The Buffalo Congress

January 18, 1902


Delegates from 42 states meet in Buffalo to discuss the Good Road’s Congress, all agreeing that improvement of public roads and infrastructure will modernize and unify the nation. The South, in particular, would benefit from such an effort.


Public interest on good roads steady and strong in all parts of the United States.

One of the most important and encouraging of the many conferences and meetings which have been held in Buffalo this year in connection with the Pan-American exposition was the good roads congress. It was noteworthy for its size and for the promise it afforded of progress in one of the most backward phases of American civilization.
Delegates were present from 42 of the states, and from Belgium, Mexico, and Canada. They were representative men as a rule, and very much in earnest. The proceedings of the congress showed that its members realized the vast importance of good public highways in the development of any country’s business and resources, and in promoting the welfare and happiness of its people. There was a general determination to improve existing conditions in the United States.
What is more to the point, it was abundantly shown that great progress was being made. Particularly gratifying reports came from the south, where the highways have been worse than anywhere else in the county, although that is saying a great deal. One of the principal reasons why the use of the saddle horse has been much more common in the south than in any other section has been the extremely bad condition of the roads for wheeled vehicles.
Yet this is a part of the United States where it is much easier to maintain good roads than it can be in colder regions. The greater part of the south has little freezing weather in winter, and hardly any in the autumn or the spring. Therefore, the maintenance of good roads is freed from one of the most serious difficulties encountered in the north, which is the breaking up of highways by frost, deep and long continued winter thaws.
There was a general agreement among representatives of all parts of the country that the rise of public interest in good roads was steady and strong, and it was believed by the delegates from every section that much progress would be made in the next few years. This hopeful view is probably well founded. In nearly every important district there are enough good roads, or samples of good roads, to serve as object lessons, and it is certain that whenever people have an opportunity to use and enjoy fine highways they will demand the improvement of other roads near by.
Comfort and convenience in the use of public roads seem necessities to those who have any opportunity to ride on highways such as all prosperous countries ought to consider indispensable. Then ways and means of building and maintaining them are found, even though it may have seemed impossible to do so when all the roads were bad.
The United States has a very unfavorable winter climate in the greater part of the country, from the point of view of the road engineer; but American energy and prosperity ought to be equal to the task, none the less, of giving this country a system of common highways as good as the average of European roads. We should be unwilling to admit any longer inferiority in that important feature of social and economic development.
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Brooke Royer


“The Buffalo Congress,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed January 30, 2023,