Route 66

Iconography of the American Highway

Arthur Krim

Winner of the J. B. Jackson Prize for the Best Book in Cultural Geography!
Date Published :
September 2014
Publisher :
George F Thompson Publishing
Editor :
Denis Wood
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781938086168

Stock Status : In stock


Route 66 was the iconic highway of twentieth-century America, stretching from downtown Chicago to the Mississippi River at East St. Louis and proceeding through the Indian lands of Oklahoma and the Southwest to Los Angeles and the Pacific Coast, connecting Americans physically and culturally. In this engaging, meticulously researched, and fully illustrated study, Arthur Krim explores the fascinating history and complex symbolism behind this most famous American highway—both on the ground and in the mind.

Route 66 traces the iconography of US 66 first as an idea, then as a fact, and finally as an enduring symbol found in classic American books and films, songs and television programs, and pop art. While the antecedents of Route 66 are to be found in the prehistoric trade and hunting paths of the Indian peoples, in the Spanish expeditions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in the wagon trails and railroad routes of the nineteenth century, construction of Route 66 during the twentieth century ushered in the revolutionary era of the modern American highway and of cross-country automobile travel.

In his innovative study, Krim discloses how the highway transcended its gravel and concrete physicality to become an enduring metaphor for the American spirit of exploration and discovery, freedom and hope that is historically found by its people heading west. He draws on a wealth of scholarly and visual materials to examine how Route 66 evolved through each passing generation, from Main Street boosters during the road's early development to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath during the Dust Bowl years, from Bobby Troup's unforgettable '(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66' to renditions of the song by Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones during the early rock and roll years, from Jack Kerouac's classic book, On the Road, to the cult film, 'Easy Rider,' and the television drama, 'Route 66,' during the pop culture years, to recent regional and mass-marketing advertising of products that rely on the transcendent Route 66 name.

Combining history and geography, metaphor and captivating iconography, Krim reveals how Route 66 compressed disparate socio-economic events, traditional democratic ideals, and emerging cultural ideas into the national memory of Route 66 that prevails today. Route 66, now available in an elegant paperback edition, is a pioneering book not to be missed.

** Nominated for a 2015 IPPY Award" from the Independent Publishers Association **

About The Author

Arthur Krim is an independent writer, geographer, and architectural historian based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a founding member of the Society for Commercial Archeology. He has worked professionally for decades as a research consultant and lecturer with various institutions, including the Boston Architectural Center, Cambridge Historical Commission, Clark University, Massachusetts Historical Commission, Salve Regina University, and Sotheby's Photographs. His research articles on Route 66 have appeared in Landscape, Journal of Cultural Geography, and Journal of Historical Geography, among other scholarly journals, and in two books, Roadside America and Place, Power, Situation and Spectacle. For his book,Route 66, Arthur Krim was awarded the prestigious J. B. Jackson Prize of the Association of American Geographers for the best book in cultural geography.

DENIS WOOD, an independent writer and geographer based in Raleigh, North Carolina, was a distinguished professor of design at North Carolina State University from 1974 to 1998. His many acclaimed and influential books include The Power of Maps, which was a History Book Club and a Quality Paperback Book Club selection, Rethinking the Power of Maps with John Fels and John Krygier, Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas, Five Billion Years of Global Change: A History of the Land, and the classic, Home Rules, with Robert Beck.


"Krim examines the iconography of U.S. 66 first as an idea, then as a connection of physical spaces, and finally as an American symbol. In this J. B. Jackson Best Book in Cultural Geography, readers will have access to the origins of the mythology of the American road, the evolution of automobile travel, and the role Route 66 now plays in the larger mythology of the U.S. Krim is an independent writer, geographer, and architectural historian. He has published widely on the subject of Route 66."

- Protoview

"Route 66 is a scholarly tour de force. It offers an insightful analysis of this famous highway, treated both as a geographical actuality and a cultural symbol. The book anchors Route 66 firmly in an understanding of American history and geography. Route 66 did not just happen but was rooted in centuries of human history. In this regard, no other book comes close to, establishing just what the road's 'roots' are. It should stand for years as the definitive voice regarding Route 66 and its physical and social origins."

- John A. Jakle, co-author of The Gas Station in America, The Motel in America, Fast Food: Restaurants in the Automobile Age, and Lots of Parking: Land Use in a Car Culture

What an amazing piece of American history, accomplishment, iconography, and art is Route 66, and you will learn all the various facts and folklore about this highway that was an early American accomplishment, connecting Chicago to St. Louis and then taking travelers all the way west to the Pacific Coast. The route passed through Main Streets all along the way, joining places which had never been joined yet following historic pioneer and Indian trails. The famous Route 66 has been elevated to fame and imaginations through novels (Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath), art, photography, films, TV, and music (Bobby Troup's "Get Your Kicks on Route 66"). This is the route every American and every foreign visitor wants to travel, because it has been embedded into our imaginations in so many ways. This is the book that tells all about why and how and how deeply a part of us this iconographic American highway is. It is fascinating, and the book is done in such a visually explanatory way with wonderful photos throughout. It is terrific!

- Bonnie Neely, Real Travel Adventures

"The road is gone, but it will hardly be forgotten—thanks, in part, to the author's labors. Since Mr. Krim delves into the historical at the expense of the breezy, some casual readers may find the amount of detail daunting, but others will be grateful for it. And the book will almost certainly be embraced by another group: future historians who seek a single-volume chronicle of the most famous stretch of highway in the U.S."

- Brock Yates, The Wall Street Journal

"Krim's book is a detailed examination of the making of an American icon in the context of its times. By drawing on a wealth of sources, Krim not only illuminates the complex symbolism of Route 66, but the complexities of the culture which the highway's mythic aura emerged, expanded, and evolved from generation to generation."

- J. B. Jackson Prize Committee

For younger readers, Krim's history might assume too much familiarity with a road that was, for much of the last century, the route to the promised land of California. But for those who remember Bobby Troup's near-perfect rhyme pf. 'Winona' and 'Arizona,"Route 66 is a fascinating account of the real people and real events that built a fabled road in our minds.

- Eric Jones, Wilson Quarterly

"In Route 66: Iconography of the American Highway, Arthur Krim adroitly combines words and pictures to describe and explain how a highway stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles became the embodiment of American values and aspirations…Well-researched and clearly written, it effectively depicts the enduring association of Route 66 with adventure, escape, and a yearning to start life anew."

- Rudi Volti, Technology and Culture

"Krim persuasively makes his case as he studies oute 66's origins, realization, and transformation into cultural icon…Arthur Krim's comprehensive and thorough book makes a very fine contribution to the study of Route 66 and American culture. The book is cleanly written, and Krim's enthusiasm for his subject always keeps interesting what might otherwise risk becoming dry material."

- Paul Kucera, Steinbeck Studies

"One of the finest histories of the Mother Road…Route 66 is a must read for any Roadie wishing to learn how Route 66 became a national—if not world—icon. Krim has done an admirable job in covering details and history, while maintaining a writing style that allows the reader to move effortlessly and neer, for a moment, feel bogged down in a boring tome."

- Route 66 Magazine

"In this handsomely illustrated book, Arthur Krim provides a richly textured analysis of the place of Route 66 in the American consciousness…Krim has provided an excellent account of one long, thin line that has had an enormous impact on the American sense of place."

- David M. Wrobel, Pacific Historical Review

“I love this book. Route 66 invokes the American dream, speaks of pioneers and adventure and snakes its way through the very heart and soul of a continent and its people.”

- Classic Military Vehicles

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