Automobile Sociability Tour - CSPM

Automobile Sociability Tour

The automobile era introduced a new sense of freedom for travelers. No longer were you limited by set train schedules and destinations – you could go anywhere, at any time. Local boosters were quick to jump on the bandwagon, organizing “Automobile Sociability Tours” to market Colorado Springs. Businessmen piled into banner-festooned cars and drove across country, arriving as minor celebrities in towns throughout the Midwest and South. Their message: “Come to Colorado Springs! If we can get to you by automobile, you can get to us!”

– From the CSPM Curator of History

At 7:00 in the morning, Wednesday, May 6, 1914, the Colorado-to-the-Gulf Sociability Tour began in front of the Burns Theatre, where the Chamber of Commerce offices stood, in downtown Colorado Springs. The purpose of the tour was to highlight road travel by automobile, and the importance of good roads.

The sociability tour included 30 or so men, prominent in their communities, from Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Pueblo. They were bankers, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and politicians. The plan was to travel  from Colorado Springs to Galveston, Texas by automobile.  The advertising motto was, “Drive to warm country in the winter (southern Texas) and drive to cool country in the summer, (Colorado).”

What they found were roads in Texas that were in terrible shape due to heavy rains and flooding but very welcoming towns and cities of people who went out of their way to make Colorado visitors feel welcome. After having reached Galveston the wet return trip to Colorado was too much for their automobiles, and they had to ship the cars and themselves back to Colorado by train. The trip definitely highlighted the need for better roads for all involved.

Another sociability tour, announced in the May 1915 issue of Town Development Magazine stated, “…for the purpose of advertising Colorado’s automobile highway throughout the East, the Colorado Sprins, Colo. Chamber of commerce made plans for a 3,000 mile automobile sociability run.” It started on April 5, taking 3 weeks, and getting as far east as Indianapolis, Indiana.

Sociability tours were done in-state to assess the various roads over mountain passes and the road built next to rivers, for their viability for leisure travel by automobile. What better way to assess the condition of roads than to travel on them? And what better way to travel than make a planned tour so the advertising travelers in their automobiles could announce their plans to the towns along the route where they were planning to drive? The towns would then be obliged to welcome the travelers and planning for local road improvements would be discussed and promotion of the improvements made to the local citizens.

With the federal government taking on the task of building new highways and improving older roads, the sociability tours soon faded out. Colorado Springs advertising continued in many other formats.

Generously Submitted by John Orsborn, CSPM Volunteer Educator

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