Recent auction trends have shown an increased demand for American pictorial maps from the 1920-50s. Once considered mass-produced ephemera and overlooked by serious map collectors, these maps are now having their hay-day and are finally appreciated for their colorful, whimsical illustrations and unique blend of data and illustration.
Pictorial maps date back centuries, yet the late 19th century saw mapmaking trends veering towards the purely scientific and systematic, thanks in part to the popularity of the staidly designed USGS government-funded surveys of the US. The pictorial maps of the early 1900s were designed in direct opposition to that reserved aesthetic. They were intended to stand out and demand attention and achieved that with playful illustrations, tongue-in-cheek notations, and bold colors. Promotional, gimmicky, and fun, these maps blend purpose with ornamentation . They are now rightfully celebrated and collected as artful and clever relics of the American pop-art movement.
We have several pictorial maps in our map collection. Some of my favorites are the 1926 “Pictorial Map of Chicago” that celebrates iconic Chicago building architecture styles and the 1932 “Principal Events of the Life of George Washington” that was issued by Standard Oil to promote a road trip up and down the east coast to see all of the battlefields, headquarters, and homes of George Washington.
A more comedic option is Jolly Lindgren’s “Hysterical Map of Yellowstone National Park,”which blends historical facts and geographical data with tongue-in-cheek wordplay. Labels like “Hot Springs- Mustn't Touch,” “Gibbon Falls- 80 Ft.- Are Ya Hurt? ,” and “Grand Canyon- Don’t Think It Ain't!” offer playful commentary alongside real elevation data and helpful information for visitors like labels for ranger stations, distances between mountain ranges, and more.Explore our whole collection of pictorial maps and consider adding one to your map collection today!
The Beautiful and the Damned, published in 1922 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, presents the reader with a fictionalized telling of the perpetually problematic relationship between Zelda and Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald. The novel is not only a landmark in the career of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but a glimpse into past high-societies wrapped up in a rebound cover of blue leather and hand-worked gilding.