The National Highway was created as part of the Glidden Tours. The Glidden Tours began in 1904 as a way to give people along the tour their first glimpse of a horseless carriage and to prove that it was a dependable, long-distance vehicle. Each Glidden Tour went through different parts of the country spanning through different cities and states to show off the horseless carriages as they went by.
In 1911 the Glidden Tour consisted of the National Highway that went from New York City to Jacksonville, FL which ran from October 13th to the 26th.
The National Highway was sponsored by the New York Herald and the Atlanta Journal as they wanted the Glidden Tour to come down by the majority of the east coast to show off the aforementioned horseless carriages. The tour consisted of many different cities including Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Staunton, Roanoke, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Anderson, Atlanta, Cordele, and Live Oak before they finalized the tour in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 1906, a caravan of 8 automobiles with 20 people came through Martinsville and the town of Ridgeway, VA where the drivers would pass by on the way to Winston-Salem from Roanoke. It was in Ridgeway, posted upon a tree where the sign (pictured) was placed so that the riders going by could stay on the path of the highway.
The cars averaged no more than 10 miles per hour due to the lack of good roads, mechanical failures, and worn, solid rubber tires. It took seven hours to drive from Roanoke to Martinsville. At the time, gas could be bought at Kearfott’s Drug Store and at Hairston & Townes Garage.
Source: Martinsville & Henry County Historic Views