Cyrus Avery

Last updated
Cyrus Stevens Avery
Born(1871-08-31)August 31, 1871
DiedJuly 2, 1963(1963-07-02) (aged 91)
Resting placeRose Hill Cemetery, Tulsa
36°09′43″N95°55′30″W / 36.162°N 95.925°W / 36.162; -95.925
MonumentsAvery Drive, Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge and Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza in Tulsa
ResidenceTulsa, Oklahoma
Citizenship American
Education baccalaureate
Alma mater William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri
Occupationbusinessperson, oilman, highway commissioner
OrganizationOklahoma State Highway Commission
Known for U.S. Route 66 and the U.S. Highway 66 Association
Home town Tulsa, Oklahoma
Spouse(s)Essie McClelland
ChildrenGordon Avery, Leighton Avery, Helen Avery Berghell, US Route 66
Parent(s)Alexander James Avery and Ruie Stevens Avery

Cyrus Stevens Avery (1871–1963) was known as the "Father of Route 66". He created the route while a member of the federal board appointed to create the Federal Highway System, then pushed for the establishment of the U.S. Highway 66 Association to pave and promote the highway.

The U.S. Highway 66 Association was organized in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1927. Its purpose was to get U.S. Highway 66 paved from end to end and to promote tourism on the highway.


Early life and move to Oklahoma

He was born in Stevensville, Pennsylvania on August 31, 1871. He and his parents, Alexander James Avery and Ruie Stevens Avery moved to Missouri in 1881. [2] In 1890, the family moved to Noel, Missouri, where Cyrus received a certificate to teach in public schools. In 1893, he enrolled in William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1897. [1] [3] He married Essie McClelland after graduation, [4] then moved to Oklahoma City to be an insurance agent. In 1904, he moved to Vinita in Indian Territory, where he expanded into real estate loans and invested in the oil industry, establishing the Avery Oil & Gas Company. [2] In 1907, he moved again to Tulsa. He bought a farm near Tulsa in 1908, where he raised Holstein and Ayshire cattle, Druoc hogs, Shopshire sheep, and Percheron horses. In the following year, he established a 1,400 acres (570 ha) farm northeast of Tulsa for diversified agriculture. [1] Cyrus had three children with Essie: sons Gordon Avery and Leighton Avery, and daughter Helen Avery Berghell. [5]

Stevensville, Pennsylvania Unincorporated community in Pennsylvania, United States

Stevensville is an unincorporated community in Stevens Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, United States.

Missouri State of the United States of America

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States. With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state of the Union. The largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals, and recreation. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center of the state into the Mississippi River, which makes up Missouri's eastern border.

Noel, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Noel is a village in McDonald County, Missouri, United States, along the Elk River. The population was 1,832 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Fayetteville–Springdale–Rogers Metropolitan Area. It is home to a large population of Muslim Somali and Sudanese refugees, many of whom work at a Tyson Foods chicken-processing plant.

Avery and the creation of a national highway system

Interest in highway systems

Avery realized that an interstate system of highways would help his adopted city and state prosper. He became impressed with the Good Roads Movement going on in Missouri and joined the Oklahoma Good Roads Association. He also served as president of the Albert Pike Highway Association from 1917 to 1927. [2] He was elected chairman of the Tulsa County Commission, serving from 1913 to 1916, and is considered responsible for the construction of the Eleventh Street Bridge, [lower-alpha 1] which replaced an older wooden bridge across the Arkansas River. [6] He also began pushing for a statewide improvement of roads. He eventually became involved in the creation of the Ozarks Trails, a system of roads connecting St. Louis and Amarillo, Texas. After working with creating more roads, he was elected president of the Associated Highway Associations of America. In 1923, he was appointed to the Oklahoma State Highway Commission, where he implemented a gasoline tax to fund the highway department. [2]

Good Roads Movement movement in the United States

The Good Roads Movement occurred in the United States between the late 1870s and the 1920s. Advocates for improved roads led by bicyclists turned local agitation into a national political movement.

Amarillo, Texas City in Texas, United States

Amarillo is the 14th-most populous city in the state of Texas, United States. It is also the largest city in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The estimated population was 199,826 as of 2017. The Amarillo metropolitan area has an estimated population of 276,020 in four counties as of 2017. The metro population is projected to surpass 310,000 in 2020.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

He became instrumental in pushing for a federal level of good roads. In 1925, the United States Secretary of Agriculture appointed him to the Joint Board of Interstate Highways, which was to designate the new federal highways and mark them. [2]

One of the routes requested by Congress was a road running from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Los Angeles, California. This road would follow what is now U.S. Highway 60 from Virginia Beach to Springfield, Missouri, continue west to Joplin, across southern Kansas, Colorado, Utah, turning south to Las Vegas, Nevada, then further south and west to Los Angeles. Avery successfully argued that to avoid the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the road should turn south through Tulsa and Oklahoma City, continue west across the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. His suggestion that this highway should go east from Springfield to St. Louis and Chicago, Illinois, as commerce naturally continued in that direction, was also adopted.

Virginia Beach, Virginia Independent city in Virginia

Virginia Beach is an independent city located on the southeastern coast of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 437,994. In 2015, the population was estimated to be 452,745. In 2017 the estimated population was 450,435. Although mostly suburban in character, it is the most populous city in Virginia and the 41st most populous city in the nation. Located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is included in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. This area, known as "America's First Region", also includes the independent cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, as well as other smaller cities, counties, and towns of Hampton Roads.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Springfield, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Springfield is the third-largest city in the state of Missouri and the county seat of Greene County. As of the 2010 census, its population was 159,498. As of 2017, the Census Bureau estimated its population at 167,376. It is the principal city of the Springfield metropolitan area, which has a population of 462,369 and includes the counties of Christian, Dallas, Greene, Polk, Webster.

After the highways were routed, the group decided not to name the highways (as had been done by many non-profit groups which were currently connecting various state routes into longer multi-state and transcontinental routes), but instead to follow the pattern of numbering the highways, as established in Wisconsin and Missouri. The current east-west routes would be even numbers, and the north-south would be odd. Major routes would be one- or two-digit numbers ending in either "1" or "0" depending on the route. To avoid a "U.S. 0", U.S. Highway 2 was treated as a "0" highway and U.S. Route 101 would be treated as a two-digit highway to expand the number of available routes north-south. Avery, arguing that the Chicago to Los Angeles route would be a major highway, numbered the highway US 60. This received support from Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri. It was outright attacked by a delegation from Kentucky.

Wisconsin A north-central state of the United States of America

Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States, in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin is the 23rd largest state by total area and the 20th most populous. The state capital is Madison, and its largest city is Milwaukee, which is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The state is divided into 72 counties.

U.S. Route 2 highway in the United States

U.S. Route 2 or U.S. Highway 2 (US 2) is an east–west U.S. Highway spanning 2,571 miles (4,138 km) across the northern continental United States. US 2 consists of two segments connected by various roadways in southern Canada. Unlike some routes, which are disconnected into segments because of encroaching Interstate Highways, the two portions of US 2 were designed to be separate in the original 1926 highway plan.

U.S. Route 101 highway in the United States

U.S. Route 101, or U.S. Highway 101 (US 101) is a north–south United States Numbered Highway that runs through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, on the West Coast of the United States. It is also known as El Camino Real where its route along the southern and central California coast approximates the old trail which linked the Spanish missions, pueblos, and presidios. It merges at some points with California State Route 1 (SR 1).

U.S. 60 vs. U.S. 62

The Virginia Beach–Springfield route had been designated as U.S. 62 and actually terminated south of Ozark, Missouri at U.S. Highway 65. Kentucky would be the only state without a "0" highway. They countered Avery's US route by pushing for US 60 to run between Virginia Beach and Los Angeles; the Springfield to Chicago section could be "U.S. 60 North". Avery returned with "U.S. 60 South" for the Springfield–Virginia Beach alignment. Kentucky threatened to walk completely out of the new highway system (individual states could not be forced to participate in it). Finally, Kentucky offered a compromise: connect their highway with Avery's in Springfield and give their highway the number 60. Avery could have his Chicago–Los Angeles highway if he would accept the number 62 which was originally assigned to their road. Avery disliked the number 62, found out 66 was not used, and designated the Chicago–Los Angeles highway as U.S. 66. In 1926, the Federal Highway System was approved by Congress. With this done, Congress also de-certified all the old "association" highways.

Avery and the U.S. 66 Association

In 1927, Avery pushed for the creation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association to promote paving U.S. 66 and promote travel on the highway. He was elected Vice President in 1929. [1] Cyrus had three children with Essie: sons Gordon Avery and Leighton Avery, and daughter Helen Avery Berghell. [5] He got a business connection in Springfield (MO) appointed as president. In the 1930s, Avery would attempt to have himself elected president of the organization, but he never succeeded.


Essie Avery died in October, 1962. [1] Cyrus Avery died in Los Angeles, California on July 2, 1963, [1] [2] and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Tulsa. [7] Avery Drive, a street in southwest Tulsa, was named for him. [3]


In 1997, the National Historic Route 66 Federation established a Cyrus Avery Award, which has been presented variously to individuals for outstanding creativity in depicting Route 66, [1] [8] and to organizations for noteworthy preservation projects. [1] [9]

In 2004, the City of Tulsa, Oklahoma renamed the Eleventh Street Bridge (which carried US 66 over the Arkansas River), the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in his honor. [1]

In late 2012, artist Robert Summers unveiled "East Meets West", a sculpture in Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza at Southwest Boulevard at Riverside Drive in Tulsa. [10] The detailed 135%-scale bronze depicts Avery stopping his Ford on the 11th Street Bridge as the vehicle frightened two horses pulling a wagon laden with oil barrels. [11]


  1. This bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now closed to both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. [6]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Cyrus StevensAvery (1871 - 1963), Oklahoma State University, The Cyrus S. Stevens Collection." Accessed July 8, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Everett, Dianna. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture: Cyrus Stevens Avery. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  3. 1 2 "History of Southwest Tulsa." Chapter Seven:Historic Route 66. Available on Google Books.
  4. "The Father of Route 66." Retrieved July 24, 2011
  5. 1 2 "Daughter of Route 66 Innovator Dies." Retrieved September 20, 2007
  6. 1 2 National Park Service, "11th Street Arkansas River Bridge Tulsa, Oklahoma."
  7. "Find a grave: Cyrus Stevens Avery."Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  8. Archived July 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. Archived October 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. "Southwest Boulevard lanes to be closed for Route 66 statue assembly". Tulsa World. 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  11. "New Sculpture Along Route 66 In Tulsa Nearing Completion". KOTV News On 6, Tulsa OK. October 26, 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-05.