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What's the History Behind the History?

August 27, 2012 - Jodi Burnsworth
Travel along any road in West Virginia and you’ll more than likely see at least one of the state’s roadside historical markers.

The popular program began in 1934 to mark the location of significant historical events, as well as prehistoric sites and many geological and natural features. Since its beginning, nearly 1,000 markers have been installed.

It was first managed by the Commission on Historic and Scenic Highway Markers with 440 initial sites. Those markers were erected in 1937 with funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, an agency of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The State Road Commission installed the markers.

The original design, 42 inches wide and 30 inches high with a circular state seal at the top, is still in use today. These unique monuments are made of cast aluminum and mounted on round steel posts. The short historical message is repeated on both sides, although a few markers have different text on the front and back.

Activity waned in the early years, but the centennial of the Civil War and of West Virginia statehood revived interest in the marker program in the 1960s. Existing markers were inventoried, damaged and missing markers were replaced, and nearly 300 additional sites were marked. Since then, new markers have been added yearly, as funds permit. In recent years, markers have been financed largely by private donations and by funds administered by the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Today, the roadside markers program is operated by the Archives and History section of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, with cooperation of the Division of Highways.


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Photo courtesy of WV Highway Historical Marker Program, WV Division of Culture and History.


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