Dixie Highway was the first national road linking industrial northern states to agricultural southern states. Several governors met in 1915 to consider an improved road to Miami. Ten states lobbied for inclusion, resulting in eastern and western divisions. In Illinois, the road started in Chicago, traveled through Blue Island, Homewood, and Chicago Heights, then followed what is today Route 1 down to Danville. There it turned east toward Indiana. By 1923, the official map of Dixie Highway covered a network of 6,000 improved roadway miles.
The Dixie Highway Association took over work begun by the governors. Many counties funded and built the highway while poorer counties required private and federal aid. Citizens took brushes in hand to paint "DH" in red and white on poles, marking the way for travelers. Gas stations and mechanics were rare. Motorists carried extra gas and tools. Travelers packed tents or rented rooms. Soon tourist camps, cabins, roadside diners, and service garages sprouted. The road was a significant supply route during both world wars.
Dixie Highway follows one of the oldest, most historic Illinois trails. Native Americans and trapper-traders traced a path worn by animals along the eastern Illinois border. In the 1820s, Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard established trading posts along the trail, identified as Hubbard's Trace and Vincennes Trail on old maps. In 1835, the Illinois General Assembly ordered that a state road be established and mile markers placed thereon.