Christmas and New Years are over, so there’s time to bring everyone up to date about recent George R. Stewart-related events. The Donner Summit Historical Society reports some major work on US 40, a Route 66 leader has connected with this site through his interest in U.S. 40, and there’s a new French translation of Earth Abides.
In the January issue of the Donner Summit Historical Society’s excellent online magazine, Donner Summit Heritage, Editor Bill Oudegeest includes articles on U.S. 40; one carries news about plans to upgrade the Historic Route over Donner Summit. On page 14, there’s a review of a book about early travel over the road; on page 18, various items about U.S. 40, which begins with the notice of the road upgrade. The current issue isn’t yet posted on the main DSHS pages; but will be soon. However, if you become a paid member – and you should! – you’ll get the Heirloom every month.
U.S. 40 was, if any road was, the George R. Stewart Highway. He hitchiked the eastern section in 1919, when it was still the National Old Trails Road, often drove it across the country, and finally wrote a classic book, the first popular “odology” (road geography) book, U.S. 40. Stewart’s book led to another classic, Vale and Vale’s U.S. 40 Today: Thirty Years of Landscape Change in America; the authors followed old U.S. 40 in 1983, re-photographing as many of his original locations as they could, describing landscape change in the thirty years since Stewart’s book was published. A few years later Frank Brusca posted his wonderful U.S. 40 pages, with even more information about the historic highway and its current character. Recently, in Roads To Quoz, William Least Heat Moon includes an entire section on Stewart and U.S. 40, opening the section with a quote from Stewart.
Finally, earlier this month, Fred Cain contacted me via Michael Ward’s wonderful George R. Stewart Wikipedia pages. Fred is working on a plan to re-authorize U.S. 66 as a marked highway, not simply a series of older sections of the now-deauthorized highway. As it turns out, Fred is also a great fan of Stewart’s U.S. 40 and Vale and Vale’s U.S. 40 Today. We’ve been in an email conversation which includes Bill Oudegeest about getting better signage for the historic U.S. 40 Route.
Here’s a bonus for U.S. 40 historians and fans – a test photo for the book, never published. It’s from the Anna Evenson/George R. Stewart Family Collection, published here with permission. (Please don’t republish it without Anna Evenson’s permission. I can forward a request to her if you wish to use the photo.)
GRS used a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex to take his photos. The Rolleiflex is one of the great cameras of a great era in photography, when Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were creating their best works. Stewart knew Adams, and there’s a letter in the GRS papers from Ansel Adams to Stewart.
The Rollei’s format is square, 2 1/4 by 2 1/4 inch, so the photos in the book are in that square format. (35 mm and most digital cameras have a format that is longer than it is high.)
Here’s the cover page of the new French translation of Stewart’s great novel, courtesy of Philippe Grand.
Earth Abides, abides.