Traveling the Sunshine Highway

The 1922 version of the Sunshine Highway ran from Brandon, Manitoba, to Sioux City, Iowa.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig
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The Sunshine Highway was making news in Jamestown in 1922.

Back in the area before the federal government developed long stretches of roads, organizations would scout good local roads that interconnected to form routes that could take you across the country.

The 1922 version of the Sunshine Highway ran from Brandon, Manitoba, to Sioux City, Iowa, according to newspaper accounts. Organizers were hoping to expand the route south with the ultimate goal of connecting Canada to the Gulf Coast of the United States.

That would have been an adventurous road trip given the automobiles of the 1920s.

In North Dakota, the Sunshine Highway passed through Devils Lake, New Rockford, Carrington, Jamestown, Edgeley and Ellendale as well as numerous small communities along the route. Local civic groups would check the roads and encourage good maintenance from local road departments and put up official highway signs marking the route.


Sheet metal signs were 18 inches square with a yellow background. In the center was a black letter “S”.
The letter “R,” for right, was placed under the S when a right turn was required to stay on the route. If you guessed an “L” under the S meant a left turn you would be correct.

While the Sunshine Highway ran north and south, there were other routes running east and west including the Old Red Train, the Yellowstone Train and the Roosevelt Trail
All were efforts by local communities to capitalize on the growing new fad of automobile tourism.
“Tourism business is now in its infancy,” said Mayer Dalton, head of the Sunshine Highway national organization in an interview with The Jamestown Alert. “… statistics show the average expenses per car to be $10 per day.”

Adjusted for inflation that would be nearly $170 per day spent by tourists.

There was another similarity between travel in 1922 and now.

The articles of The Jamestown Alert said the roads of the Sunshine Highway were in good condition except for areas of road construction.

Yes, even in the infancy of automobile tourism, travelers had to dodge road construction along the way.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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