Pointing the Way


Hello

Today we are going to Muse about arrows across the continent.   If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.

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Pointing the Way

I thought I would share with you the following, sent to me by my friend Nancy.  I think you will find it interesting.

This really exists: Giant Concrete Arrows that point your way across America…

Arrow in the desert

Arrow in the desert

Every so often, usually in the vast deserts of the American Southwest, a hiker or a backpacker will run across something puzzling:  a large concrete arrow, as much as seventy feet in length, sitting in the middle of scrub-covered nowhere.

isolated arrow

isolated arrow

What are these giant arrows? Some kind of surveying mark? Landing beacons for flying saucers? Earth’s turn signals?

Transcontinental Air Mail Route Marker

Transcontinental Air Mail Route Marker

No, it’s…

The Transcontinental Air Mail Route.

Map of the Transcontinental mail route

Map of the Transcontinental mail route

On August 20, 1920, the United States opened its first coast-to-coast airmail delivery route, just 60 years after the Pony Express closed up shop.

There were no good aviation charts in those days, so pilots had to eyeball their way across the country using landmarks. This meant that flying in bad weather was difficult, and night flying was just about impossible.

The Postal Service solved the problem with the world’s first ground-based civilian navigation system: a series of lit beacons that would extend from New York to San Francisco. Every ten miles, pilots would pass a bright yellow concrete arrow. Each arrow would be surmounted by a 51-foot steel tower and lit by a million-candlepower rotating beacon.

million candle power rotating beacon

million candle power rotating beacon

(There was a generator shed at the tail of each arrow which powered the beacon.)

Now mail could get from the Atlantic to the Pacific not in a matter of weeks, but in just 30 hours or so.

Even the least informed of air mail pilots, it seems, could follow a series of bright yellow arrows straight out of a Tex Avery cartoon. By 1924, just a year after Congress funded it, the line of giant concrete markers stretched from Rock Springs,Wyoming to Cleveland, Ohio. The next summer, it reached all the way to New York,and by 1929 it spanned the continent uninterrupted, the envy of postal systems worldwide.

Mail delivery Plane and Markers

Mail delivery Plane and Markers

Radio and radar are, of course, infinitely less cool than a concrete Yellow Brick Road from sea to shining sea, but we all know how this story ends. New advances in communication and navigation technology made the big arrows obsolete, and the Commerce Department decommissioned the beacons in the 1940’s. The steel towers were torn down and went to the war effort.

But hundreds of arrows remain. Their yellow paint is gone, their concrete cracks a little more with every winter frost, and no one crosses their path much, except for coyotes and tumbleweeds.

But they’re still out there.

On a  different subject

I have a completed new painting, part of my aerial portraits of the land.  This is based upon New Mexico.

New Mexico

New Mexico

More to come.

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Books by Thomas L. Tribby Available Click on title below to preview

Works on Paper

On The Waterfront

Impressions of Florida

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 Tribbyart’s Boutique

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Original Works:  Aerial Portraits Of The Land

Fields Oil on Canvas 48 x 24″ 
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Heartland  Oil on canvas 48" x 36"
Heartland Oil on canvas 48″ x 36

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Nebraska Oil on canvas 48″ x 38″ SOLD

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Montana Oil on canvas 60" x 30"
Montana Oil on canvas 60″ x 30″  SOLD

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For information about these or other original works of art, please feel free to contact us: 

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About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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