The Route 66 home webpage has eight colorful navigation “buttons” that allow quick access to Route 66 matchcovers from each state. Below these buttons are four category buttons that allow quick access to only those Route 66 matchcover images of that particular category.
Matchcovers are listed by town from east to west in the state and then sorted alphabetically by business name within that town. Any prepositions (“A” or “The”) are usually dropped from the business name.
The matchcover images are arranged twelve to a web page. Click a cover to enlarge the image and see in what other database categories that image appears. Click on the small arrows to move forward or backward among the twelve images of that webpage. Click on the large arrow for an automatic slide show. A few matchcovers, usually matchcovers that have a US Highway 66 designation printed on the inside, have the inside matchcover surface scanned as well. Just hover the cursor over the outside image to see any inside image.
Each matchcover is assigned a unique number in the format X-#### or X-####.# The first digit X is the state number (1 for Illinois, 2 for Missouri, etc.) and the four-digit number specifies that matchcover image from that state in the database. Some matchcovers that are in a set or otherwise have very similar artwork may have a decimal point followed by a number for different covers in that group or series. The next line is for the business name and the last line is for the town name and state abbreviation.
Simply clicking through the Route 66 matchcover image collection is only part of the fun. When every Route 66 matchcover image was uploaded into the database it was also tagged with parameters that admitted it as a member of multiple different categories. So the visitor can search through the Route 66 collection by category too.
To do so the visitor returns to the Home page and uses the upper search function titled “Matchcover Search.”
The white box on the right below the title “Matchcover Search” allows the visitor to search by category, topic or description. The white box has the word “Bar/Cocktail Lounge” as a default plus a down arrow. Click on the down arrow and scroll down to see all the parameters that can be searched upon. There are nearly 100 categories listed. The choices are grouped and include the business types (e.g., “Lodging” or “Restaurant”), or categories of the matchcover (e.g., “Full Length” or “Girlie”) or interesting old manufacturers (e.g., “Old Manumarks”). (A “manumark” is a fancy way of saying the name of the company that manufactured the matchbook.) Clicking on any category and then clicking “Search” brings up those matchcovers in the database that are included in that category. Also note that many categories are indented sub-categories so that you can search within a major category and then perhaps later a more specific sub-category. For example, searching for “Lodging” brings up almost 1200 matchcover images but drilling down to focus on just one type of lodging, say “Cabins,” displays only about 50 matchcover images. The best way to appreciate the power of sorting this database into multiple virtual collection categories is to explore it on your own.
The second helpful tool is the “Keyword Search.” Type your keyword (typically a business or town name) or keywords (multiple keywords must all be present in the matchcover image title) into the lower white rectangle on the right side and hit Enter on your keyboard or touch the same on your device. What will be displayed will be any and all matchcover images that have those keyword(s) in their title. (The title includes the image number, the business name, and the town and state abbreviation for the matchcover image.)
Now for one important considerations and several hints:
It’s most important to know that the “Keyword Search” function is not like Google: close is not good enough. The keywords in the search box must exactly match the title names in the database.
And some hints:
The same business may have had different names at different times. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any matchcovers that you may be interested in, try to use as few Keywords as necessary. For example, if you type in Elite Courts looking for matchcovers from the Elite Courts in Amarillo, that’s what you will get. But matchcovers from the Elite Motel will be missing. So instead use a single somewhat-rare Keyword like Elite to see them all.
If you want to see the matchcover images from the Café U Drop Inn in Shamrock, TX, you could type all of these words into the Keyword Search but you’ll miss one matchcover that does not have “Café” in the title. So instead use fewer Keywords such as U Drop to see them all. (Also search for Nunn’s or you will miss out there too!)
If you want to see all of the matchcovers from, say, Shamrock, Texas, you could type Shamrock TX into the keyword search. That works but you will also get the Shamrock Lounge in Amarillo but you could just ignore that.
Let’s say you want to see the matchcovers from the Lincoln Courts in Chandler, OK. There are some matchcovers that say Lincoln Court (singular), Lincoln Courts (plural) and Lincoln Motel. You could type in Lincoln in the Keyword Search box but then you’d also see all the matchcovers from Lincoln, IL, plus the A. Lincoln Motel in Springfield and anything else that has Lincoln in the title. The best way to see what you want is to type in both Lincoln and Chandler into the Keyword Search box.
If you type McLean into the Keyword Search you will get all matchcover images from both McLean, TX, and McLean, IL. If you want, say, just McLean, IL, type in McLean IL into the Keyword Search box and then you will get all of McLean, IL (plus a few others from McLean, TX, that have the letter sequence I-L in their title name, so you’ll ignore them).
Unfortunately distinguishing between Springfield Missouri and Illinois is a bit more difficult. If you type in Springfield MO into the Keyword Search you will get all the matchcover images from Springfield, MO, of course, but you will also get all the MOtels (see why?) from Springfield, IL. You can ignore the images that you don’t want.
Some businesses used hyphens in their names sometimes and sometimes not. I occasionally dropped hyphens myself to make things easier (or confusing depending upon how you look at it). But if you suspect a businesses name is or could be hyphenated (Bar-B-Q/Bar-B-Cue/Bar-B-Que is common), type in the Keywords with and without the hyphens until you find what works.
If you are looking for, say, the Hotel Connor in Joplin, you will find matchcovers listed alphabetically by H (Hotel Connor) or C (Connor Hotel) depending upon what is printed on the matchcover. Fortunately the visitor will see everything by just putting Hotel and Connor in the Keyword Search function.
The Keyword Search has some limitations but I find that I can usually find the matchcover images that I want fairly quickly.
The best way to get comfortable using this website is to simply try things. You can’t break the website.
A FEW MORE TIPS ON NAVIGATING THE SITE
The display of a few of the sub-categories has been tailored to make the experience more enjoyable. To that end the matchcover images in a few sub-categories (Americana, Girlies, Hillbillies, Patriotic and Safety Series) are rotated 180° since the interesting image is usually on the rear cover.
Also if you search directly for Full Lengths in the Matchcover Search drop down menu, they will be displayed in the more-pleasing horizontal format. But if you search for another category that happens to include a full length matchcover, that full length matchcover will appear as a vertical image so it fits into the display matrix of that category.
EXPANDING INTO THE FUTURE
As of the Summer of 2023, five Route 66 states (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas) are well-along. We are beginning collaboration work on the state of Oklahoma and we will continue adding matchcover images in a westerly direction over the next year.
This is absolutely not a fixed database: it is continuously growing. New matchcovers from states that I refer to, above, as being “well-along” are being discovered by someone every month. If you have any matchcovers that meet our inclusion criteria that not displayed among the states that I say are “well-along” use the “Contact Phil” tab on the Home webpage and I will tell you how to contribute your images to this Route 66 database.