Vintage Road Map Week 2012, Part III

Before we delve into our last entry in our second annual week full of vintage road maps (Part I is here; Part II is here), here are links to two more fantastic – and free – online map archives.

Focusing on maps and city plans in the United Kingdom and Australia from the 18th and 19th century is MAPCO (Map And Plan Collection Online), which has received over 5 million views in its six-year history, and for good reason; the maps here have been scanned in incredibly high quality. My favourite may be this 1878 geological street map of London that combines a large fold-out street map of the bustling city with a hand-coloured depiction of the various rock and soil types underlying the city.  These maps aren’t embeddable, and it’s just as well– many of them are positively huge.

If you’re looking strictly for straight-forward highway road maps, especially the classic type issued by oil companies and automobile clubs, the German-language Landkartenarchiv has digitised over 360 European road maps, including entire atlases.  These are primarily from Germany, of course, but have the same flavour and design as their English-language counterparts, right down to the kitschy cover illustrations of filling station attendants.


We begin Part III with this map of central Eritrea drawn during the Italian colonial period.  The major asphalted roads in yellow remain the major roads in the country today.  We also see the Eritrean Railway between Agordat to Massawa via the capital of Asmara.  Built between 1887 and 1932, this remains Eritrea’s only railway.  The system was inoperable from 1978 to 2003, when the portion between Asmara and Massawa was restored.  It still employs 1930s-era Italian railcars and locomotives.


Source:  Courtesy of the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

This map of the United States’ Yellowstone National Park (the world’s oldest national park) comes from a 1917 of the Automobile Blue Book, and could almost be used today were it not missing the various tourist facilities, such as Grant Village on the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake, that were constructed in the wake of widespread automobile tourism through the park in ensuing decades.  Even at this early juncture, however, seven campgrounds are already in place on this map.  The ‘Soldier Checking Stations’ are a reflection of the fact that the US Army was still in charge of managing the park at this time (the National Park Servicewould not take over until later in 1917).


Here’s an early Texas highway map produced in 1919, two years after the state highways scheme was implemented.  Pretty well none of these routes retain their original numbers; most of these original trunk highways were supplanted by numbers of the US Highway system in the 1930s, with the original numbers now used for other highways or decommissioned altogether.  A handful of routes do maintain their original 1917 designation, such as State Highway 19 in the eastern part of the state.


This is a tramway map of Kiev (Kyiv) from 1913.  Notable here is the use of the Cyrillic letter Ѣ (yat), eliminated within the decade under early Soviet spelling reforms that gave Ukrainian and Russian their current visual forms.  Seen here most prominently in the label for the Dnieper River, Ѣ represented a vowel sound that had long morphed into [i].  Many of the places labeled on this map are named after members of the Russian royal family and would receive new names in the following decades under Soviet rule.


This turn-of-the-1970s pocket atlas of Vancouver and area comes from my own bookshelf.  It’s a bit bland design-wise, but it was functional, and that’s all that matters.  While not much has changed roadwise in the heart of Vancouver compared to the modern-day street grid, the suburbs are another story.  The neighbouring city of Richmond, for example, looks positively empty compared to today.  The typeface in this atlas is interesting, as it looks as though everything is handwritten yet the font is completely consistent throughout the book.


We end Vintage Map Week 2012 on a down note with this horrible attempt at scanning that seems very appropriate for a very poorly drawn map of British Columbia’s West Kootenay (‘schematic diagram’ seems like a more appropriate term than ‘map’ when it comes to something this bad).  I’m not sure what’s more frightening: the idea that someone in 1977 thought a map that looked like this could actually be serviceable for commercial use or that twelve years later the same map was still being used, only with new advertisements and a couple of new roads or labels hastily added as necessary.  The result is an abhorrent mishmash of typefaces and font sizes with a ridiculous number of spelling mistakes.  Some of the labels are even handwritten right onto the map.  There’s nothing resembling ‘scale’ here, as the various roadways of the region have little bearing to reality.  In the ultimate act of laziness, the Trans Canada Highway to the north is simply a straight red line that conveniently runs directly along the top border.  Even a kitsch lover like me can’t bring myself to love this one.  I can’t believe people paid money to place advertisements on this.

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