Route 66. Iconography of the American Highway, the Commemorative Edition.

Text by Arthur Krim and Denis Wood.
George F Thompson Publishing, 2014. 248 pp., 100 documents, maps, photographs, and postcards, 8xx¾".

Publisher's Description

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.


The commemorative softcover edition was published to coincide with the exhibit, Route 66: The Road and the Romance at the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles. Below is a list of reviews of the exhibit:
Today Show's travel section
Pasadena Star News
Orange County Register
The Guardian
NBC of Southern California

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


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

"The author superbly presents the history behind the facts and images of Route 66...With a highly readable narrative enriched by many good maps and excellent photographs, Krim effectively demonstrates why the words 'Route 66' are 'a generic symbol of the American road with great power both at home and abroad.' There is much of value to the cultural geographer and all others interested in American symbols...Arthur Krim provides a wonderful reminder of symbolic Route 66 to one who has traveled the highway and a marvelous introduction to anyone planning on doing so."
David E. Kromm, Journal of Cultural Geography

"The fame of Route 66 is evidenced by the number of times these iconic double sixes show up in the titles of recently published road books. At least a half-dozen have appeared in the past decade alone. As yet another entry in the field, Krim is plowing well-tilled ground. But the angle of his approach is nonetheless insightful, a welcome departure from the many-pictured guidebooks that direct the reader down a well-worn path past all the usual 66 roadside sights. Krim's approach is decidedly historic and geographical, with at least as much text devoted to the cultural meaning and historic context of the route as to describe its physical evolution. He paints with a broad geographical brush, describing the route relative to the region and the nation, rather than the individual towns or businesses along the way. Illustrating this point, more than half of the twenty-seven maps in the book, some historic but many others drafted specifically for this volume, show some aspect of the route relative to either the entire United States or the western section it traverses. Krim does a masterful job linking together the institutions, agents, and artifacts that both exploited the idea of Route 66 and affirmed it as a cultural icon. He takes us from the 1928 Bunion Derby marathon, through the depression photography of Dorothea Lange and the words and images of The Grapes of Wrath, to the mimetic sign used by Phillips 66 gasoline and the recent reuse of that sign to sell a line of K-Mart apparel...The remilling of the road's identity through these cultural spin-offs came to define the image of the western highway in the American psyche. This well-illustrated book will be appreciated by fans of Route 66, the American highway, and cultural geography in general."
Kevin Patrick, The Geographical Review

"Kim examines the iconography of US 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 US. Kim is an independent writer, geographer and architectural historian. He has published widely on the subject of Route 66."
ProtoView, 2014/11

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