the completion of the interstate highway system compounded this increase in automobile travel, and created a market for tourism that continues to grow today.
As the majority of American households gained access to cars, the road trip emerged as an iconically American form of travel. By the middle of the 20th century families were able to plan automobile travel easily. Industry and attractions catering to such vacations arose quickly. Places, like the famous Highway Route 66, became vacation destinations people would travel to in order to enjoy a week or more long trip, rather than one single destination.
During the mid 1940s to the late 1960s air travel revolutionized the American transportation and tourism industry once again. Commercial jetliners with increased capacity and speed allowed for faster travel over great distances. During this time period air travel for all purposes, whether business or pleasure, increased significantly. Travel by plane replaced travel by train as the preferred method of transportation for cross-country journeys, and remains popular to this day.