How are America´s financial titans and road trips related?

Everything you know, hear and read about the financial titans in United States has to do with their accomplishments, donations and success. While these topics are very interesting and very important to understand for future generations, there are other amazing stories that also contributed to cultural activities in the United States. All the financial titans are also normal human beings that have hobbies and go on trips with their families and friends. Like any other regular person they organize road trips and take unplanned vacations to the adventure. Maybe their trips were more advertised as they were rich and famous, but in the end it is the same as your regular yearly vacation.

There was one occasion when 3 financial titans went on a road trip across the United States, thus starting the “Road Tripping” culture in North America which consists of going to the road and visiting many places at the same time in the same trip along the road you are traveling. The story goes more or less like this.


Illinois Road_american financial titans_patrick dwyer
Image courtesy of Michael Kappel at

In 1908 Henry Ford released his model T to the world and promised a lot of good changes for the United States and the world.  Not everyone was very happy about the car and gave it a lot of bad criticism and bad press. One of those hard critics was the famous nature writer John Burroughs that called it a  “demon on wheels” that  would disturb the nature´s peace  with noise and smoke at every location it would go. As ford was a big fan of Burroughs and a birdwatcher himself, he felt he had to do something about his comments and decided to give him a car arguing that it could take him farther into the wilderness and to places never imagined.

Form this gift, a friendship grew between those two and Ford introduced other two American titans to Burroughs: inventor Thomas Edison and tire manufacturer Harvey Firestone. Now that they knew each other they started their adventures. They went to the Everglades, the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the Smoky Mountains. They drove along California’s sparkling coast and threaded through the maple forests of Vermont, and gave them a relaxing time out of the ordinary duties as American financial titans. They took these adventures into the wild every year and lasted between two and three weeks. For their trips, they called themselves “ The Vagabonds”

It was an amazing combination of characters every time they went on their road trips and they could do a lot of things by themselves. For example, Ford served as the energetic mechanic. He fixed busted radiators back together and organized tree-climbing, wood-chopping and sharp-shooting contests during pit stops. Firestone was the chef and took care of the meals and was at the front of the poetry recitations. Burroughs was the man that knew the plants.  He led botanical hikes wherever they set camp and was taught the rest of the group do identify local plants and birdsongs.  

Henry Ford : Thomas Edison : John Burroughs : Harvey Firestone - Yama Farms Inn, Napanoch, N.Y_American financial titans_patrick dwyer
Image courtesy of Boston Public Library at

Sometimes it was not only the 4 members that always went. Some of those entourages included 50 of Ford’s vehicles, heaps of supplies, personal attendants, an official film crew and a truck customized with a refrigerator and gas stove. Edison illuminated the campsite with lamps and a generator of his own invention and in one occasion they even took along a piano player to make night and free time more enjoyable. In Burroughs words “It often seemed to me that we were a luxuriously equipped expedition going forth to seek discomfort.”

Their trips were also a very good way to advertise the Ford cars and Firestone tires. Newspapers all over the country wrote headlines with very attractive titles such as “Millions of Dollars’ Worth of Brains off on a Vacation” and “Genius to Sleep Under Stars.” They made silent movies to promote their trips and to show all the experiences they lived. Soon People were going into theaters to watch silent movies that Ford’s film crew shot while on the road. Americans could now see the wonders of exploring their own countryside from behind the wheel of a Model T car.

The trips made by Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and Harvey Firestone were done between the years 1914 and 1924 and they became very famous. They were so famous that fans lined the streets of country towns when the caravan passed through and parades of new automobile owners followed the entourage to the city limits. It was not long before they became too famous to continue with their adventures, but they planted a seed in the imagination of the Americans that the country could be seen by taking long road trips by car. Not to mention that at the same time cars were promoted.


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