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Title: Roadtown
Release Date: 2019-02-25
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Copyright, 1910


This book is dedicated to J. Pierpont Morgan, a straight player ofa crooked game, who, it is said, played his usual role in the WallStreet manipulations of the Central Railroad of Georgia securities,which adroitly and legally absorbed the small savings and happiness ofmany unsophisticated investors—an action which, in my case at least,proved to be a blessing in disguise, for it made me suffer first andthen made me think. Hence the gratitude and consequent dedication toMr. Morgan for starting the train of thought, which finally resulted inthe invention of Roadtown, a plan for side-stepping the crooked gameas now played so that henceforth whosoever will may become a straightplayer of a straight game.


Nineveh, Babylon, Rome, London, New York,—all cities from the twilightof the past to the high noon of the present have been constructedon one plan, which is no plan at all. Like Topsy, they jest growed,with no further aims in view than to huddle together for the sakeof companionship and self-protection against enemies. A map of thehaphazard streets straying crookedly through them looked like cracks inan earthenware dish. The siege-walls which until recently surroundedthem emphasized the prisoner-like existence of their inhabitants.Noise, dirt, disease, suffocation and confusion, crime—these spiritsof evil took up their abode in the midst of them, never to bedislodged, and students of political economy, hygiene, decency andmorality wasted eloquence and logic in showing how bad it all was,and in suggesting picayune and transient remedies. The true2 Moses,with the effectual remedy, which will lead us out of our long Egyptianbondage, arrives only to-day, and if we will but follow the teachingsof the gospel contained in the ensuing pages, we may be free, healthy,wealthy and happy forevermore.

This Moses of ours, contemporarily incarnated as Mr. Chambless,arrives at the psychological moment when we are all ready for him. TheJeremiahs of rotten conditions and the Cassandras of impending woe hadprepared us for the necessity of change, and the Edisons, Teslas andLodges of electrical and other inventions had supplied the means forit. The great riddle was ripe for the guessing: and Mr. Chambless hasguessed it.

Transportation, distribution, and the middle-man,—what a waste oftime, energy, economy and common sense are involved in our presenthandling of these elements? The domestic servant problem,—how sorryand slipshod a solution of it are the hotel and boarding house ofto-day? The elimination of the open country from our children’straining and from our own opportunities for peace and sanity,—what3 apaltry and impotent substitute for it is the hybrid suburb? Personalindependence, social harmony, full value for work done, adequateleisure after toil,—does not this sound like the Millennium? Read Mr.Chambless, O ye captives of Civilization, and burst your shackles!

He takes a map and a ruler and draws you a straight line from theAtlantic coast to the Alleghanies, thence on to the Mississippi, soacross the prairies to the Rockies, and down to the very sands of thePacific. What does this line stand for? It stands for the site ofthe New City; and there may be as many more of them as you can makestraight lines from any given point to any other, in any directionalong and athwart the continent. A single line of houses, superimposedupon three lines of railway, one on top of the other, underground,two stories of living and working rooms above-ground, a continuouspromenade along the roofs, and gardens and country front and backall the way. Concrete “poured” houses (Edison’s patent); smokeless,noiseless, unintermittent, arrow-swift4 trains, local and express,bearing you at all times, in no time, to your precise destination andback; telephones, telegraphs, teleposts, parcel-carriers, freightservice, compact, punctual, prompt, accurate, enabling you to livealong the line from part to part and from end to end, and be servedwith the best at the cheapest at all times, while sitting in youreasy chair; house-work done mechanically, and your private trade orprofession followed in your own workrooms at minimum expense of timeand effort and at greatest profit; rent reduced, taxes minimized,slums exterminated, pure food, fresh air and exercise ad libitum;politics purified, cut-throat competition supplanted by rationalcoöperation,—in short, the means for erecting mankind to its fullstature and rendering everybody free, useful, happy and wise can besecured by Mr. Chambless’s Roadtown, and the moment to begin is Now!Read his book and get together. Have we not waited long enough? Hehas spent half a lifetime perfecting his plans; they are as practicalas they are attractive, and his5 only opponents are shiftless habits,stupid inertia, and blind prejudice.

But before the first Roadtown has been built out ten miles into thewilderness, it will have become an object-lesson before which all foeswill gladly transform themselves into friends, and all critics becomeeulogists. Aviation has a mighty future: but the grand step forwardin Twentieth Century civilization is Roadtown, for not only is itan incomparable benefit in itself, but it affords all other usefulinventions their best medium toward perfection.

Julian Hawthorne.6



It was about two years ago that a tall, gaunt, pale young man enteredmy church study and said, in quite confident terms—“I want a long talkwith you, sir, for I’ve got something that I believe will interest you.”

Being not wholly unused to the ways of agents, promoters, inventorsand various kinds of visionaries, I felt somewhat impatient at thisunhesitating demand for a liberal share of my time; but I told myvisitor, as pleasantly as possible, to be seated and to describe thething which he thought would “interest” me. This was the beginning ofmy acquaintance with Mr. Edgar Chambless, the author of this book, andthe opening words of my introduction to Roadtown.

At that time, Roadtown was nothing but a dream,—a crude and imperfectidea, as compared8 with the careful and well-tested conception which ishere given to the public. To its inventor it appeared even then, in itsoriginal form, to contain the solution of most every perplexing problemof modern social life,—to me, to whom it came not as a slowly dawningidea but as an immediate revelation, it appeared to be only one moreextravagant and utterly impracticable vision, akin to that invention,once laid before me by a dear old man, whereby light and heat mightbe endlessly generated without the combustion of any fuel, or to thatother wonderful idea, commended to me by a devoted enthusiast, wherebythe drama was to be made the oasis of all ethical instruction and thetheater the school of morals.

Something in Mr. Chambless’ personality, however, held my attentionand won my sympathy. In our first talk together, I was made to believein him even while I could not find it within reason to believe in therevolutionary possibilities of his conception, and so I asked him tocall again. And from that time to this, I have met him and talkedwith9 him frequently. I have seen his dream become transformed from anill-conceived vision into a well-conceived and thoroughly practicalidea. I have seen the man himself rise from the position of a visionarydreamer, seeking the ears of any who would listen, to that of arecognized genius, welcomed in the offices of editors and publishers,and received on equal terms by the best known architects and inventorsof the nation. I have seen Roadtown subjected by competent men to themost rigid mechanical and economic criticisms, and beheld it emergetriumphant. I have seen Mr. Chambless convert architects, mechanics,charity workers, philanthropists, and cost-of-living experts fromscoffing impatience to enthusiastic faith. I have had the privilege,in a word, of watching the triumphant progress of a great and originalidea, and the heroic personal victory of a true inventive genius.

During all of this time I have done nothing but “lend my ears” to Mr.Chambless. Unable to help him to work out his ideas in any practicalway, I have tried to serve him as a friend and confidant. To me hehas unfolded10 his joys and his sorrows—revealed his feelings ofalternating despair and hope—told the tales now of success and now offailure. For two years past, I have watched and listened, and all thewhile my faith in Mr. Chambless has grown ever stronger and my sympathywith his endeavor ever deeper. Indeed, for some months it has beenmy feeling that I had no higher duty than that of helping as best Icould, by the word of good-will, the handclasp of friendship, and thelistening ear of personal faith, one of the few men I have ever metin my experience who was truly laying down his life for the sake of agreat and unselfish idea.

Mr. Hawthorne, in his Foreword, has testified to his belief in the ideaof Roadtown; I would here testify, in my Foreword, to my belief in Mr.Chambless. He is made of the stuff of heroes—those who have sacrificedhome, friends, social positions, money, personal comfort, yea lifeitself, in the service of humanity. His is the spirit of perfectdevotion to an ideal. He represents in his person the type of valiantmartyrdom, which I have11 read about a thousand times in books, but havemet not more than a half-dozen times in real life. As to whether hisscheme is practicable or not, I cannot say. Experts, not accustomedto being swept off their feet by bursts of enthusiasm over chimericalideas, have testified that it is. As to whether his conception willsolve all the problems of social life which he says it will solve,I again cannot say. Experience teaches that every original idea hasrevolutionary possibilities.

But as to Mr. Chambless himself, I can say, and say with enthusiasm,that he is a man deserving of the confidence of men. Mr. Hawthornecommends Roadtown to the earnest consideration of all thoughtfulpersons for itself. I commend Roadtown in a similar way for itsinventor. Prove him wrong if you can, but first master his ideas.

Church of the Messiah, June 15th, 1910.
Park Ave. and 34th St.,
New York City.12


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When I Began to Think17
How I came to invent Roadtown18
A New Conception of Transportation21
Transportation in nature23
Our disjointed civilization27
Line Distribution—The Logical Outcome31
Transportation determines the form of cities33
Building in one dimension35
A line of city through the country38
The Roadtown Plan of Construction40
To be built of cement41
The railroad will be noiseless43
Speed possibilities46
The street upon the roof53
Civilization Through Pipes and Wires59
Drinking water66
Bath and toilet67
Disinfecting gas69
Electric light69
Electric power69
Roadtown Housekeeping74
Woman’s work not specialized74
No laundry work at home76
Dusting and sweeping78
Making beds by machinery79
Coöperative cooking practical81
The end of household drudgery84
The Servant Problem in Roadtown89
Roadtown Agriculture90
Sufficient land to support population93
Elimination of the middle man99
Coöperative ownership of farm tools100
Industry Returns to the Home102
Wage slavery doomed103
A work room in every home10515
A new type of factory110
A special message to women112
The end of monotonous labor114