Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Maps like everything else have evolved. Before the advent of the internet and now smart phones maps came on paper.  Sometimes I miss paper maps. We still buy them because while I can plot my route with my phone I love to unfold a map to find the one less traveled on a paper map.

They have that wonderful paper smell and feel (well, unless you found them stuffed under the seat of your car after a well attended and slightly drunken party. Then, if you're lucky, they only smelled of stale beer.)

Most of them folded into pocket size packets packed with terrific information.
That is, of course, if you could fold them back up after opening them.
For some reason I was good at re-folding maps. It must be a spacial thing.

Some maps were colorful fully-illustrated pieces of artistry.
Some maps were utilitarian, black and white, just give me the facts, ma'am.

Maps told people more than where they were 
and which way they should be going to get where they wanted to be.
They could express the social norms of the region they covered.
They could advertise the exclusivity or the undesirability of an area.
They could express the political climate of the region.
And, some?
 They are harder to define.
It's maps like this one that conjures up all sorts of feelings about who and where we were as a nation and as people in 1856. This one is now a lesson, albeit a painful one, in history.
There are thousands of old maps available online these days. Our map collection goes up in just a matter of weeks but check out the Library of Congress, the World Digital Library or my friend Julie's map collection at the Arizona Memory Project for other sites with maps.


PS: sometime this week I'll get the pictures of me and a giant smurf up. It is one photo that I can't explain away with drink.


  1. You always post such fascinating stuff. None of it, however, is quite as anticipated at the promised Giant Smurf photo. ;)

  2. That map looks like it was doing double duty as a White Pages. Does it list everyone in the US at the time?

  3. I love, love, LOVE old stuff like that! It's so much fun to delve back into history. Well, some history. :)

  4. You'd have to say when geographers have rivers down pat but have mountains oddly narrow to a point where Colorado is nigh invisible. There is something else going on entirely. Something far from the cartographers Art and going very deep into the Art of the propagandist.

    Sorry 'bout the delay but blogger was having a bit of a fit over this side.

  5. I lurv maps, the older the better.

  6. My Daddy was a map man. He was extremely particular about the way it was folded too. If anybody (Mama) folded it wrong, there was hell to pay. Funny, I just bought a huge world map for Jude, framed it, and hung it on his wall. And I realized it's because I'd always wanted one when I was a kid. Cool.