On September 11, 1915, Collier’s magazine publishes the second in a series of three essays on automobile travel by a not-yet-well-known writer named Emily Post. The series, called “By Motor to the Fair,” told the story of Post’s 27-day drive from New York City to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. The next year, Post published her first nonfiction book: the well-received By Motor to the Golden Gate, an expanded account of her trip. Later, of course, she went on to become one of the world’s most famous and beloved authorities on etiquette.
In 1915, motor travel–especially cross-country motor travel–was all the rage. The Great Northern Railway had adopted the slogan “See America First!” in 1906, and other railroads, resort operators, national-parks advocates, and guidebook writers soon joined the campaign to lure well-to-do tourists to the western United States. (It didn’t hurt that Europe, the traditional holiday destination for these travelers, was at war and thus closed to casual visitors.) Hotels, gas stations, and roadside restaurants popped up practically overnight, clamoring to serve these westbound adventurers, and magazines–many of them heavily dependent on car-related advertising–tirelessly hailed the joys of modern motoring.
On April 25, 1915, Emily Post, her son Ned, and her cousin Alice Beadleston set off for California. Ned was the driver; Alice was tucked in back with the luggage. They arrived in San Francisco on June 8. (The actual drive took 27 days; the travelers spent the rest of the time sightseeing, visiting, and waiting for car repairs.) Post traveled in style–her editor at Collier’s had told her to return to New York as soon as conditions became the least bit uncomfortable–and the trio kept to good roads, good restaurants, and good hotels. “She conveys the impression,” wrote one reviewer, “that Job, with a soft ash-pile to sit on, even though he did have boils on his neck, didn’t begin to have his patience tried as do those who plow through muddy or dusty roads, and creep tired and weary into dank hotels where drab waiters offer soggy food.” In all, the trip cost about $1,800.
By Motor to the Golden Gate was reprinted in 2004.