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Building the Pan American Highway #325: J. Walter Drake Papers

The Second Pan American Highway Congress was held in Rio de Janeiro in August 1929. The objective of the conference was to encourage the development of a highway system that would cross the countries of Central and South America.

Experts were dispatched from the United States to Brazil to advise on the myriad of details associated with road construction. J. Walter Drake was named as the chairman of the American delegation by President Herbert Hoover.

Roads could provide small communities that were virtually isolated from each other to access to trade. Highways were key to making social and economic progress possible. But standards had to be developed and implemented. Countries were encouraged to adopt consistent road signs to indicate directions and dangers. And money needed to be allocated for construction and maintenance.

Explore the papers of J. Walter Drake at UW’s American Heritage Center to learn more about the building of the Pan American Highway.