Dixie Highway

Road Building and the Making of the Modern South, 1900-1930

By Tammy Ingram

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 halftones, 4 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2982-7
    Published: August 2016
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-1299-7
    Published: March 2014

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Awards & distinctions

2015 Malcolm Bell, Jr. and Muriel Barrow Bell Award, Georgia Historical Society

A 2014 Book of Interest, Business History Conference

2014 GHRAC Award for Excellence, Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council

At the turn of the twentieth century, good highways eluded most Americans and nearly all southerners. In their place, a jumble of dirt roads covered the region like a bed of briars. Introduced in 1915, the Dixie Highway changed all that by merging hundreds of short roads into dual interstate routes that looped from Michigan to Miami and back. In connecting the North and the South, the Dixie Highway helped end regional isolation and served as a model for future interstates. In this book, Tammy Ingram offers the first comprehensive study of the nation's earliest attempt to build a highway network, revealing how the modern U.S. transportation system evolved out of the hard-fought political, economic, and cultural contests that surrounded the Dixie's creation.

The most visible success of the Progressive Era Good Roads Movement, the Dixie Highway also became its biggest casualty. It sparked a national dialogue about the power of federal and state agencies, the role of local government, and the influence of ordinary citizens. In the South, it caused a backlash against highway bureaucracy that stymied road building for decades. Yet Ingram shows that after the Dixie Highway, the region was never the same.

Sponsored by the postdoctoral fellows program at the Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

About the Author

Tammy Ingram is assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston.
For more information about Tammy Ingram, visit the Author Page.


β€œIts examples are telling and illustrate effectively the complicated history of federally funded and managed Southern highway construction, raising issues that remain relevant in current debates on funding highway repair. Recommended for all readers interested in American politics and transportation.”--Library Journal

β€œIngram provides a template for future work in this area that others would do well to follow, and that students will benefit from in a variety of courses. A welcome addition to the literature on transportation in the U.S. Recommended. All levels/libraries.”--Choice

β€œA solid and well-written discussion of the myriad aspects of road building in the Progressive-Era South.”--H-SHGAPE

β€œBy skillfully combining national, regional, and state perspectives, Ingram offers a refreshing, informative, and a welcome addition to transportation history.”--Journal of American History

"[This] well-written and accessible account of the Dixie Highway [shows that] road building is so much more than dirt and engineering." --Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Complex and fascinating. From accurate highway signage to the emergence of maps, she shows how people imagined, financed, and built roads in the American South. In her hands, the story of infrastructure development weaves in and out of stories of southern politics, race relations, and economic development, clearly showing, as she says, that 'road building was a crucial linchpin in the transition to the modern South.'" --Journal of Southern History

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @tammyingram.

Visit the Dixie Highway Facebook page.

Listen: Interview with WUNC's "The State of Things" (3/12/2014, running time 17:28).

Read: In an excerpt from a guest blog post, Tammy Ingram explains the importance of the Dixie Highway in American history. Read "Tammy Ingram on the Importance of Roads and the Foundation of the Dixie Highway."