Archive for the ‘02 Why Are You Making Your Map?’ Category

Crippled children study map on ceiling while they lie on table taking treatments…

Innovations in linoleum maps, ca 1942:


Located in the Shrine Hospital in San Francisco.

Map made from 451 individual pieces, and measures 32 feet by 12 feet.

Popular Mechanics, August 1942

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In the field of sociology, perhaps one of the most useful devices for the graphic presentation of facts is the cartogram or statistical map. Recently there has been an increasing emphasis on the ecological and statistical phases of social analysis. This development has given the map much greater significance and utility in the methodology of sociology.

The chief value of the spot-map, though not highly refined or developed at present, seems to be that of an instrument of social discovery and analysis. Significant relations and correspondence of variables, which might otherwise be overlooked, are brought into graphic relief by the spotmap.


Notwithstanding that the spot-map is characteristically quite elementary, if not, as some critics say, superficial, yet it can be delineated so that it shows several variables at once with specificity, accuracy, and clarity.


Although the spot-map has its limitations, it is justifiable to say that there is no other way in which the relation between so many facts as are contained in the above maps can be shown so clearly and concisely.


It may be argued that a large number of symbols tends to obscure rather than to elucidate the significance of the data, and at the same time necessitating an unduly large amount of time and effort. This point of view may, in some instances, be justified, but if the number of symbols is reasonably large, and if they are simple in form and logically and visually arranged, this argument becomes untenable.

Calvin F. Schmid
“Notes on Two Multiple-Variable Spot Maps”
Social Forces, Vol. 6, No. 3. (Mar., 1928), pp. 378-382.


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Detail from a rare 1885 map showing vice in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Vice includes gambling (dark orange), Chinese prostitution (green), opium houses (yellow), Joss Houses (red) and White prostitution (blue). The map, from the Rumsey Map Collection, is an early example of detailed urban social mapping, in this case motivated by strong anti-Chinese sentiment. Click on the map (above) for more details from Historian Susan Schulten’s blog Mapping the Nation.

Schulten’s blog and website for her terrific book Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America contain a wealth of maps and graphics. The book itself looks at the pivotal 19th century – when mapping expanded to include a diversity of human, social, cultural, political and environmental phenomena.

Selected details of maps from the blog are below: click on the title or image to see the entire map.



Emma Willard, “Introductory” Map of American History (1828)

“This map opened one of the first historical atlases of America, created by the noted educator Emma Willard. Note that she marked not just the location of tribes, but their migration over time.”



Emma Willard, “First” Map of American History (1828)

“Willard’s second map in the atlas marked the earliest voyages to America, and took pains to represent change over time. Note the inclusion of failed voyages and settlements.”



Diagram of the History of Political Parties in the United States (to 1880) (1880)

“Here is one of the many attempts to represent American history in graphic terms that flourished in the wake of the nation’s centennial, and which was updated in 1894.”



Transportation and Rates of Travel (1932)

“Here Charles Paullin represented advances in transportation technology in geographic terms in order to depict the qualitative changes over the course of American history.”



Course of Cholera in Boston in 1849 (1849)

“This is one of many examples of a map designed for etiological purposes, in this case to locate the source of the city’s 1849 cholera epidemic.”



Sanitary Map of the City of New Orleans (1855)

“Barton compiled this complex map to locate the origin of the yellow fever outbreak of 1853, even noting the arrival of ships in the city port.”



Map of the Cotton Regions of North America (1862)

“Mallet designed this complex map to guide the British as they developed cotton in India, drawing on existing geological and environmental maps from the era.”



Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States (1861)

“One of the first American attempts to translate the census into cartographic form, and a favorite of President Lincoln during the Civil War.”



Map of Bison Distribution Over Time (1876)

“This map depicts the shrinking bison population, highlighting the effects of expansion at the nation’s centennial. It became the model for William Temple Hornaday’s well-known map of 1887.”



Geological Map of the United States (1872)

“This stunning map owed much to its antebellum maps of geology as well as the fine chromolithography of Julius Bien.”



Susan Schulten
Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America
University of Chicago Press, 2012

Part One: Mapping the Past

Chapter 1: The Graphic Foundations of American History
Chapter 2: Capturing the Past through Maps

Part Two: Mapping the Present

Chapter 3: Disease, Expansion, and the Rise of Environmental Mapping
Chapter 4: Slavery and the Origin of Statistical Cartography
Chapter 5: The Cartographic Consolidation of America

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Back in 2008 the word cartocacoethes was first used on this blog to describe “a mania, uncontrollable urge, compulsion or itch to see maps everywhere.”

Counter cartocacoethes can be applied in the world of espionage allowing spies to sneak intelligence out of hostile territories – making maps that don’t look like maps.

Stained-glass windows, butterfiles, leaves, moth heads…


In making the drawings of fortified positions after ascertaining their plans, it was the work of the spy so to disguise them that their true character would not be recognized in the event of his capture by military authorities in the country where he was operating.

The plans of a fortification were first drawn in a regular manner and then disguised. In one case this was done by sketching ostensibly a stained-glass window. To the casual observer the drawing would bear no indication of its importance, but to the spy it was a carefully executed map of a military stronghold.

In another case the spy chose an ivy leaf as a pattern, the veins being drawn to represent the outline of the fortified position; the shading marking the ground sheltered from fire, and heavy spots, resembling worm-eaten holes, the positions of the large guns.

The entire article, reproduced in Popular Mechanics (July 1915) from an article in The Sketch (February 24, 1915):



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First-Aid Station; Explosives Room



Concrete Brattice (with Manhole, Solid); Timber Door



Telephone; Power Line; Electric Light; Motor, Fan; Pump; Hoist; Gong



Shaft Stations



Conventions Used on Mine Maps (entire plate)



Mine Openings: Shafts (Rectangular, Circular); Tunnels; Diamond Drill Hole; Churn Drill Prospect Hole; Water Well; Oil Well; Gas Well; Sulphur Well, Barren Well; Mines & Quarries; Prospects



Conventions Used on Topographic Maps (entire plate)



Hypsography: Contours, Dumps, Dump and Car Track, Fills, Open Cuts, Cut, Stripping, Open Pits; Sand and Sand Dunes



Conventions Used on Topographic Maps (entire plate)



Limestone, Sand, Conglomerate, Drift, Metamorphic Rock, Gneiss



Geologic Conventions (entire plate)


Source: Lester C. Uren (1919) “Conventional Symbols for Mine Maps.” Mining and Scientific Press (August 16, 1919 p. 231-235)

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It measures 69 feet long and 11 feet wide and required the services of nearly a dozen men to carry it…

Enormous map moving, ca. 1917.



The map shows that portion of the United States between the eastern boundary of Minnesota and the Pacific coast, and the entire Northern Pacific Railway system, including practically every station on the line.

Popular Mechanics, February 1917.

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Chemical smoke puffs represent exploding shells…


Surveyed through field glasses that make it appear miles away, a novel war map at Princeton University makes artillery practice realistic to students of the Princeton unit of the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

…Each student takes his turn at directing the miniature “barrage.” The ingenious map is operated by the instructor, who follows the student’s data and commands to fire. A small adjoining map is criss-crossed with lines showing where shells with various ranges would strike. Over this key chart moves a lever which, placed at the spot where the student’s shot would fall, swings a glass nozzle to a corresponding position on the large map; at the student’s word “fire” a puff of artificial smoke is released.

Popular Mechanics, May 1927

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