The Dixie Highway was the first national road linking industrial northern states to agricultural southern states. Governors of several states met in 1915 to consider an improved road to Miami. States lobbied for inclusion, resulting in eastern and western divisions running through ten states. 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 to Indiana. By 1923, the Dixie Highway consisted of a network of 6,000 improved roadway miles.
The Dixie Highway Association took over the work begun by the governors. Many counties funded and built the highway in their area; poorer counties required federal aid and private subscriptions. Citizens took paintbrushes in hand to paint "DH" in red and white on poles, marking the way for travelers. Gas stations and mechanics were sparse. Motorists carried extra gas and tools. Tourists packed tents or rented rooms. Soon tourists camps, cabins, roadside diners, and service garages sprouted. The route played a significant role in both world wars as a path for carrying supplies.
The Dixie Highway follows one of the oldest and most historical trails. Native Americans and trapper-traders used a path worn by animals along the eastern Illinois border. In the 1820s, Gurdon Saltenstall Hubbard established trading posts along the route, which is identified as Hubbard's Trace and Vincennes Trail on old maps. In 1835, the Illinois General Assembly ordered a state road to be established and mile markers to be placed theron.