The first highway across the country for cars is the Lincoln Highway. The Lincoln Highway, which originally passed through 13 states New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California, was conceived in 1912 by Indiana businessman Carl G. Fisher and formally dedicated on October 31, 1913.
It now runs coast to coast from Times Square in New York City west to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. The “Colorado Loop” was eliminated in 1915, and the Lincoln Highway was rerouted via West Virginia’s northernmost point in 1928.
As a result, the route has traveled through a total of 14 states, 128 counties, and more than 700 cities, towns, and villages.
3,389 miles 5,454 km was the first official measurement of the full Lincoln Highway in 1913. By 1924, the length of the roadway had been reduced to 3,142 miles 5,057 km thanks to several realignments and improvements made to the road over the years.
5,872 miles 9,450 km overall, including the original route and any later realignments, have been traveled. After the U.S. Numbered Highway System was established in 1926, the Lincoln Highway was gradually supplanted with numbered designations; the majority of the road became U.S. Route 30 from Pennsylvania to Wyoming.
The original Lincoln Highway alignments were mostly replaced by Interstate 80 as the main coast-to-coast route from the New York City area to San Francisco after the Interstate Highway System was established in the 1950s.
Emmett Watson is freed from the juvenile detention facility in Salina, Kansas, on June 12, 1954. He is driven back home by the warden, where he gives the bank the deed to the farm that his recently deceased father had lost.
Emmett wants to move to Texas to use his carpentry abilities and progressively accumulate an increasing number of properties in order to generate a profit and start his own business after reuniting with his 8-year-old brother Billy.
Billy wants to follow his mother to the west coast, where he and Emmett think they will find her. Billy has discovered postcards from their mother that show she traveled the Lincoln Highway all the way to San Francisco.
Unbeknownst to Emmett, Woolly Martin and Duchess Hewett, two fellow inmates from Salina, have hidden themselves in the Warden’s car’s trunk and are now asking him to take them to upstate New York so they may steal a stash of money that is legally Woolly’s.
Emmett offers to take the two to Omaha so they can board a train to their destination even though he is against the plan. Duchess makes an unusual stop in Lewis, Nebraska, where she had previously spent some time at the local orphanage.
There, she steals Emmett’s car and the money Emmett’s father gave him and his brothers to start their new lives. Emmett and Billy find their way to the railway station with the aid of their neighbor and friend Sally, where they stow away aboard an eastbound boxcar going for New York City.
Billy narrowly avoids being robbed and being thrown from the train when, after being left alone while Emmett seeks food, he finds himself at the mercy of a wandering criminal who calls himself Pastor John.
Pastor John is prevented from being thrown off the train by the bravery of a veteran called Ulysses Dixon. Ulysses then travels to New York with the two Watson boys, serving as their guide and forging a friendship with Billy over the legend of the ancient Greek monarch Ulysses.
Duchess stops to get revenge on Warden Ackerly, the former superintendent of Salina, whose bigotry and the tendency for capital punishment make him a target for Duchess, as they make their way to New York to steal the money from Woolly’s family camp in the Adirondacks.
After assaulting him and abandoning him for dead, Duchess and Woolly travel to New York, followed by Emmett. Woolly, who is neurodivergent and shows signs of both developmental difficulties and psychiatric disturbances while in New York, has the chance to see his sister Sarah when he and Duchess visit her home and she graciously invites them to stay.
To find out where his father is, Duchess tracks down Fitzy, a former business partner of his father. She also tracks down Townhouse, a close friend of Emmett’s who was an inmate in Salina.
In order to pay back Townhouse for the amount Duchess feels he owes him, Duchess urges Townhouse to strike him. At Townhouse’s brownstone in Harlem, Duchess gives Emmett’s automobile away.
Emmett locates Fitzy while pursuing Duchess and discovers the truth about her detention. In order to send Duchess to Salina as punishment for a crime his father committed, Duchess’s father had falsely accused him of stealing a watch.
Emmett starts to understand that Duchess has more than just robbing Woolly’s family camp of their money; she also intends to seek revenge on his father.
Townhouse arranges for Emmett’s car to be painted and given performance upgrades so that the law enforcement officers who are on Duchess’s trail and have connected the car to Duchess’s crimes won’t cause Emmett trouble on his way to California.
Townhouse informs Emmett of the trouble that Duchess and Woolly have been in since Duchess stole Emmett’s car in Nebraska.
Emmett understands he must locate Duchess in order to have the envelope with the money his father left for him returned to it when he finds it is not in the car’s trunk.
Emmett is drugged and left behind with the young women of the brothel running on the second floor of the circus building after following Duchess to the circus on Townhouse’s tip.
Duchess abandons Emmett once more and drags Woolly and Billy along with him. When Billy starts to irritate Duchess, he brings Billy to the Empire State Building to find Professor Abacus Abernathe, the author of Billy’s favorite book, who Duchess is certain won’t be there.
Professor Abernathy is determined to meet Ulysses, so Duchess, Woolly, and Emmett take him to the itinerant camp where Ulysses is staying once they do discover the author there and Billy tells the tale of his travels, which includes the specifics of Ulysses Dixon’s incredible life.
The following day, Woolly, Duchess, and Billy decide to prepare an elaborate supper that Duchess learned to prepare when a kid at Woolly’s sister Sarah’s house.
Emmett had to spend a lot of time finding his brother, Duchess, and Woolly after being abandoned at the brothel without the information needed to locate Woolly’s sister’s home.
The sound of an engine backfiring signals the coming of Sally, who has traveled all the way from Nebraska to check on Billy and Emmett after they failed to call her at the mutually agreed-upon time to let her know they were okay. Sally arrives just as Emmett arrives.
After being chastised and reprimanded by his brother-in-law, Woolly and his buddies decide to terminate their wild dinner party and remain the night when Sarah and her husband Dennis arrive home.
To get the money Duchess has persuaded Woolly he is owed, Woolly and Duchess drive north in Woolly’s Cadillac in the morning.
When they get to the Wolcott family camp, Duchess is surprised and amused to learn that Woolly is clueless about the safe’s combination.
Woolly tells Duchess he’s going to take a nap while she starts planning how to get into the safe. Woolly attempts a planned overdose using the remaining pills he had been prescribed at Salina and the bottle of medication he discovered at Sarah’s home.
Duchess discovers Woolly just before he commits suicide but chooses not to intervene or stop him from trying to open the safe on his own. As a result, Woolly is left to die by suicide without ever asking for assistance for the person he regarded as his closest friend.
Emmett has gotten his freshly painted automobile and is prepared to depart New York without helping with the plot to hurt the Duchess’s father. Sally wants to make a fresh start for herself there, just as the Watson lads want to do.
Billy stows away in the Studebaker’s trunk after Emmett leaves Sally and him at a motel close to the Wolcott camp because he believes his brother will need his assistance.
When Emmett arrives and discovers Woolly dead and Duchess having broken into the safe, he is incensed and demands that Duchess bring himself in so that he and his automobile will not be held accountable for the attack on Ackerly.
Duchess makes an initial effort to convince Emmett to help him, but when he sees that Emmett is determined to have him brought to justice for the assault and brought back to Salina, Duchess hits Emmett on the head with a rock and takes Billy, who has already indicated his presence, inside the house where he locks Emmett out.
Finally succeeding in breaking in, Emmett is met by Duchess, who has pulled a weapon from a cabinet and is pointing it directly at him.
Billy emerges into the shadows and assures Emmett that Duchess is not a threat because he is illiterate and cannot understand that, in accordance with the house rules, the weapons have no firing pins left in them because the house has been locked up.
Duchess’ rifle is taken away by Emmett, who then strikes him in the butt, knocking him out. Billy succeeded where Duchess failed by making a safe prediction based on his personal knowledge of American history and his awareness of Woolly’s family’s ties to and appreciation for that time period.
They take the $150,000 from the safe once they discover Woolly’s message, which leaves them each a third of his trust fund allowance. Billy and Emmett each take some for themselves.
Due to Billy’s insistence that Emmett vow not to hurt Duchess, Emmett uses Duchess’s part to come up with a scheme whereby Duchess will inevitably be held accountable for his own demise.
Billy has concluded that Duchess cannot swim, just as he has concluded that she is unable to read.
Duchess wakes up and discovers himself afloat on the lake next to the Wolcott mansion as Billy and Emmett leave the Wolcott house with $100,000 between them and head out to start their life in California.
The paper bag with the Duchess’s portion of the money lies near the stern of the boat, which has a hole in the bow and is being ballasted by rocks at the stern.
Duchess leans too far forward in the boat as the money starts to blow away in the wind in an effort to stop it from happening again. The boat then fills with water, which causes Duchess to fall into the lake and drown.