During the past 250 years, American road tourism has spanned a continent and reflected numerous cultural and economic modalities. This article explores specific moments and aspects of road tourism from the prerevolutionary era through the twentieth century. Each era noted encompassed specific aspects of technology, class distinction, and even aesthetic appreciation of nature coded to a time and place. For instance, prerevolutionary tourism was a largely regional affair, with wealthy elites taking extended trips to upstate New York to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. Mid-twentieth-century automobile tourism, however, reflected an emergent middle class, with new destinations throughout the American West made possible by widespread car ownership. This article explores road tourism with a specific focus on how the transition to the automobile precipitated the rise of the motel. Route 66 is examined as the apotheosis of road tourism, and two motels—the Wigwam Motel and the Clown Motel—for their employment of nostalgia, cultural appropriation, and the carnivalesque.

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