Cram's Unrivaled Family Atlas of the World

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A  book in our over-sized collection caught my eye because it was begging to be repaired.  Thumbnail image for TitlePage.jpgBoasting the title "Cram's Unrivaled Family Atlas of the World," this book would tempt anyone to open it.  Its author, George F. Cram, was "a civil war veteran who marched with Sherman's army prior to his career as a map publisher (History of Cram)." George Cram's works are found in other areas of our library. His index in the unrivaled atlas was republished in American Place Names of Long Ago.  There are 46 titles in our online catalog associated with the George F. Cram Company.

This "unrivaled atlas" (one year of several), published in 1883, slices the world into sections, countries, states,  and statistics.  One of its statistical tables enumerates horse, milk cow, and oxen population and value by state. 

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On another page the "Improvements of a Century" can be found.

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High Buildings of the World is a pleasing graphic of "tall" buildings.

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Size and Population of the states of the United States of America creates another enchanting number depiction.

If you cannot get to the Maps Library to see this atlas, you can view the individual pages at the Old Book Art Image Gallery.

Found Treasures - "Oil Maps"

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For University Libraries, summertime is the perfect time to accomplish all those little tasks that pa road map.JPGwere so postpone-able during the hectic days of the regular school year.  By midsummer, we had started moving maps out of  gorged drawers into  more commodious drawers and in a similar fashion tugged the atlases  to more accommodating shelves.  In rearranging the "stick maps" (plats and plans and projections attached to a wood or metal pole), we found a battered cardboard box labeled "oil maps" nestled behind them.

patriotic2.jpgTumbling out of the box were maps sponsored by the big oil companies of the 1930's to 1960's, created to encourage touring the United States in gas-guzzling sedans. The 1946 Pennsylvania Road Map above is one example of these maps.

The highways and byways of certain time periods are not necessarily the most captivating information contained in them however.  Often the fortuitous finds are the advertisements at the map's perimeter or the patriotic messages plastered in somewhat garish colors to the back of the map.  The story told on the the map to the left  reads, "In these days when our democratic way of life is on trial, when hard-won liberties are challenged, it is reassuring and inspiring to look at the past."   The oil company names changed and evolved as they were bought out through time, but Esso, Sunoco, Standard Oil, and Continental Oil are a few of the heavy players in our library.canada.jpg

Certain idiosyncrasies were captured in these maps as well.  Look closely at the picture to your right of the Ontario and Quebec Tourguide Map and you will realize that the Canadian spelling of guide was at least temporarily devoid of the letter "u".  At first glance, we thought it was a typo, but noting this spelling on multiple maps leads us to believe that the Canadians were correct after all.  This Gulf-authored map encourages people"to stop at the sign of the orange disc."


On a Shell map of Ontario, we find a bit of history about Iroquois legend.  The "false-face" mask was carved roughly into a living tree and then removed for finishing details.  This sequence was thought to keep the benevolent and beneficial spirit of the tree within the mask.

Who would have thought that this forgotten carton of maps would hold lessons in history, patriotism, spelling, corporate takeovers, and etymology?

Sharing our maps with the world

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As a reader of this blog, you're probably already aware of some of our digital outreach efforts, including posts here and on our Facebook page.  In the last few months, we've taken on another service to provide access to our resources: the Yahoo-based Flickr photosharing service.  Flickr is a convenient package for uploading, organizing, and displaying digital images on the internet.  For the average user, it's a means for sharing family photos and vacation pictures.  For us, it's an opportunity to provide easy access to selections from our map collection online.  We can't post everything, of course.  Copyright law, file size, and the sheer size of our collection placelimits on what and how much we can put up.  But we can share some of our older and more interesting maps, with some of the them looking downright dazzling on screen.  My favorites are the 1907 Scarborough Map of the World, the stylish 1895 French army maps of North Africa, and the OSS maps detailing what was known about Germany and other enemies during WWII.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, we've posted many hours of reading to our photostream.  Have a look, and feel free to comment on anything that catches your eye.  The images are downloadable in a variety of sizes, though the largest maps have been greatly down-sampled to fit the site's size requirements and may look fuzzy when reconstituted.  Getting a better copy is as easy as emailing us, so don't be shy.  We love to share, which is what Flickr is all about.

Subway, Trains, & Mass Transit Maps

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Railway Map 1908

The map is posted on flickr, and is a favorite for all the details.  Names of many little towns along the railroad, advertisements which are like a snapshot in time and the unique lettering all used to convey the information needed to travel along the rail.  This looks to have been published to encourage tourism.   The advertisers include steams companies, commission agents, hotels, railway, banks, sites to see and big game to hunt; then for the visitors with a purpose, your local detective agency to find what you are looking for.

Oh ya....... in South Africa.  I can go on and on about ..... how cool it is to view a map of the Railroads in S. Africa over a hundred years ago! 

Another map of the Railway shows your basic no nonsense here is the line and here are the stops.  No ad's enticing you to visit, no "must see" here, just the basics.  Yet the way the map is presented the colored lines, the exotic names of the places tempt me all the same.  

It's Paris in 1900. Oh to be there at Midnight!

Valerie (Our Local Mapmaker) has recently started posting older maps in the collection to flicker.  For all to share and see what is available.... And dream of what might be available.

For all my nostalgia, there are plenty of subway maps available online, for current routes and stops. Just a little searching will reap many rewards.

Here are a few I found:

New York Subway 

Chicago L Map 

London Tube & other Mass Transit Maps

Tokyo Subway Map

My Plan ...... would be to study up on these before I ever visit.  Heaven knows I study our local CATA maps often enough and I live here..... Maybe I'm a little particular..... my husband would only disagree with the use of "a little". So I'm a bit more particular. \

Anyway, if you want to spend time living in the past, we have plenty of historical maps of the railroads, subways, and transit maps to gaze at and dream of a different world. Or if your planning your next excursion, We can help!


Additional Resources:

Ovenden, Mark. Transit Maps of the World: The World's First Collection of Every Urban Train Map on Earth. New York: Penguin Group, 2007.

Call no: Maps G1046.P33O9 2007


Dow, Andrew. Telling the Passenger Where to Get Off: George Dow and the Evolution of the Railway Diagrammatic Map. Harrow: Thomson Press, 2005.

Call no.: Maps GA795.D69 2005

And many more maps of subways, railroads, and mass transit are available, Just ASK!

Recycling Maps

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This sparked more Questions than Answers

Well I've learned in the past few weeks that recycling is not a 21st century habit, but an old tradition.  I had a request to find a specific edition of topographic maps of Russia, Published by Nazi Germany in the 1930's and 1940's.  So in the maps library we have two drawers full of the scale 1:100,000, (over 650 individual maps) but they are a mixture of publishers, and many different dates.

After I go through a drawer, approximately 300 maps, I had nothing that matched the request! Nothing!  I was at a loss, but always full of determination.  So I started on the second drawer.... And I tried a new arm motion because my arms were tired from going through the previous drawer.  The back of the third map caught my eye.  It had the edition that I was seeking. But it only showed a quarter of the map.  What?!  Where was the rest of the map?  Why had it been cut it up?  Why didn't it have anything to do with the map on the front?  The more I looked at the back the more, Questions I had.

Come to find out during World War II, the German cartography

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department was recycling old maps by printing the new maps on the backs.  So our catalogued collection is of the newer maps, these older maps

on the back are not recorded anywhere.....

Til now.

                                                  This is the map edition that I was searching for.

I went through over 650 maps to record what was on the back of the maps.  It was like a mystery hunt.  Using little details to figure out where they were of and what edition they were.  Who would have thought recycling before it was "in" but when it was a necessity.  There still is a long path ahead to figure out if we have any complete maps, and if any of them are a valuable resource to be catalogued and recorded.  There is a valuable lesson; another man's trash is our treasure.  I bet they never figured anyone would care about what maps they were printing on the back of.

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Note: the pictures do not illustrate the challenges that are faced since they are naturally only portions of maps; I'm still searching for a way to illustrate the situation in a more comprehensive method. 

Routes to Canada: More on URR mapping

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After writing last month's blog post, I was still itching to learn more about mappings of the Underground Railroad.  

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References pointed me in the direction of Wilbur H Siebert's research.  Siebert held numerous positions at the Ohio State University, beginning as an instructor of history and political science in 1891 and achieving emeritus status in 1935.  He spent much of his career amassing thousands of pages of information about underground activities not just in Ohio, but throughout the eastern US.  He sent out surveys, traveled railroad routes, and interviewed both agents and former fugitives.  

As a result of his efforts, he was able to collect or compile routes used by runaways in a series of maps.  (One such map, drawn in a schematized style, made me think of the zigzag route recommended by the drunkard's path quilt patch.) 

But a somewhat scathing remark on Siebert's Wikipedia entry about errors in his writings reminded me to do a little source-checking.  Siebert left his collection of papers to Ohio State, who released them on 16 reels of microfilm, four of which are owned by Penn State.  So I scrolled through the reels and was even more excited by what I found, references to station locations and individuals who assisted escaping slaves, in places I know.  A letter written by George Rank about his family's activities listed more than 15 stops in west central PA and the names of the people running them.  Quickly I turned to an 1871 atlas of Indiana County and was able to verify that many of the names were on the map, so to speak.  My next step will be to scan the maps and trace the path of the routes Mr. Rank described.  If I really wanted to go crazy with cross-checking, there's always Census data.  And deeds and land records....

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Given how long ago these activities were undertaken and how crucial secrecy was for protecting helpers and escapees, it may not be possible to ever know for sure the exact location of Underground Railroad routes.  But a map of possibilities is better than no map at all.  It's somewhere to start and a guide for further research. After all, if you don't know where you are, how can you get to where you're going?

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Where 2012 Conference

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Based on the number of views that YouTube has tallied for the many sessions recorded at thebosnia.png Where 2012 Conference, I am one of the few people who waited for them to be posted in early April.  That observation is somewhat sad because there are some gems hidden in those not-so-viral videos.

One gem is the Stratocam presentation. presents you with a slideshow of some of the best satellite images  of the earth's shorelines, man-made towers, lakes, desserts, and topographic images.  You can give a thumbs up or down on each image, or you can venture out to "snap" some of your own finds for others to vote on.

Thumbnail image for timehop.pngThere were other just-for-fun applications introduced at the conference. Timehop purports to amalgamate your activities from one year ago using your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram posts and send them to you in one email a day. The email "brings it all back to you."  I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

Alohar Mobile introduced its Mobile Location Behavior Analytics platform that uses information gatheredplaceme.png from their PlaceMe app. The free Placeme app for iOS and Android uses your phone's GPS and WiFi locator to record everywhere you have been and how long you stayed.  What is thought-provoking is Alohar's  software development kit that will help developers create apps using all that location information that you have sent to them. Using those potential apps, your smart phone can then become your "personal assistant," recommending where cheaper gas is and what route home you might want to try when your usual path is moving slowly. 

Hmmm...isn't this information a little too invasive and pervasive, a least for the current generation of smart phone users?  Maybe not.

Study Abroad or Vacation Planning

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Preparing for your Semester Study Abroad or a Summer Vacation

Come and visit to see what resources we have available.  ecuador guide.jpg

All through our collection, there is information available about the history, political situation, language and customs for almost every country.  The tourist maps usually have very practical information about travel, tipping/currency, holidays, subways, and more.

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If you are taking a long weekend trip 

to New York City, Philadelphia, or Washington DC, we have great list of points of interest!

Use our Study Abroad Research Guide to further your preparation.


Quilts as maps

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Although this past winter was, by central PA standards, quite mild, there was still something about the long dark nights that drove me toward cozying down with a project to keep my hands busy and my creative energy flowing. Last year I crocheted squares for a baby blanket; this year I took up quilting.  My first attempt was at a cheerful mini-quilt to warm me at my desk while I make maps.  It was challenging (mostly because I didn't really know what I was doing), but intriguing - there's something about piecing together bits of fabric into a coherent whole that's captivating, so many possibilities in even the simplest of patterns.

But within all of the endless variety of shape, size, and form, there's one thing about quilts that doesn't vary.  For a quilt to be a quilt, it must be composed of multiple layers of fabric that are anchored together by ties or by stitching.  And of course, this definition of layering makes me think of the way we describe GIS, as layers of data anchored together by coordinate data.  I would extend this definition more generally to all maps, that they are made of layers of information that singly might not make sense and need to come together in some kind of logical compilation.  To call a map a quilt of sorts makes a neat metaphor. 

For runaway slaves attempting to escape on the Underground Railroad, the reverse relationship - quilt as map - may have been much more than literary or theoretical.  It has long been believed that the placement of a quilt outside a home signaled whether or not it was safe to stop there.  According to the oral tradition of one African American family, though, quilts also carried codes within specific designs, codes that signaled when to prepare for flight and where to head.  For example, the bear paw square directed escaping slaves to follow a bear trail through the mountains.  bears paw.jpgSeveral other designs were also directional, while one (the crossroads) represented a specific place, Cleveland Ohio.  There were ten patterns in this particular code, their meanings surmised in the book Hidden in Plain View, which argues that the symbols used in slaves' handiwork were closely tied to those used by African secret societies, thereby giving the enslaved people - who were forbidden to read or write - a secret means of communication.

I find their argument compelling (and highly recommend reading the book for more detail).  But what I find even more compelling is the number of ways quilts and geographic information intersected:

  • Some designs (Dresden plate) may have meant specific towns (Dresden, OH; Dresden, Ont)
  •  Ties were spaced two inches apart, creating a grid showing miles between destinations
  • Lines of stitching created a topographic-like map of the plantation
  • Style of stitching varied from family to family, influenced by the family's place of origin
  • Patterns and stitching were sometimes broken up to keep evil spirits from traveling in a straight line (which would bring bad luck)
  • The nine patch could be used to show the location and orientation of fields
  • The drunkard's path reminded escapees to take a zigzag route to make it harder to be followed

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Much of what the research presents is supposition; without more corroborating information, it's hard to know how often quilts were used as maps, or how well they worked.  But for me, even a mere hint is enough - maps as quilts and quilts as maps, so many fascinating possibilities.

Plat Books

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There are little gems hidden away on the shelves and in the drawers of the Maps Library. BlairCountyPlat (2).jpg Sometimes, we just have to appropriate one of these gems, along with a few extra minutes to delve into their contents. Stashed across two shelves in the stacks are the Atlas & Plat Books of multiple counties of Pennsylvania. I confiscated the Blair County volume in which I hoped to find evidence of the family farms in the 1973 edition.

Searching our name in the alphabetical index to owners, I easily found the page and tax-map section associated with the two farms.  And, sure enough, there were the neighboring farm families whose names flooded me with memories of the times we spent together in 4-H.  I did not SteeleFarms.jpgknow until I pulled this atlas from the shelf and did a little research that creating these atlases was and still is an officially sanctioned fund-raiser for 4-H clubs in many states.  These atlas and plat books truly provide a wealth of historical information that goes beyond which families owned what land parcels. In this volume, the 4-Hers identify the source of the parcel information as the "Official Public Records at the Court House and elsewhere."

These little maps provide a snapshot in time. On the map excerpt above, I could see that the railroad, which bisected both farms, was still operated by the Penn Central RR in 197Thumbnail image for 4-H (3).jpg3.  The Junior High on "Bean Hill" was still listed as an operating junior high school. On the full maps, township boundary lines were clearly visible.  Dar-Will Dairy was still dishing out soft-serve ice cream in 1973 but has long since stopped, and one of the many "Friends of 4-H" listed was Samuel Beegle's Cabinet Shop, a shop that closed many years ago as well. 

These maps and atlases give evidence of urban areas gobbling up adjacent farms, small shops being superseded by big box stores, and rail commerce  taking a back seat to highway trucking.  There is a lot of history being stored in these 4-H efforts.

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