The Victory Eagle outside the main entrance of Dyche Hall at the University of Kansas

The Victory Eagle outside the main entrance of Dyche Hall at the University of Kansas

The Victory Highway was supposed to be a tribute to the American soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.  It was a transcontinental road, stretching from New York to San Francisco.  Across Kansas it would follow an already established route, the Golden Belt Highway.  An association was formed in 1921 to create and promote the concept of the Victory Highway.

The concept did not last long.  In 1926 a Federal system of numbering highways was created, and the Golden Belt / Victory Highway lost their names.  In Kansas, the road became U.S. Route 40.

In the original idea for the Victory Highway, bronze eagles were to be placed at county lines, with plaques to remember those in the county who gave their lives during the war.  It was a worthy idea, but only six eagles–three in Kansas, and three in California–were ever placed.  All have survived, although most, if not all, have been moved from their original location.

One originally at the Douglas – Leavenworth County line now resides in front of Dyche Hall, the Museum of Natural History on the University of Kansas campus.  At its first location, it had been vandalized and the plaque stolen.  It was rededicated in 1982.

One that was originally placed at the Shawnee – Douglas County line was moved to Topeka’s Gage Park, and now has been moved within the park.

The eagle at the Pottawatomie County line now sits in Wamego’s City Park.  At the very least, none has been completely forgotten.

It’s tempting to ask to restore the Victory Highway name to U.S. 40, either as the road is now or as it was located, isn’t it?

Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.