The Act of Congress in 1806, which authorized the construction of the National Road, required that mile markers be placed at regular intervals. These reference points reassured travelers that they were following the correct route. They also indicated the distance traveled and the distance to a destination.
The use of mile markers began in the Roman Empire with stone obelisks. The Roman mile
markers appeared in the fourth century B.C. on the Empire's legendary Appian Way, the road from Rome to Brindisi.
National Road mile markers were set at 1 mile intervals along the north side of the Road. Each states mile markers were a different design, but all displayed the same information. Ohio's markers were square with round heads, made of an early form of concrete, sandstone, or limestone, while in Pennsylvania they were made of cast iron.
Ohio's 5-foot tall markers were set 2 feet into the ground with 3 feet exposed. Each marker
indicated the distance to Cumberland, Maryland, where the Road begins, and the name and mileage to the nearest cities and villages, for east and westbound travelers.
Whether the letters and numerals were painted or carved, markers followed a standard pattern of showing at the top the number of miles from the beginning of the National Road in Cumberland, Maryland. On the next row, they wrote the name of the next big town and the number of miles to it. On the left side of the marker, it would show eastbound travelers the next big town to the east.
On the right side it would show westbound travelers the next big town to the west and the number of miles to go. On the lowest level, there was usually an initial and a small number. This indicated the nearest town. It did not need to be spelled out, because most people in the vicinity would recognize it from the initial.
By the 1920s, a uniform highway numbering system with standardized road signs replaced the old mile markers, but many remain along the Road. See how many you can indentify.
(3 pics, a crest)
The Road That Helped Build The Nation
An All American Road - National Scenic Byway