History on Elm Travels Route 66

The next History on Elm series at the State Historical Society of Missouri will tour Route 66 and highlight plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the “Mother Road” in 2026. Kathleen Seele, coordinator of the SHSMO Rolla and Springfield Research Centers, will talk about the collection’s initiative for Route 66 and how Missourians can be involved in the historic centennial celebration. Seale’s presentation will be held on Tuesday, June 13, noon- 1 p.m. at the Center for Missouri Studies, 605 Elm St., Columbia. The State Historical Society of Missouri is one of the depositories for material related to Route 66 and made available to the public.

“We’re very interested in stories and materials ranging from the road’s origins to its peak period in Missouri (circa 1926-1960) to its decline following the rise of the Interstation Highway system,” said Kathleen Seale, coordinator of the State Historical Society’s Rolla and Springfield Research Centers.

Missouri is where Route 66’s name became official, as the highway received its number assignment via a telegram sent April 30, 1926, to Springfield. A gathering there of the proposed highway’s supporters that included Cyrus Avery, the Oklahoma highway commissioner now widely known as the “Father of Route 66,” and John T. Woodruff, a Springfield attorney and business owner who was Missouri’s leading proponent of highway development.

“Supporters had lobbied hard for the number 60 to be assigned to the new highway as roads ending in the number “0” were being reserved for the most important transcontinental routes,” said Seale. “Failing to get Route 60, the Springfield group rejected other proposed numbers until 66 was offered and accepted.”

History on Elm series celebrates the 125th anniversary of the founding of the State Historical Society in 1898 by exploring a variety of topics on the second Tuesday at noon, September through June, ranging from Missouri art and authors to unique and interesting collections at the State Historical Society. The series will take a break in July and August and resume the monthly programs beginning in September. The series is free to the public and registration is not required. The programs begin promptly at noon at the State Historical Society of Missouri Center for Missouri Studies, 605 Elm St., Columbia. For more information, visit shsmo.org.