Vintage Road Map Week, Part III

It’s the end of Vintage Road Map Week at The Basement Geographer! If you, like me, are a map freak, then you’ve probably tracked down your fair share of old road maps over the Internet, where good cartographic Samaritans have uploaded hundreds of images of old road maps that one can lose hours looking at (and if you haven’t, easy places to start are the Vintage Road Maps and Old Maps pools on Flickr). It’s quite fun to look at all of the things that have changed over the decades. Here are just some of the highlights you can find browsing these old maps. You’ll definitely want to click on each map to view them full-size and absorb every detail!

Provincial Trunk Highways System and Municipal Roads Province of Manitoba (1930)

Source: Manitoba Highway Maps, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.

This 1930 map of highways in southern Manitoba (there were none in northern Manitoba) produced by the provincial ‘Good Roads Boards’ is phenomenally huge (11549 x 10848). Not only is the province’s large three-digit provincial road system not in existence yet, but only the major roads (in black) are even gravelled, let alone paved. The rigid township-and-range system is present throughout the map; St-Boniface is still 40-plus years away from merging with Winnipeg. Most of these highways have long since taken on new numerical designations.



Here’s a Gousha map of southwestern California from 1955.Many of the first freeways are already there, but without their current Interstate designation.The biggest chance is the relatively tiny size of the suburbs in and around Los Angeles (Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Palmdale, Lancaster, Fontana, Rialto – all with populations between 100 000 and 375 000 today; all show up here under 25 000. Others of similar size such as Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, and Rancho Cucamonga, don’t even appear).


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

This is a 1946 map of Pyongyang that presents an entirely different city than the one that exists now. Some of the major streets are the same, but that’s about it. Nearly all of these buildings were either destroyed in the Korean War or replaced in the immediate post-war as the new Kim regime rebuilt the city with Soviet help in a Stalinist architectural style. This map shows a fair amount of Japanese place names in addition to Korean, reflecting Japanese rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.


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

Speaking of Stalinism, here’s a map showing the environs of ‘Stalinabad’, known prior to 1929 and again since 1961 as Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Dating from 1956, it’s a US Army road/topo map of Tajik land that uses Russian place names – where it can, anyway; a fun game to play with this map is to try and find how many different villages are merely labelled ‘Settlement’.

1956 B.C. Road Map

Source: J. Tworow, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence.

This is a slice of a 1956 Esso map of British Columbia and Alberta (I have a copy of this very map sitting at home) showing a slice of the future Trans Canada Highway corridor and the upper Columbia River valley. There have been some big changes here in the 55 years since this map was made, and here a just a few: the Trans Canada Highway was blasted through Glacier National Park and Rogers Pass, saving travellers the arduous journey around the Big Bend of the Columbia along Highway 1; the Big Bend itself and most of the original highways have long since been flooded by the construction of the massive Kinbasket Lake and Lake Revelstoke hydroelectric reservoirs (Hamber Provincial Park is many times smaller now since most of its land was expropriated for Kinbasket Lake); a freeway now joins Lake Louise to Calgary; Revelstoke has been joined to the towns to the south via highway since 1968. Looking just south of Nakusp at the bottom of the image I notice the now non-existent hamlet of Glendevon, where some of my relatives were flooded out of in the late 1960s in advance of the construction of the Keenleyside Dam further to the south.


Source: Jamaican Caves Organisation, Click map to expand (4868x 2283).

And there are some places that remain relatively similar even decades later. Take this 1967 Esso map of Jamaica. Other than missing the expressway between Kingston and Freetown, it looks pretty much the same as a modern road map of Jamaica.
I hope you enjoyed the old road maps this week. If you missed the previous two installments earlier this week, Part I is here and Part II is here.

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