The Automobile in Zanesville

Zanesville was limited in population until the automobile allowed people to live anywhere and commute to their jobs. That is not to say that Zanesville grew simply as a town to pass through. Zanesville developed as the population grew and has become more of a car-friendly town than a pedestrian-friendly place. In 1910, before the explosion of the automobile on the national stage, Zanesville only had about 28,026 people within its city limits. The population grew by a substantial amount between 1910 and 1950. By 1950, the population had grown to over 40,000, nearly doubling the total from 1900 (23,538).

1910 Runabout

1910 Ford Model T Runabout

Zanesville did not have almost any roads before 1910. The roads that did exist were dirt and were used for horse and buggies that were commonly used throughout the earlier years. Roads that were previously dirt included; Old National Road, National Old Trails Road, and other roads such as Maple Avenue that run through town and provide easy access to stores. The development of these dirt roads was at first based on closeness to people’s homes and the terrain that the drivers of the horse and buggies experienced. These paths gradually formed over time from use and were perfect to put roads over because they were already relatively flat and people knew them fairly well already.

The growth of the population of Zanesville and the development of the dirt roads contributed to the ability of the city to have National Old Trails Road run through it. This road ran from Baltimore to Los Angeles and was started in the early 1910s, specifically 1912. The road itself spanned over 3,000 miles and ran through Zanesville in the mid-1910s.

Map of the National Old Trails Road with several roads, such as the Oregon Trail

This map shows that the National Old Trails Road was an important cross country road that the government set up to run through the easiest routes possible. Boosters selected a route over existing roads, gave it a colorful name, formed an association to promote the trail, and collected dues from businesses and towns along the way. The associations published trail guides, heldĀ  conventions, and promoted the improvement and use of their route. The goals were to promote the road, the good roads cause, and economic opportunity for the cities and businesses along the way. This shows that the roads were useful to the populace and that the associations consistently had to promote the roads at first in order to get people to embrace them.

Zanesville was slow to start buying cars in mass but the city ultimately became a central hub for cars. In 1916 only 2% of the population of the entire Muskingum County had cars, which is about 1600-1700 people. This shows that even after the development of the National Old Trails Road, the people of Muskingum County were reluctant to make the investment in a car. People still value their horse and buggies because they did not see the value in driving to other towns when they had all they needed within a short distance. The car allowed for the people to move further away and allowed for the creation of suburban areas. The Zanesville city has a large number of suburban houses because of its rapid development with the creation of the National Old Trails Road and during the post-war period. As aforementioned, the 1950 population of Zanesville was much larger than the 1910 population count. This was because the post-war period saw the veterans coming back and people wanted to live in houses. The city thus decided to build suburban homes which forced people to buy cars to get to their jobs on time and travel to vacation spots. Thus, people began buying cars much more than they once had and Zanesville adapted by creating more asphalt roads and created one way streets to streamline traffic to make it quicker to drive through Zanesville if the need arose. This is how the car impacted Zanesville, Ohio.






National Road -Old Trails

Dirt Roads

History of National Road


Picture Sources:

Model T






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