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Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

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Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps

4/5 (4 peringkat)
345 pages
10 hours
Mar 23, 2017


Instructive, amusing, colorful—pictorial maps have been used and admired since the first medieval cartographer put pen to paper depicting mountains and trees across countries, people and objects around margins, and sea monsters in oceans. More recent generations of pictorial map artists have continued that traditional mixture of whimsy and fact, combining cartographic elements with text and images and featuring bold and arresting designs, bright and cheerful colors, and lively detail. In the United States, the art form flourished from the 1920s through the 1970s, when thousands of innovative maps were mass-produced for use as advertisements and decorative objects—the golden age of American pictorial maps.
Picturing America is the first book to showcase this vivid and popular genre of maps. Geographer Stephen J. Hornsby gathers together 158 delightful pictorial jewels, most drawn from the extensive collections of the Library of Congress. In his informative introduction, Hornsby outlines the development of the cartographic form, identifies several representative artists, describes the process of creating a pictorial map, and considers the significance of the form in the history of Western cartography. Organized into six thematic sections, Picturing America covers a vast swath of the pictorial map tradition during its golden age, ranging from “Maps to Amuse” to “Maps for War.” Hornsby has unearthed the most fascinating and visually striking maps the United States has to offer: Disney cartoon maps, college campus maps, kooky state tourism ads, World War II promotional posters, and many more. This remarkable, charming volume’s glorious full­-color pictorial maps will be irresistible to any map lover or armchair traveler.
Mar 23, 2017

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Picturing America - Stephen J. Hornsby




Stephen J. Hornsby



The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637

The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London

© 2017 by Stephen J. Hornsby and The Library of Congress

All rights reserved. Published 2017.

Printed in China

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ISBN-13: 978-0-226-38604-1 (cloth)

ISBN-13: 978-0-226-38618-8 (e-book)

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226386188.001.0001

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Hornsby, Stephen J. (Stephen John), 1956– author. | Ehrenberg, Ralph E., 1937– writer of foreword. | Library of Congress. Geography and Map Division, contributor, publisher.

Title: Picturing America : the golden age of pictorial maps / Stephen J. Hornsby.

Description: Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press, in association with the Library of Congress, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index. | Shows maps of the United States of America and other geographical areas of the world. | Pictorial maps are artistic renderings rather than scientific representations of places that combine cartographic elements with texts and images and feature bold and arresting graphic design, bright and cheerful colors, and lively detail. In the United States, the 1920s through about 1970 represented a golden age for the form, which this book looks at and considers as a genre—Provided by publisher.

Identifiers: LCCN 2016012939 | ISBN 9780226386041 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780226386188 (e-book)

Subjects: LCSH: United States—Maps. | Pictorial maps. | Pictorial maps—History—20th century. | Cartography—United States—History—20th century. | LCGFT: Atlases. | Pictorial maps.

Classification: LCC g1201.a5 h67 2017 | DDC 912.73—dc23 lc record available at https://lccn.loc.gov

This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO z39.48–1992 (Permanence of Paper).

FOR Anne


Foreword by Ralph E. Ehrenberg

Pictorial Maps: An American Genre

Maps to Amuse

Maps to Instruct

Maps of Place and Region

Maps for Industry

Maps for War

Maps for Postwar America





Maps and atlases have been an important part of the collections of the Library of Congress since its establishment in 1800 when a congressional committee purchased three maps and an atlas from a London dealer. From this modest beginning, the Library’s cartographic holdings have grown during the past two centuries to more than five million maps, atlases, globes, terrain models, and geospatial digital datasets.

The Library’s Geography and Map Division has custody of the bulk of these cartographic materials. Established in 1897 as the Hall of Maps to serve Congress and US government agencies, the Geography and Map Division functions as the National Map Library. Its primary responsibilities are developing and preserving the Library’s cartographic collections and making them available to Congress, government officials, scholars, and the general public through a research reference center and website. An average of forty thousand analogue and digital cartographic materials are acquired yearly through government deposits, transfers of superseded maps from US government libraries, copyright deposits, domestic and international exchanges, purchases, and donations. These range from rare maps and atlases to state-of-the-art electronic geospatial datasets in 150 languages. Some four hundred thousand cartographic materials have been cataloged, and their bibliographic records are available online. As a major service to the map library community, the division also establishes, maintains, and disseminates national standards for classifying and cataloging cartographic materials. More than fifty thousand maps and atlases, including many pictorial maps, have been electronically scanned and are available for viewing and downloading on the Library’s online website.

Sharing the Library’s rich geographic and cartographic collections with the scholarly community and the general public is another major objective of the Geography and Map Division. This is facilitated by working closely with the Library’s Publication’s Office to identify authors that provide innovative, novel, or original analysis of one or more of the division’s maps or collections.

Stephen J. Hornsby is one such author. I first met Dr. Hornsby when he inquired about one of our maps for his contemplated book on pictorial maps, a relatively unknown part of Western cartography. Pictorial maps have fascinated me since we acquired Muriel H. Parry’s collection shortly after I first joined the division. As a map librarian at the Department of State, Ms. Parry often visited the Geography and Map Division. She would be delighted that her collection of pictorial maps provided one of the major sources for a renewed interest in this genre. Another librarian, Ethel M. Fair, who served as director of the Library School of the New Jersey College of Women for many years, assembled the division’s other major collection on which Dr. Hornsby relied. Each collection is extensive, numbering more than eight hundred maps.

The United States contributed massively to the development of pictorial mapping, spurred by the nation’s burgeoning economy and dynamic popular culture from the 1920s to the 1950s that was characterized by unprecedented social changes, technological advances, and innovations in architecture, film, literature, music, and the visual arts. Striking and colorful, pictorial maps were widely used as a form of commercial advertising during that era and they formed a familiar part of the world in which Fair and Parry were raised and matured. Because contemporary curators and librarians generally did not consider pictorial maps geographic or scientific, most libraries did not collect them and they are quite rare today. The Geography and Map Division was an exception. Many pictorial maps in addition to those found in the Fair and Parry collections are held by the division as a result of the US copyright law that requires publishers to deposit two copies of each map they submit for copyright protection to the Library of Congress.

Drawing principally upon the Fair and Parry collections, as well as other public and private collections, Dr. Hornsby’s book reveals for the first time how American pictorial mapping exploded on the early twentieth-century scene and how it developed over time. He introduces a new generation to some of the principal cartographic artists who made pictorial maps a uniquely American art form. His categories of different kinds of pictorial maps help us to understand how diverse this genre was and how far it reached in American life.

This book is a contribution to our understanding of the history of twentieth-century cartography and the special role that American popular mapping played in that history. It will also introduce to a wider public the extraordinary riches of a previously virtually unknown part of the Geography and Map Collection at the Library of Congress.


Chief, Geography and Map Division

Library of Congress


An American Genre

From the 1920s to the 1960s, American popular culture and commercial mapmaking intersected to produce a remarkably creative period in the history of Western cartography. During those years, dozens of graphic artists and cartographers created thousands of pictorial maps depicting the history, geography, and culture of the United States and lands overseas. No other country produced the quantity, quality, and variety of pictorial maps that the United States did. Although now little known, pictorial maps were enormously popular during their heyday, decorating homes, schools, and clubs; appearing in books, magazines, and newspapers; and circulating as tourist guides and advertising brochures. The maps reflected American culture, capturing the dynamism of the nation’s burgeoning skyscraper cities, great industrial factories, and streamlined locomotives, airplanes, and automobiles, as well as portraying the country’s fascination with its colonial and early Republican past. Pictorial maps also displayed advances in printing technology, particularly color lithography, and showcased the talents and originality of some of the nation’s leading graphic artists. By World War II, pictorial maps had created a powerful visual image of the United States and were beginning to reimagine the look of the world for a mass consumer audience.

The pictorial map genre has a long and distinguished pedigree. Medieval maps, Renaissance city views, Dutch world maps, and American bird’s-eye views all incorporated pictorial elements. In the early twentieth century, English graphic artist MacDonald Gill, taking advantage of color lithography, created dazzling pictorial maps for the London Underground Railway. His maps were extremely popular and widely influential.¹ But it was in the United States that pictorial mapmaking reached its zenith. In the mid-1920s, American pictorial maps first burst into view as a significant part of the country’s burgeoning popular culture. The economy was booming, New York had supplanted London as the world’s largest and most dynamic city, and Hollywood movies spread images of America around the globe. Pictorial maps reflected this cultural vitality. Drawing on their own mapping heritage as well as new design trends from Europe, American graphic artists and cartographers pushed the boundaries of pictorial mapping in exciting directions. Hundreds of strikingly designed and richly colored pictorial maps poured off the presses during the late 1920s and 1930s. Even the Great Depression did not stem the flow. Although production inevitably slackened during World War II, several innovative pictorial maps were published during the 1940s, and many more were created during the postwar boom years. By the 1960s, however, the genre was waning. Greater use of photography in advertising, a shift away from the map as an advertising tool, and the retirement of pioneering graphic artists who first excelled in the 1920s and 1930s helped bring the golden age of American pictorial mapping to a close. A handful of graphic artists in the United States still practice the craft, but their output is much smaller and their impact far less than in the early twentieth century.²

Pictorial maps formed a distinctive cartographic genre. They were not scientific representations of the Earth’s surface, but artistic renderings of places, regions, and countries. Pictorial maps commonly depicted people, history, architecture, landscape, and terrain. They combined map, image, and text, frequently for the purposes of telling a visual story or to capture a sense of place. As a popular art form, pictorial maps appealed to a wide audience. They were often as attractive to children as to adults. The best pictorial maps were characterized by bold and arresting graphic design, bright and cheerful colors, and lively detail. Many depicted the United States with great verve and excitement. They reflected the country’s cultural confidence and optimism, helping to shape the way people looked at America and the wider world.

The dominance of scientific mapping in Western culture has meant that pictorial maps have been largely ignored. In the United States, these maps have been treated as ephemera, the flotsam and jetsam of an enormous sea of popular culture. As a result, only a few libraries have collected such maps, and even fewer archives have accessioned the professional records of the graphic artists who designed them. Picturing America begins the task of sorting out the historical record of these cultural artifacts. The book examines pictorial maps that were designed, printed, and published as an individual sheet or poster or as part of a foldout brochure. At least two thousand such stand-alone maps are known to have survived.³ The book does not survey the thousands of pictorial maps that appeared in various publications or were printed on other media, such as handkerchiefs, scarves, and tablecloths.

Drawing on the extensive collections in the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, Picturing America charts the development of the genre during its golden age from the 1920s to the 1960s. The book considers the significance of American pictorial maps in the history of Western cartography, outlines the development of the genre, identifies several representative artists, studies the process of creating a pictorial map, examines pictorial map design, discusses the marketing of maps, and highlights two collectors who donated their extensive collections to the Library of Congress. Six sections of plates illustrate different categories of American pictorial maps.

Significance of Pictorial Maps

The curse of many a childhood is the study of geography—and the curse of geography, for many people, is the dullness of maps. So wrote American journalist Jay Mordall in 1929. ⁴ He continued, One remembers even now with vague discomfort the drab colors and dreary shapes of Africa, South America, Asia—which was just an overgrown offshoot of Europe—with the names of the country’s products printed in the proper places in tiny, illegible type. For Mordall, mapmaking had lost a little of its interest because it was no longer an art. Over the centuries, cartography had become an exact science, and imagination and poetry had gone out of it.

When Mordall was writing in the late 1920s, American mapmaking was dominated by scientific and commercial interests. The federal government, through the US Geological Survey (USGS), produced topographic and geological maps. Private companies, such as Rand McNally, George F. Cram, and C. S. Hammond, issued atlases and individual map sheets. The National Geographic Society created a range of products, from the well-known magazine with its map inserts to map sheets and atlases. Oil corporations, frequently working with General Drafting Company and Rand McNally, turned out road maps, popularly known as gas maps. ⁵ Towns and cities also produced their own transit and street maps. All these various maps showed the location of places for the purposes of navigation, wayfinding, and planning.⁶ Maps were produced with a constant scale, aligned to the grid of latitude and longitude, and oriented to north at the top of the sheet. Decorative information was eschewed in favor of a striking cover, as on gas maps, or demographic and economic information, as in atlases. Scientifically accurate and functional in use, these maps had a standard, uniform look. With only a few producers using relatively similar techniques, historian Susan Schulten observed, American maps began to develop a rather homogeneous style as the industry focused increasingly on profits rather than aesthetics and tailored its products to suit the widest possible audience.

Pictorial maps were quite different from these scientific maps. Unlike the federal agencies and publishing houses that produced relatively uniform maps, artists and cartographers created a great variety of pictorial output. In many cases, these mapmakers produced only one or two maps over the course of their careers, usually as a sideline to their bread-and-butter commercial work. As a result, American pictorial maps reflected an enormous range of individual artistic styles, and no one artist dominated the genre. This stood in marked contrast to other countries. MacDonald Gill was by far the leading pictorial mapper in Great Britain from the 1910s to the 1940s, and Loucien Boucher played a similar role in France in the 1940s and 1950s. Although few artists in the United States reached the level of Gill’s accomplishment, the sheer number and great variety of pictorial maps in the United States had no parallel.

American pictorial maps also differed from scientific maps in their content. As mapmaker Jack Atherton observed in the 1930s, "Today’s decorative maps no longer attempt guidance of an explorer’s destiny, leaving that tremendous responsibility to topographical maps ably compiled by scientific methods. Instead, through a wealth of illustration and a reasonable degree of geographic accuracy, they reveal intimately the innermost character of a country,

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  • (3/5)
    This is an attractive selection of pictorial maps, mostly from the interwar period, with a few stragglers finding their way in from the fifties and sixties. Generally produced as advertising or public relations curios by tourist bureaus and corporations, the genre is an interesting straddling of art, design, and cartography. Ultimately, though, the book is frustrating because the often-minute captions and drawings are too small to be legible, even in a large-format coffee table book. On rare occasions, the maps are reproduced across two pages, but even then not everything is legible. Admittedly, this problem is probably insoluble within the constraints of having a book of manageable size, but it's unfortunate that the maps cannot be fully appreciated here.