Pictorial Maps

A Map Genre at the Library of Virginia

By Library of Virginia

Arx Carolina (1673/1673) by Montanus, ArnoldusOriginal Source: Arx Carolina

Pictorial Maps through the Ages

Since the earliest days of cartography, pictorial elements have helped depict a place, region and culture. It was very common for sea monsters, buildings, ships and peoples to appear on a map, published and manuscript.  In the 18th and 19th centuries mapmakers increasingly relied less on decorative features as they strove to convey "facts." The following represent the New World through images and words during the Colonial period.

America Pars, Nunc Virginia Dicta… (1590) by John White, Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

This early map of North Carolina and Virginia shows pictorially, indigenous peoples rowing in the Sound; ships and sea monsters abound. Art and text convey scientific information to de Bry's readers.

Arx Carolina (1673/1673) by Montanus, ArnoldusOriginal Source: Arx Carolina

An earlier version of Fort Carolina first appeared in Theodore de Bry's book on Florida (1591); Arnoldus Montanus hired Jacob von Meurs to engrave this view for inclusion in "Unbekante Neue Welt."

This view of a French Huegenot colony is based on the original by artist Jaques Le Moyne. He was hired to map the area and plot the water depths and courses of present-day St. John's River, ca. 1564.

Meurs engraved a panoramic view of the triangular shaped fort, showing soldier's quarters and the commander's house, all thatched with palm trees.

"Virginia" (1635) by Ralph HallOriginal Source: Historia mundi / Gerhard Mercator. London : Printed by T. Cotes for Michael Sparke and Samuel Cartwright, 1635

This map of Virginia uses imagery, both real and imagined, to tell its English readers about the Virginia colony.

A New and Accurate Map of Virginia Wherein Most of the Counties are Laid Down from Actual Surveys, with a Concise Account of the Number of Inhabitants, the Trade, Soil, and Produce of that Province. (1770/1770) by Henry, JohnOriginal Source: A new and accurate map of Virginia wherein most of the counties are laid down from actual surveys

This 1770 map of the Colony of Virginia is a good example of an 18th century map conveying facts and information with little use of pictorial elements. A decorative cartouche houses bibliographical information.

Virginia (1889) by Arbuckle Bros., Coffee CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

In the latter part of the 19th century businesses like Arbuckle & Bros. Coffee Company began using maps to advertise their product.

Virginia (1889) by Arbuckle Bros., Coffee CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Arbuckle Brothers Coffee Company included advertising cards in coffee cans. In 1889, they distributed maps for each state and U.S. territory; these maps included illustrations of each's economic mainstay.

These United States: A Pictorial History of Our American Heritage (1949) by Robert Hyde de GrangeOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

A Very American Map Genre

A very American genre, pictorial maps experienced a resurgence in the 20th century but they've received little attention from map scholars. Stephen Hornsby of the University of Maine has published the first review of American pictorial maps,"Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps," and he has divided them into the following categories: Maps to amuse, maps to instruct, maps of place and region, maps for war and maps for postwar America.

A Virginian's Idea of the United States of America (1954) by C.B. MalcolmOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Maps to Amuse

Maps have always been used as a medium to deliver humor. In the 20th century, maps were also created to entertain. Humorous pictorial maps can rely on ethnic perceptions and regional caricatures. There will be some images in this section, published before World War Two, that 21st century readers might find shocking; the cartoonish style adopted by the artist(s) reflect the cultural biases of the American middle class.

This distorted map captures a "Virginians" perspective of the United States. Contiguous and southern states are expanded while Texas is described as "not so big." There's even an expanded "Area 51."

The Land of Nod (1936) by Lorene Kelly FagerburgOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Lorene Kelly Fagerburg drew this map for her son James. A fantasy map, it includes at least twenty-six fairy tales.

Fagerburg received her Bachelor's degree in fashion illustration; she spent her career working as an advertising fashion illustrator for Marshall Fields Department store and the Zuckerman Service.

Virginia (1938) by Ruth TaylorOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Frank Taylor and Ruth Taylor White compiled "Our USA: A Gay Geography" and Little Brown and Company published this school geography book in 1935. It was positively reviewed by the "New York Times."

The NYT review described the atlas as "brilliantly colored pictorial maps of the same order which have been amusing adults for the past decade, show the United States and their Territories as active, picturesque entities."

Virginians are represented by White's signature bobble-headed cartoon characters. While depicting information, this map also relies on stereotypes about the residents of certain areas and includes racist depictions of African Americans.

A Good-Natured Map of the United States Setting Forth the Services of the Greyhound Lines... (1937) by Greyhound LinesOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

This was one of a series of maps issued by Greyhound Bus Lines in the 1930s and 1940s. In general, American industry was quick to realize the advertising potential of pictorial maps.

"A Good-Natured Map..." was issued during the heyday of bus transportation in the United States.

A Good-Natured Map of the United States Setting Forth the Services of the Greyhound Lines... (1937) by Greyhound LinesOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

A Literary Map of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1957) by Charles C. Councell, CartographerOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Maps to Instruct

Maps have long served as tools for education. Pictorial maps were published to provide instruction on a variety of topics ranging from American history to important Virginia writers.

These United States: A Pictorial History of Our American Heritage (1949) by Robert Hyde de GrangeOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Pictorial Map Co. published this vibrant map in 1949 and used images and text to tell America's history.

Makes of the U.S.A., A Friendship Map (1956) by Friendship Press IncorporatedOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Friendship Press, the publishing arm of the National Council of Churches, issued this large, pictorial map of the United States. It is densely filled with illustrations.

The map's maker, Louise E. Jefferson, highlights the various contributions of peoples across the United States, as well as the nation's natural resources and industries.

Jefferson, a well-known and highly regarded graphic artist and designer, was first hired by Friendship Press in 1942. She served as art director and was the first African-American woman to hold a director position in the publishing industry.

A Literary Map of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1957) by Charles C. Councell, CartographerOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Literary maps emerged as a distinct subgenre of pictorial maps in the 1930s and 1940s. They were very popular. In many cases, the names of authors and book titles were simply printed on a map.

The most successful literary maps combined information with design. This boldly designed literary map of Virginia evokes a sense of "place" in the author's work.

Folklore and Legends of Our Country (map) (1960) by Esso Standard Oil CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Esso produced this map for classroom use. It was issued in 1960 and focuses on folklore, legends and tall tales unqiue to the American experience.

Oil companies sought ways to maintain a loyal clientele and issuing maps for free to Esso customers and to teachers was one way to encourage continued patronage.

A Past and Present Map of Eastern Virginia (1934) by Southgate L. LohmanOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Maps of Place and Region

Many pictorial maps focused on a specific place. In the 1920s artists began making lavish and complex pictorial maps of a place, region or city. In turn, these influenced public impressions of each.

Pictorial Map of the Vicinity of Smith Sound and Etah in North Greenland… (1925) by Margaret M. Elder and William H. SmithOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

"Pictorial Map of the Vicinity of Smith Sound and Etah, in North Greenland" was published to support the Medic's Society publication of Donald B. McMillan's "Four Years in the White North."

"Four Years in the White North" is about Elisha Kent Kane's adventures as an American Navy physician and Artic explorer. In 1850, Kent led an unsuccessful expedition to northwestern Greenland.

A Historical Map of Virginia (1930) by Charles W. SmithOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Vibrant colors abound as does art and text that show Virginia's history with insets of "Old Richmond", "Virginia's Historic Rivers" and numerous sketches. Charles W. Smith was a nationally recognized print-maker.

His artwork was published in numerous publications and exhibitions. This is the only known map completed by him and he published it during the height of the Colonial Revival movement.

A Descriptive Map of the Region within One Hundred Miles of Capital of the United States... (1932) by Ernest CleggOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

The colonial revival movement was in "full swing" when the National Cathedral published this to celebrate George Washington's bicentennial birthday.

Ernest Clegg was a prolific illustrator and was known for drawing decorative maps. His artwork is in several Virginia-related publications.

A Past and Present Map of Eastern Virginia (1934) by Southgate L. LohmanOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Southgate L. Lohman designed this limited edition pictorial map in the "arts and crafts" style and printed it from a woodcut engraving he designed and cut. Lohman lived and worked in Norfolk, Virginia.

Souvenir Historical Map, Jamestown 350th Anniversary Festival... (1956) by J. Lindsey OcheltreeOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

This souvenir map was issued to promote the Jamestown 350th Anniversary Festival and is a festive map of the Virginia Peninsula and Southside Tidewater. It illustrates historically correct information.

1610 Hampton Oldest Continuous English Speaking Settlement in America (1957) by Jack CliftonOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

During the Jamestown Festival of 1957 many organizations, state-wide, showed their support by publishing maps and books related to their city or town's establishment, including the city of Hampton.

World War 2 in the North Sea Area (1944) by Bureau of Naval Personnel, Education Services SectionOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Maps for War

America's wartime pictorial maps are best represented by NavWarMaps produced for the Training Aids Division of the Bureau of Naval Personnel for the United States. The division was based in New York and created artwork for printed aids for men and women of the United States Navy. The center hired commercial artists to create maps with "dramatic color, illustrative montages, and sweeping aerial views of convoys, air armadas and naval battles (Stephen Hornsby)." The maps were influenced by cartographic practices and Madison Avenue.

The Mediterranean (1944) by Bureau of Naval Personnel, Education Services SectionOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

The South China Sea Area (1944/1944) by Bureau of Naval Personnel, Education Services SectionOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

NavWarMaps often included charts and timelines; this one highlights American involvement in Southeast Asia. Resources desired by the Japanese government, like rubber, tin, oil and cotton are illustrated.

World War 2 in the North Sea Area (1944) by Bureau of Naval Personnel, Education Services SectionOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

The Educational Service Section hired commercial artists to create maps with dramatic color and montages. The influence of air age maps by these artists are seen in this enormous pictorial map.

The North Pacific Area (1944) by Bureau of Naval Personnel, Education Services SectionOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

In NavWar Maps, symbols are used to show movement of the American and Japanese forces. Pictorial images are often used to "describe" battles like the Battles of Atu and Midway.

We Fight a Global War (1944) by Bureau of Naval Personnel, Education Services SectionOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Beautifully designed, "We Fight a Global War" provides an explanation of the Navy's role; one of its most important jobs was to protect Allied supply lines.

A Pictorial Map Showing Historic Shrines and Battlefields of the Civil War, (map) (1961) by General Drafting CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Maps for Postwar America

As interwar generation mapmakers retired and  advertisers increasingly relied on photography, the pictorial map genre waned in the years following World War II. Still, they represent America.

Visitor's Map of Washington D.C. (1951) by American Automobile AssociationOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

The American Automobile Association was formed in the early twentieth century to represent automobile drivers. After World War II they were publishing maps of American cities to promote travel.

A Pictorial Map Showing Historic Shrines and Battlefields of the Civil War, (map) (1961) by General Drafting CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

The General Drafting Company was the "cartographic arm" of Esso, a division of the Humble Oil and Refining Company. The Civil War Centennial Commission supported the publication of this map in 1961.

A Pictorial Map Showing Historic Shrines and Battlefields of the Civil War, (back of map) (1961) by General Drafting CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

The verso included additional maps and essays guiding Americans as they planned their family vacation. They were encouraged to travel by car.

Map of Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia (1979) by General Drafting CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

The golden age of pictorial maps was long past when the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation published this map of Colonial Williamsburg that had been compiled by the General Drafting Company.

Map of Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia (1979) by General Drafting CompanyOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Pictorial in nature, text and art are used to guide visitors around one of the nation's larges living history museums; streets are clearly laid out and topographic information and buildings are illustrated.

A Pictorial Map of Richmond Virginia (1937) by W.M. LewisOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Explore Pictorial Maps!

You can find more pictorial maps in by visiting the Map Collection at the Library of Virginia, and using our online resources.

Credits: Story

Research, text and arrangement by Cassandra Britt Farrell with assistance from Audrey McElhinney and Sonya Coleman.

Further reading:
Hornsby, S. J. (2017). Picturing America: The golden age of pictorial maps. Chicago: The University of Chicago press.

Imaging by Mark Fagerburg and Ben Steck Photo & Imaging Services department.

All images from Map Collection, Picture Collection, Rare Book Collection, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Library of Virginia.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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