In 1886, a small railroad stop in Northern Arizona was named Seligman after Jesse Seligman, a New York banker who helped finance the railroad lines in the area. Later the railroad town became a Route 66 town as travelers left the trains for automobiles. Over the years a constant stream of cars had to drive through Seligman to get to the west coast.  In 1978, Seligman's economy was dealt a blow when Interstate 40 was built just a mile south of town and cars drove right by Seligman.

In 1987, Seligman gained its name “Birthplace of Historic Route 66” due to the efforts of Seligman residents, most notably Angel Delgadillo, who convinced the State of Arizona to dedicate Route 66 a historic highway. Angel's story of Seligman getting bypassed by the interstate was one of the main inspirations for Pixar's animated feature "Cars".