U.S. Route 66 (also known as the Will Rogers Highway after the humorist, and colloquially known as the "Main Street of America" or the "Mother Road") was a highway within the U.S. Highway System. One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 was established on November 11, 1926 -- with road signs erected the following year. The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles, covering a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km). It was recognized in popular culture by both a hit song (written by Bobby Troup, originally recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio in 1946, and later performed by such artists as Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Manhattan Transfer and Depeche Mode) and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s.
Route 66 underwent many improvements and realignments over its lifetime, changing its path and overall length. Many of the realignments gave travelers faster or safer routes, or detoured around city congestion. One realignment moved the western endpoint farther west from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica.
Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed. People doing business along the route became prosperous due to the growing popularity of the highway, and those same people later fought to keep the highway alive in the face of the growing threat of being bypassed by the new Interstate Highway System.
U.S. 66 was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985 after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road that passed through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway of the name "Historic Route 66". It has begun to return to maps in this form. Some portions of the road in southern California have been redesignated "State Route 66", and others bear "Historic Route 66" signs and relevant historic information.