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    I wish to thank John Paul Jones, Wolfgang Natler, and Richard Schein for their critical comments on an earlier draft of this article.


ABSTRACT. Federal support for planning and building roads provided an opportunity to create a new kind of place, the American roadside. The roadside grew up beside the public road as a distinct private space, yet the two were linked as road travelers came to depend on the services provided by people who lived at the road's edge. Federal road-improvement legislation brought discipline to the surveying, construction, and configuration of roads. But roadside structures remained largely the creation of local people, who built a vernacular landscape that was undisciplined and in strong contrast to the road's regimentation. The roadside became a new kind of space occupying the unstable zone between the discipline of the road and the informality of the countryside, a spatial contradiction that gave license to a new, free-wheeling, mercantile logic, an improvisational departure from the staid formality of Main Street.