Traveling the “Dixie Highway” – Melrose, Florida (circa 1922)

Dr. Harry W. Ryman lived in Summit, New Jersey, a prosperous city on a ridge within the Raritan Valley and Rahway Valley of northern New Jersey.

Today, Summit is within the New York Metropolitan District and a community with one of the highest per capital incomes in the State.

A bit of internet research reveals that Dr. Ryman was a dentist, an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania.

In February, of a year early in the 20’s, Dr. Ryman received a postcard from Melrose, Florida.

Melrose is a city in north central Florida, about 17 miles east of Gainesville.

In the late 19th century, two years of Spring frosts had devastated the area’s citrus industry.  

By the early 20th century, although there was renewed planting, Melrose had developed a core of businesses that catered to travelers and vacationers.

The postcard features a photograph of an auto on the “Dixie Highway”, a network of roads, some paved with brick, that was begun in 1914.

The photograph was copyrighted by the publisher, The Asheville Post Card Co. of Asheville, N.C.

The Dixie Highway was conceived as a corridor running north/south from Montreal to Miami.

The enterprise would be a complement to the famed “Lincoln Highway” traversing the nation east to west.

In the early years of the 20th century, many highways were proposed or promoted by consortiums of public and private concerns – there were few federal initiatives for national infrastructure investments.

The Dixie Highway, expanded by cooperative agreements between states, came to include linked corridors from the Midwest.

The road-building was popular, and received increased federal funding through the 1920’s. 

The Dixie Highway Association was disbanded and absorbed within the US Route system in 1929.

Today, most of the “Dixie Highway” has been superseded by newer federal interstate routes; the former highway can be traced in various state roads.

In some places, the “Dixie” moniker survives (as Dixie Road, Dixie Avenue, Dixie Drive, etc.), while heightened sensitivity to issues of racial injustice has accelerated the name change in other areas.

On the reverse of the postcard, the friends of Dr, Ryman marvel at the unbroken sunny days they have experienced, and joke about the snowfall that is the experience of folks in the north.

It seems that Dr. Ryman treasured the postcard from his friends.

One hopes that the travelers returned safely to the winter weather at home.

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