Through the Lens of Time: Media Coverage of the 1919 Transcontinental Motor Convoy

The 1919 transcontinental military convoy was a significant event, not just in military history but also in the development of American infrastructure, and it was extensively covered by the media of the time. The convoy, which traveled from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, tested the endurance and capability of military vehicles and personnel over long distances and varied terrains.

The reporting by the media provided a narrative that connected the public with the military expedition, offering insights into the daily experiences of the convoy members. The media helped to humanize the military in the eyes of the public, creating stories of adventure, endurance, and the spirit of innovation and progress.


The expedition crossed 11 states in addition to the District of Columbia, and passed through about 350 communities. In this way, approximately 3,250,000 persons were afforded an opportunity to personally see a unit of a motorized army, and to understand the vast importance and urgent necessity of motor transport and good roads in the cause of national defense.

It is estimated that this matter was brought directly to the attention of about 33 million persons, or nearly one-third of the population of the entire country through the medium of local publicity in the states crossed.

Captain William C. Greany

Statistical Officer, Transcontinental Army Motor Convoy

The media coverage helped highlight the state of American roads at the time, which were often in poor condition and unsuited for long-distance travel. The difficulties faced by the convoy, including mechanical failures and the slow pace of travel due to the state of the roads, with an average of 6 mph, were widely reported. This brought public attention to the need for a national highway system, illustrating the challenges of transportation and the potential benefits of improved infrastructure.

Media reports served as publicity for the military and its capabilities, showcasing the logistics of moving a large convoy across the country and the potential for motorized units in future military operations.

Local Libraries

Newspaper articles from the time provide a valuable historical record of this historic event as they offer contemporary perspectives on the convoy, reflecting the public interest and the significance attached to this endeavor by the society of the time.

The reporting captures the excitement and the challenges faced, providing a snapshot of a pivotal moment in the development of American roads and the modernization of military logistics. Through these reports, we can gain insights into the broader implications of the convoy for American society, infrastructure development, and military planning in the early 20th century.

Transcontinental Motor Convoy Report by Col. William T. Carpenter – 1920
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The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, commonly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act
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Firestone Film – 1919
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