By Francis Champ Zumbrun
“I like to get out in the woods and live close to nature. Every man does. It is in his blood. It is his feeble protest against civilization.’’ – -Thomas Edison at Muddy Creek Falls, 1921
In the summer of 1921, Thomas Edison, world famous inventor; Henry Ford, automobile manufacturer; and Harvey Firestone, tire magnate; camped out at two different locations in Western Maryland. Traveling on Route 40 from one campsite to the other took these well-known men from east to west through the entire width of Allegany County.
From July 21 to 27, they camped in Washington County on a 200-acre farm located along Licking Creek, about six miles east of Hancock. From July 27 to 31, they camped in Garrett County along Muddy Creek, at present-day Swallow Falls State Park.
Edison, Ford and Firestone were business partners and knew each other from working together on various business projects over the years. Their working relationship transformed into a bond of great friendship through the experiences they shared camping together about two weeks each summer from 1915 through 1924. On these camping trips, these wealthy captains of industry called themselves “vagabonds” as they roughed it together in the great outdoors away from civilization.
The publicity that followed these celebrated men on their summer adventures helped to introduce to the general public the pleasure of motorized recreational touring, outdoor recreation and camping. Historians have noted that these camping trips were “the first notable linking of the automobile and outdoor recreation.”
The loud sounds of the motor caravan breaking the quiet of the rural countryside would have certainly drawn the attention of anyone within hearing distance. An Allegany County citizen standing at the right place at the right time along the National Road on the afternoon of July 27, 1921 would have certainly noticed the long caravan of vehicles passing through the area.
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