Posts Tagged ‘maps’
April 15, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Rand McNally published its first road atlas on April 15, 1924. It was called—in a touching testament to the marketing of yore—the Rand McNally Auto Chum. Many hours of intrepid googling have failed to yield a photo of the Chum, but I did find a retrospective of atlas covers, and this commemorative press release, which catalogs some of the decidedly unchummy features of the 1924 atlas. A few of the things it didn’t do:
- Did not identify roads by number; instead roads were listed by their names, such as Roosevelt Highway. In fact, the atlas depicted zero miles of interstate, as those roads did not yet exist.
- Did not include an index for cities, or other places. If a driver didn’t know where a town was located, he or she would have to page through the atlas to find it.
- Did not appear in full color. The 1924 atlas was printed in only two colors, dark blue and red. The first full-color edition was printed in 1960.
One can only imagine the faces of so many vexed motorists as they tossed their unindexed, two-tone Chums out the windows of their stranded Model Ts.
As with so many reference texts, the road atlas has fallen into desuetude, for reasons obvious to anyone with an Internet connection. In its coverage of the Rand McNally anniversary, Yahoo! News already presumes that its readership knows nothing of atlases past; their tone is that of a nostalgic grandfather. “Before there were smart phones and Google Maps,” the story begins, “people relied on road atlases and paper maps stored in their glove boxes.” Gee!
We’ve also lost the complimentary road maps once offered by gasoline companies, a few of which are pictured above. (Look closely for the title of a Flannery O’Connor short story in one of them.) It was the gas giants who helped to underwrite the cost of the first atlases: better maps meant more people on the road, and more people on the road meant more gasoline sold.
The Yale University Library hosts an old but serviceable guide to early road maps, and its text, by Douglas A. Yorke Jr. and John Margolies, provides an excellent précis on the importance of oil-company cartography, which, with its flashy art and sloganeering, amounts to a kind of petrol propaganda:
The oil-company road map became the primary medium through which Americans found their way on the ever-growing network of the national roads and highways … By the twenties, most major oil companies had some form of promotional map program. The covers often featured a man and a woman discovering the joy of driving through the countryside, enjoying the freedom and mobility the automobile offered … The 1927 Standard Oil map of Ohio compares the motorist to the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon, blazing trails and discovering new lands. The Kentucky Standard Oil map of the same year has a three panel spread, depicting a motorist using a free map to plan their descent into the rolling valley below. Oil companies were encouraging the automobile owner to travel and explore the country—using their gasoline.
March 27, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Before there was MFA vs. NYC, there was Flannery O’Connor, discussing the merits of an MFA program: “It can put [a writer] in the way of experienced writers and literary critics, people who are usually able to tell him after not too long a time whether he should go on writing or enroll immediately in the school of Dentistry.”
- The love letters of a young Ian Fleming reveal him to be a jealous, sadistic romantic: “I would have to whip you and you would cry and I don’t want that. I only want for you to be happy. But I would also like to hurt you because you have earned it and in order to tame you like a little wild animal. So be careful, you.”
- Beware intemperance! Exhumed from the Library of Congress: a 1908 map depicting “the negative consequences of drinking and ungodliness, using an imaginary set of railroad lines, states, towns, and landmarks.” Highlights: Selfishburg, Hypocrisy Heights, Lewd Castle, Whiskeyton, Gossip Center, Presumptionville, Treasondale, and Embezzle City.
- John Coltrane’s tenor saxophone will join the collection of the American History Museum. (This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of his seminal album A Love Supreme.)
- On CNN’s coverage of Flight 370: “This willingness to fixate on one big story and sensationalize it reflects CNN’s growing embrace of the phenomenology of news. It’s an approach that emphasizes the viewer’s experience of singular news events as much, if not more than, the news itself.”
January 31, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- A legible—and quite informative—map of the Internet. Would-be circumnavigators may find themselves buffeted by the trade winds of Spam Ocean. And shame on you if you’re only seeking a passage to the Continent of Porn.
- For the transit wonks of the seventies, the dream of the day was people movers: the “car-like pods” on rails still seen occasionally at airports. Behold their squandered promise, their sleek mobility, their Velveeta-orange color.
- Two new poems by Sappho were discovered on ancient papyrus. One of them mentions Sappho’s brothers; “it’s very exciting to have a new Sappho poem that isn’t about erotic love or beauty.” Agree to disagree.
- “Growth is a greater mystery than death … Not even the successful man can begin to describe the impalpable elations and apprehensions of growth.” Norman Mailer on the pursuit of prestige.
- In 1983, Aramco Oil hired someone to photograph oil rigs and gas-oil separation plants. He also kept an affecting photo diary.
October 7, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
This interactive Bay Area Literary Map, courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle, is fantastic, and because we are greedy, we want one for every city in the world.
April 4, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
In seventh grade, we read The Catcher in the Rye. One day, Ms. C. handed out xeroxed maps of New York City and asked us to trace Holden Caulfield’s path through New York. We did. “Do you see the pattern?” she kept asking excitedly. “Do you see what it’s all pointing to?” No one did. “He’s heading home! He’s circling around home!” she finally shouted, exasperated. We were collectively underwhelmed. I suspect Holden Caulfield might have been, too.
Maybe our teacher was onto something, though: in a sense, she was urging us to do the same thing Becky Cooper conceived of in her collaborative art project Mapping Manhattan, now collected in a book. A range of New Yorkers—artists, writers, thinkers, kooks—present maps colored (in some cases literally) by their personal experiences. The results are as wide-ranging and fascinating as one might expect. None, that I can see, are leading to the author’s childhood home—but then, if memory serves, I only got a B+ in that class.
March 26, 2013 | by Ben Lytal
People pretend the idea of fact-checking fiction is hilarious and a paradox and maybe even scandalously bureaucratic and wrongheaded. But when fiction gets facts wrong, people care. If a novel claims to be about a real place, people say, It should at least get the street names right. If somebody writes a story about Manhattan, and he mixes up the streets, he’s expected to fix it.
When I first realized this, it worried me. If I ever wrote a story, I thought, it would be murder to go back and change the street names. Not because of their precious sonic qualities, the effect removing them would have on the rhythm of the sentences. But because likely I’d have done more than transpose street names. I’d have bent Broadway to intersect with Bowery so that my hero could stumble out of a Bowery bar and look up and be able to see Grace Church, for example. Moving the streets, shuffling them back or prying them apart, would ruin the effect.
Which could have been the fact-checker’s point—everybody has the real Manhattan in their head, and with it a host of associations. We love Manhattan; don’t change it. Years later, I wrote a book about my hometown, Tulsa. And after I was done I decided to call it A Map of Tulsa.
My father read it and sent a simple, complimentary e-mail. Which was the perfect thing. Then when I was home and we could talk in person and were alone for a minute, he mentioned that there was just one thing: I had gotten a few details of geography wrong in my book. For example, St. Francis Hospital being right by the highway.
Yes, I said, that’s right. I know.
Which amounted to: I did it on purpose. Read More »