Across the county in a 1937 Studebaker

In 1940, Jacob K. Rahn set out from his home in Royersford with three companions (Frank K. Rhan, Jacob Shantz, and Harvey Mensch) for California.  He kept a detailed record of the trip which is now in the collection of the Historical Society of Montgomery County.


The men travelled in a 1937 Studebaker, most likely the model with the unfortunate name of “Dictator” (it would be renamed the “Commander” in 1938).

1937 Studebaker Dictator Image

Image from

The ultimate goal of the trip was the Golden Gate International Exposition, held in 1939 and 1940  to celebrate the opening of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (1937) and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (1936).  Rahn enjoyed the fair, listing all the pavilions he visited (Denmark, Missouri, Illinois, Portugal, etc.). He was less impressed by the midway which he described as having “lots of fakers like the other fairs.”  They also crossed both bridges though Rahn only recorded the toll for the Bay Bridge (65 cents).

Each day on the drive out and the drive back he recorded the main crops.  In Illinois he writes, “Good wide Hiways [sic], the main crops are Corn, Oats and Soybeans.  Beef Cattle and Hogs.”

And in Wyoming, “travelling through the barren State of Wyoming for Miles and Miles no signs of any crops, the fields look [as] if every[thing] is burning up we passed over the LaPlatte river South and it was perfectly dry with a sandy bottom, all smaller streams were dry.”

They took in all the sights, Yellowstone, the giant redwoods, the Great Salt Lake, and Boulder Dam.  In Arizona he wrote, “we are now coming into a Cactus section — it had a very funny shapeand we seen lots of them a little explination [sic] they [are] full of pickers.”  And he drew this helpful picture.


The only souvenir from the trip kept with the diary was this ticket to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico (where he records seeing the “Rock of Ages” complete with a recorded choir singing the hymn of the same name).


Rahn recorded the number of miles traveled each day, as well as the cost of gas, food, and lodging (he preferred cabins to tourist camps).


Yes, you read that number right.

Although I read few complaints in the diary, I guess there’s nothing like coming home again.




  1. PA. and South Jersey are 2 of the absolute BEST places to live! If they thought CA was a weird place they should’ve come to Florida back then!! Thank God we have A/C now! It hasn’t been a high of anything in the 70’s since March!!! And the natives look at you and shake their heads if you can’t get used to ROACHES and PALMETTO BUGS!!!! YeeeUuKKK!!! (that doesn’t include the snakes, wild boars, armadillos (which are as of late spreading leprosy to humans), and alligators!

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