Chapter 13 Commercial Cartography 1860-1920

The last half of the nineteenth century saw the continuation and expansion of many of the trends in commercial cartography that had begun in the period between 1840 and 1860. The continued growth of the state’s economy and population assured a growing demand for up-to-date maps of the state, its cities, and its transportation network. Map publishers competed with each other to lower costs and produce a greater variety of maps to meet the demand from specialized markets. New technologies facilitated the production of large runs of inexpensive maps. As was earlier the case, commercial map makers were usually unable to meet the expense of extensive new surveys, and depended largely on compilation from government sources.

By the latter part of the nineteenth century, commercial map makers responded to changing conditions by producing several new types of maps. The advent of the bicycle and the automobile stimulated the production of new types of road maps. There was a steep rise in the production of maps for advertising purposes, such as maps touting tourist attractions or new real estate developments. Property maps also became more elaborate, and several types of property maps became prominent for the first time, including real estate atlases, bird’s-eye views, and fire insurance atlases.

In almost all of these trends, New York mirrored the rest of the nation. Since most of these developments have been described in works that are national in scope, there is no need to go into extensive detail in describing them in New York.General Purpose State and City Maps

As was seen in the previous chapter, very slow progress was made by government agencies in the last half of the nineteenth century in mapping the state. Most of the maps published by state agencies that covered all of New York show the canal and railroad networks, or focus on specific engineering or public health projects.

Under these circumstances, the demand for general purpose state and city maps was met almost exclusively by commercial map publishers. Most of these maps resembled those that their predecessors published in the 1840s and 1850s, and are also not dramatically different from modern city and state maps.

The mass production of maps lowered their cost, but also affected their quality. After the Civil War, lithography almost entirely displaced copperplate engraving in the production of maps. Toward the end of this period, even less expensive processes, such as photolithography and wax engraving (which was the dominant form of map printing in the United States between 1870 and 1930) came to the fore.[1] Because of the development of color printing (chromolithography), most maps were no longer colored by hand. Many of the maps published during these years have rather garish colors—in part because of the use of newly developed aniline dyes. The widespread use of acidic wood pulp paper meant that many maps produced after 1850 are today much more fragile than their predecessors printed on rag paper. In general, most maps produced in this period are considered to be aesthetically inferior to earlier maps, and they do not command high prices from map collectors.

At the beginning of this period, the New York City based Colton Map Company remained the most important map publisher in the country. The output of the Colton Company gradually diminished, and its last major publications appeared in the early 1890s. Other map publishers with a national scope came to the fore at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. The best-known of these is Chicago-based Rand McNally (founded 1868), which in its early years focused on publishing railroad maps. One of its typical early efforts, published in 1884, is Rand, McNally & Co.’s New Railroad, County, and Township Map of New York: Showing Every Railroad Station and Post Office in the State.[2] Starting around the turn of the century, Rand McNally also published numerous street maps of the New York City area.[3]

Rand McNally’s major competitors included the George F. Cram Company in New York City (founded 1867), and the Buffalo-based Matthews-Northrup Company (founded around 1878). They were later joined by two other New York City based companies: General Drafting Company (founded 1909) and C.S. Hammond & Co. (founded 1901). All of these companies published maps of New York State or areas within it, as well as of many other parts of the country.[4]

Many of the city and county maps of New York in this period were produced by regional publishers. Almost nothing has been written about most of these companies. One of the larger was the Drew, Allis Company, which published maps of the City of Rochester at frequent intervals between 1878 and 1908. In spite of its national scope, Matthews, Northrup & Co. was also a prolific regional publisher of maps of Buffalo and vicinity during approximately the same period. Andrew Boyd & Sons played a similar (but more modest) role in the Syracuse area. Many smaller publishers were also active. Their maps can be useful to local historians for tracing the growth of cities and counties, and of street networks. They can be tracked down in local libraries and historical societies, or searched out on OCLC by using geographical names as key words.

In addition, publishers of county atlases (particularly members of the Beers family, which will be discussed below), also produced many county and regional maps.

A number of representative maps of New York State from this period are available on the World Wide Web. Asher & Adams’ New York and Part of Ontario, published in 1871, is typical of the commercially published maps of the state in the post Civil War period.[5] It is a fairly small map at a scale of about 1:1,275,000, and was designed to accompany a gazetteer. Counties are colored in bright hues, rivers and towns are shown, and there is a good depiction of the railroad network, including individual stations. A more ambitious undertaking, published in 1896, is Bridgman’s New Rail Road & Township Map of New York.[6] Garishly colored and awkwardly put together, it is a truly ugly map. But it is at a large enough scale (1:320,000) to include quite a lot of useful detail, including the “township” (town) boundaries mentioned in its title. It sports a drawing of the state capitol building, and includes numerous inset maps, among them: a map comparing the areas of New York State and England, a “condensed gazetteer of counties,” a chart showing the population growth of New York State over time, a map of Congressional districts, a geological map of the state, a hypsometric map, and a climatological map.

Although most of the numerous city and state maps of New York published in this period are not especially noteworthy, there are some outstanding exceptions. The most important of these are in very large format, and are not at present available online or otherwise easily accessible. Several of the most notable cartographic products of this period were published by Julius Bien, but since they took the form of atlases, they will be discussed below. Other significant maps of New York City published prior to 1909 are described by Stokes in his Iconography of Manhattan Island.

One of the most spectacular maps of the metropolitan area ever published is Louis A. Risse’s General Map of New York City (1900), the printed version of which is available online from the New York Public Library.[7] The manuscript original of this highly detailed map, which shows all boroughs of the newly consolidated city, reportedly measured twenty-seven by thirty-one feet, and won a Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition of 1900. The published version, reduced to a scale of 1:21,000, measures a mere 263 x 225 cm. (104 x 89 inches). Even the smaller version is a kind of cartographic tour de force, which shows in detail both the topography and the street grid of greater New York.

The last half of the nineteenth century also saw the publication of several significant regional maps. Prior to the detailed mapping of large portions of the state by the USGS after 1900, privately produced maps continued to provide important new information for many areas. Mention was made in the previous chapter of the maps of the Adirondacks made by Seneca Ray Stoddard and others, which drew in part on the quasi-public surveys of Verplanck Colvin. New York’s other leading forested resort area, the Catskills, was also the scene of significant cartographic activity. A map of the Catskills published in 1879 by Arnold Guyot is particularly noteworthy, since it played an important role in solidifying the boundaries and place names of this rather amorphous region in the public mind.[8] In certain respects the cartographic history of the Catskills parallels that of the Adirondacks. The last decades of the nineteenth century saw an outpouring of maps aimed at the tourist market (some of which will be discussed below). Somewhat later, the Catskills became the scene of efforts to tap its water supply for New York City and to conserve its forested areas. This led to the publication of a modest number of specialized maps by New York State and City commissions concerned with such matters.[9]

Transportation Maps: Railroad, Bicycle, and Automotive

During the first decades following the Civil War, transportation maps resembled those published in the 1840s and 1850s. Most general purpose maps showed roads, canals, and railroads, with railroads becoming increasingly prominent. There is nothing especially notable about most of these maps, except that they are useful for locating old railroads and for studying New York’s expanding transportation network. They still made little effort to differentiate between various types of roads. Continuing competition with railroads caused toll roads and plank roads to gradually disappear, both from maps and from the surface of the land. A good sampling of transportation maps from this period can be found at the Web site of the Library of Congress.[10]

Railroads themselves were major map producers at this time, although they usually relied on commercial publishers to do the actual printing of their maps. Route surveys made for purposes of railroad construction are among the most detailed maps available for some areas of New York, although they remain in manuscript form.[11] Railroads also distributed to the public maps showing their routes and connections. So dominant was the railroad as a means of transportation in this period that railroads also played a major role in issuing land promotion and tourist advertising maps. These will be discussed later in this chapter.[12]

In addition to commercial maps, those interested in studying the expansion of New York’s transportation network should check the annual reports of the State Engineer and Surveyor, and those of other state agencies, which were published in the New York State Assembly and Senate Documents. These reports frequently contain authoritative and updated maps showing canals and roads in the state. The maps in these reports are often more reliable than commercial road and railroad maps. Several early examples of railroad maps produced by the New York State Engineer and Surveyor are in the railroad maps collection on the Library of Congress Web site; later maps can be found at the New York State Library and in other large research collections. The printed New York State documents also contain extensive detailed information about the routes of particular railroads and canals.

Following the advent of the bicycle and the automobile, both of which made their appearance in the 1880s, there was something of a renaissance in the production of road maps. Prior to the end of the nineteenth century, as has been noted, only modest efforts were made on maps to distinguish the quality of roads. The needs of bicyclists and automobile drivers meant that map makers had to pay much more attention to the surfacing of roads and to the nature of the terrain they passed over.

The first automobiles were expensive and unreliable, and consequently bicycles had an earlier impact on road construction. As early as 1880, a national organization, the League of American Wheelmen (LAW), was founded in Boston to promote the sport of bicycling. Starting in the 1880s, bicycling became a popular pastime in the New York metropolitan area. According to road map expert James Akerman, the first road guide for bicyclists may have been Albert B. Barkman’s Road-Book of Long Island, which was published for the Brooklyn Bicycle Club in 1885.[13] After 1890, bicycling was briefly a craze in the vicinity of New York City, where bicycle excursions became a favorite weekend activity—much to the dismay of some clergymen, who denounced this newfangled way of profaning the Sabbath.[14]

Most bicycle maps appeared in a brief burst between 1885 and 1905. They are particularly interesting in the ways they foreshadow later road maps. Although the automobile existed at this time, it was too much of a luxury item to have much impact on road construction or mapping. Bicycle maps were among the first to differentiate between paved and unpaved roads, since bicycling on an unpaved road is no pleasure. In fact, the first paved roads in the vicinity of New York City were actually bicycle “side paths,” which were constructed on the sides of dirt or gravel roads. Sensibly, bicycle maps also frequently provided information about the hilliness of the terrain. Many of them contained information about train stations and accommodations, since bicyclists wanting to escape the city often took their machines with them on the train, and stayed overnight on their weekend expeditions. These maps often included advertising for such things as special bicycle shoes, clothing, and instruction on how to ride a bike—an indication that the bicycling fad was an early manifestation of mass marketing and consumer culture.

Lobbying for paved roads and bicycle paths was a major activity of organizations like the League of American Wheelmen, which in 1891 began publishing Good Roads Magazine. This organization succeeded in getting a “side path law” passed by the New York State Legislature. In 1900, the LAW published a Progress Map Showing Side Path Construction in the State of New York under the Side Path Law.[15]

As with many other maps of this time period, libraries and archives have paid relatively little attention to bicycle maps. Many major map collections have at least a few of them, but often they are not cataloged. Bicycle maps were published for most of New York State, although a majority covered some part of the New York Metropolitan Area. Few of these early bicycle maps are available online. One exception is Colton’s Driving & Wheeling Map of the Country Twenty Five Miles North of the City of New York (1892), which was “particularly intended for the use of sportsmen, wheelmen, and driving parties.”[16] More specifically marketed to bicyclists is George H. Walker and Company’s 1897 Cyclists’ Road Map of the Hudson River District, New York.[17] Both of these maps mark cycling routes in red. Almost all of these routes were not paved roads or side paths, but rather dirt or gravel roads which were deemed in good enough condition for cyclists.

Starting around 1900, the automobile became increasingly important as a means of transportation. By that year, about 8000 cars were registered in the United States.[18] The American Automobile Association was founded in 1902, but as late as 1910 only one in 196 Americans owned a car. Only after the introduction of the Model-T Ford in 1909 did automobile use really take off.

The increasing use of the automobile was crucial for the development of a network of paved roads. As late as 1900, a “good road” or an “improved road” was graded and possibly surfaced with gravel or macadam. Macadam roads, of which there were several types, were rock or gravel roads, often with a waterproof surface. At the end of the nineteenth-century, several improvements were made in the construction of these roads, including the use of the steamroller.[19]

It was soon discovered that macadam roads, although adequate for wagons and carriages, were quickly destroyed by automobile tires, which led to a demand for paved roads. Both asphalt and concrete roads made their first appearance in Europe around the middle of the nineteenth century, but only after 1900 do we begin to hear of “bituminous macadam” or asphalt roads in New York. There were several types of asphalt in use at the beginning of the twentieth-century. A similar form of pavement involved the application of tar to macadam (this “tar macadam” is the origin of the word “tarmac” for airport runways). Concrete road construction did not become common in New York until around the First World War.

The development of the network of paved roads was a slow process. Although New York had one of the most active road building programs in the country, along with a high percentage of the nation’s registered autos, as late as 1906 it had only constructed a spotty network of “improved roads” (still mostly paved with gravel) in the vicinity of major cities. After the introduction of the Model T Ford in 1909, automobile ownership and road construction began rolling along at a faster pace. By 1914, New York had 5,718 miles of macadam roads, along with 3,169 miles of “bituminous macadam” or asphalt roads.[20]

Prior to the First World War, a number of familiar names started publishing road maps, including, Rand McNally, C.S. Hammond, and the American Automobile Association. Other maps, not specifically marketed to automobile drivers, also included more information useful to motorists. Thus, the 1912 edition of Stoddard’s Map of the Adirondacks made an effort to distinguish between “state highways and important roads generally,” “ordinary country roads,” and “wilderness roads.” It also showed “distances in miles and tenths of miles by approved auto routes from New York City.” Reflecting the limitations of underpowered early motor cars, it marked “difficult hills” with arrows pointing uphill.[21]

The appearance and quality of these early road maps varies considerably.[22] The best of them were carefully drafted and elegant in appearance—they clearly aimed at a smaller and more affluent market than most later road maps. Because the automobile was not yet a dominant a mode of transportation, many of these maps were targeted at bicycle and railroad users, as well as at drivers. A good example of these fancy maps, which can be viewed on the Web, is R.D. Servoss, Sectional Road Map of Westchester County, which appeared in at least four editions between 1895 and 1902 (Figure 13.1).[23] This elaborate multi-page map in booklet form differentiated between “good roads,” “fair roads,” and “ordinary” roads, but did not spell out what was meant by these categories. It appears that the “good roads” were mostly paved with gravel or macadam. The “fair roads” were unpaved. And the “ordinary roads” were either side streets or unspeakably bad. Servoss’ map also showed railroad lines and stations, and indicated relief by hachures. The 1895 edition (but not the 1902 edition) included advertising material aimed at bicyclists; the 1902 edition boasted that it included a “description of scenery, routes, etc.” Both editions provided distances from the New York City Hall Not all road maps of this period were so elaborate or carefully done. Many were sold cheaply or even given out for free to attract tourists. Some of these maps were even published by railroad companies, which little knew that they were nourishing a viper that would later nearly kill them off. An exuberantly titled example of such a map was published by the Long Island Railroad in 1900: Cyclists’ Paradise and Automobilists’ Arcadia: a Guide for Tourists, with an Accurate Map Showing Roads and Cycle Paths of Long Island, with Runs, Hotels, and Time Tables, Sufficient Data to Enable Anyone to “Lay Out a Trip” Intelligently. [24] This map and its accompanying booklet must have been aimed primarily at bicyclists who wanted to escape the city by train, although maybe the operators of the railroad calculated that “automobilists” would also turn to the railroad after their cars broke down. Even when not published by railroads, it was common for these early road maps to show train stations, which were usually suppressed on the maps distributed by oil companies after 1920.

In the early years of automobile travel, there was no standardized system of marking or signing roads, and consequently it was easy for drivers to lose their way. In response to this situation, some early road maps took the form of strip maps with explicit driving instructions, on the order of “proceed 2.4 miles and turn left at the yellow barn.” A work that takes this tendency to an extreme is Gardner S. Chapin’s series of Photo-Auto Maps, which was published by Rand McNally & Company. One of these shows the route from New York City to Albany and Saratoga Springs.[25] It is a booklet, which contains nine index maps, along with a series of photographs of landmarks accompanied by driving instructions. For example, there is a photograph of the corner of 72nd street and Broadway in New York City with a caption reading “Turn RIGHT from 72nd Street into Broadway. Next photo, 58th Street, seven-tenths of a mile.” In intention, this map resembles modern GPS units designed for automobiles.

Only after 1920 did road maps routinely differentiate between paved roads and other forms of improved roads. The early 1920s mark the beginning of the golden age of oil company road maps, which will be described in the following chapter.Property Maps and Atlases
Some of the most notable developments in commercial cartography in the period between the Civil War and the outbreak of World War I were in the area of property mapping. There was a flowering of property maps, which included the development of whole new genres.
County property atlases were among the most important cartographic developments of the decades following 1870. They were an essentially new and characteristically American product, although they were not without precedents. In some respects, they were anticipated by such works as David Burr’s Atlas of the State of New York (1830), which met the need for increasingly detailed maps of the state by adopting the atlas format, and including separate maps of each county. The county atlas took this process of amplification one step further by mapping individual counties in a single volume, and using numerous sheets to cover each county in detail.[26]

County atlases also developed out of the large-scale property maps that proliferated in the 1850s. As has been seen, these wall maps showed individual structures and gave the names of homeowners. As wall maps, they were difficult to transport and took up a great deal of space; they were nonetheless limited in the amount of information they could contain. The county atlases under consideration here basically converted these wall maps into atlas format, which made them more portable and allowed for the inclusion of much more information—which in some cases was almost a necessity, given the growth in population of many counties. Characteristically, county atlases gave the names of individual homeowners, and often showed property boundaries as well. They often included advertising, and sometimes featured illustrations of public buildings and even of the homes and farms of prosperous landowners. The extent to which they displaced single-sheet property maps is dramatic. Richard Stephenson’s list of county land ownership maps in the Library of Congress sites only a few examples of such maps published for New York after the Civil War.[27]

Aside from their format, county property atlases share many characteristics with their predecessors. They were produced by entrepreneurs to make a profit. They were mostly compiled from tax records, with the geography based on government surveying. Because of the expense of surveying, little, if any, original surveying was done for these atlases. They also cannot be depended on to show all of the people living in a particular place: aside from careless errors, they generally do not show the names of renters, or of other people who did not pay property taxes, such as illegal squatters.

County atlases had a mixed reputation at the time they were produced. They were often marketed to individual farmers and other home owners by appealing to their vanity.[28] They also appealed to local patriotism, and merchants paid to have the names of their stores included in the atlases as a form of advertising. Some of these atlases, particularly in the Middle West, were put together very carelessly.

The county atlases of New York appear as a group to have been relatively well done. Many of them were produced by various members of the Beers family (F.W. Beers, D.G. Beers, and J.B. Beers all had their own publishing companies). This family specialized in producing property atlases, sometimes along with local histories.[29] Most of their atlases have little advertising or other signs of blatant huckersterism, although their maps of individual towns usually include business directories. Reasonably accurate, they are known for their bright coloring, which some consider to be crude or garish.

Many of the Beers atlases of New York State can be examined online. On the David Rumsey site, these include F.W. Beers, Atlas of New York and Vicinity (1868) and his Atlas of the Hudson River Valley from New York City to Troy (1891).[30] About twenty county atlases published by various members of the Beers family have been added by the New York Public Library to its online county atlas collection.[31] There is a good deal of variation among these atlases. One of the most unusual is F.W. Beers Illustrated Historical Atlas of Erie County (1880), which includes an impressive collection of engravings of buildings, along with a great deal of personal and business information.[32]

Some publishers of county atlases also produced atlases of individual cities, ranging in size from small municipalities like Auburn and Oswego to New York City. Many of these city atlases also include the names of individual homeowners. Some of them add information useful to insurance companies, such as the materials that buildings are constructed of, and the location of fire hydrants. Some of these atlases are closely akin to fire insurance atlases, which will be considered in the following section.

The most productive years for the publication of county property atlases were the 1870s, but they continued to appear throughout the period prior to the First World War. One of the most prolific publishers of county atlases during this entire period was Louis H. Everts, who continued to publish atlases of New York counties under the imprint of the Century Map Company in the first two decades of the twentieth century. One of Everts’ employees was A.L. Westgard, who later went on to become one of the pioneers of automobile route mapping. Westgard describes in the opening pages of his memoirs the techniques he used to carry out surveys in his early years as a county atlas surveyor. Basically, his practice was little changed from that of county map makers in the 1850’s: he relied on a wheelbarrow-like “trundle wheel” (odometer), with a compass and plain table attached, to measure the roads and mark the location of houses along them, stopping along the way to knock on doors and obtain the names of property owners.
Albert Hazen Wright has published a useful Check List of the County Atlases of New York. Both county and city atlases are heavily used by (among others) local historians, genealogists, and real estate title searchers. Atlases covering particular regions or places can usually be found in local libraries and historical societies; a large collection of county atlas has been made available on the Web for a fee by a commercial source, and the Library of Congress has begun digitizing its large collection of county atlases.[34]

Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps and atlases, which also became prominent after the Civil War, filled a more utilitarian need. Rather than appealing to civic pride and being intended for display, these specialized atlases served the needs of fire fighters, realtors, and property insurance companies. Typically, they consist of large-scale maps of urban areas, which convey information about such things as the materials used in the construction of buildings, the location of stairways and exits, and the location of water mains and fire hydrants. Particularly important for historical researchers, they often also identify how buildings were used.[35]

Like many of the maps characteristic of the post Civil War period, the origins of fire insurance maps can be traced back to the 1850s. Although there are some earlier antecedents, The first American atlas embodying the essential characteristics of fire insurance maps appears to have been published by the Perris Company of New York City, starting in 1852.[36]

After the Civil War, this type of map became widespread. In the 1870s and 1880s, the G.M. Hopkins Company published fire insurance atlases of Albany, Buffalo, and other cities in upstate New York.[37] Later in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, similar atlases were published for the New York metropolitan area by G.W. Bromley and Company.[38] Between 1902 and 1914, the Century Map Company of Philadelphia, produced a series of fire insurance atlases of many upstate New York counties.[39]

After the 1890s, the Sanborn Map Company (founded in 1867) became the predominant publisher of fire insurance maps. This company, which until recently was based in Pelham New York, produced maps for the entire country—covering a total of about 12,000 towns. Most of their maps date from between 1880 and 1930, and a few were revised as recently as 1990. Revisions often took the form of paste-on slips, which were issued in sets at various intervals for different locations. There is no absolutely complete list of the Sanborn maps of New York, although most of them are listed in a guide to the Sanborn maps at the Library of Congress, which is supplemented by an online list published by the University of California at Berkeley.[40]

Most fire insurance maps published after the 1850s had the same general characteristics. They were typically published at a very large scale (often 1:600), and show the footprint of individual buildings. They were usually color coded to show the materials used in the construction of buildings, and indicated what individual buildings and rooms were used for. They showed the number of stories of buildings, the location of stairwells, and other information of interest to fire insurance companies—such as the location of fire doors, storage tanks and their contents, interior and exterior walls, fire hydrants, and machinery. Figure 13.2 illustrates many of these features.
The detail and comprehensive coverage of fire insurance maps makes them invaluable to researchers. Their heaviest users are probably environmental risk analysts, who use them to ascertain possible hazards from the previous uses of buildings. They are also particular favorites of students of urban history, architecture, and city planning. The fairly complete collection of Sanborn atlases at the Library of Congress is available in both microfilm and digital form from commercial publishers, and can be consulted in one or both of these forms at many large libraries. Some additional maps from the Sanborn Map Company archives are available in a separate microfilm collection (but not online).[41] Unfortunately, these reproductions are in black and white, which makes it impossible to make full use of their color coding. The Library of Congress reportedly has plans to reproduce these atlases online and in color. Many New York City fire insurance atlases by companies other than Sanborn can be found at the New York Public Library’s Web site Panoramic or bird’s-eye views of towns and cities are another characteristic feature of the American cartographic scene in the late nineteenth century. They are related to county property atlases in that both provide detailed information about local landscapes. Both of these cartographic forms reflect an intense interest in local and regional history, which gripped the United States in the decades following the Civil War. This was a golden age for local area studies. This same period saw the appearance of many county histories—some of which were produced by the same people who published county atlases.

Bird’s-eye views exist in one the disputed borderlands of the kingdom of maps, and some scholars have questioned whether they qualify as maps at all. Perspective drawings of towns and cities have a long history going back at least as far as the Middle Ages. As was mentioned above in the chapter on Dutch mapping of New York, this type of map was characteristic of seventeenth-century Holland, and had a close relationship at that time to landscape painting. As seen in that chapter, a variety of maps and drawings of New York were produced by Dutch cartographers in the seventeenth century, ranging from views of Manhattan drawn at a low angle (say, as viewed from Brooklyn heights) to high-angle views of entire regions, such as the Manhatus Map, or the map of Renselaerswyck produced around 1632, both of which can be described as true birds-eye views.

The remarkable revival of this type of map in the nineteenth century owes a good deal to lithography, which made it possible to make a profit by publishing relatively small runs of maps for local markets. As early as the 1840s, there was a proliferation of low-angle pictorial views of towns and landscapes, which resemble drawings made by landscape artists. After 1870 these were supplemented by true birds-eye views, in which towns are drawn from a very high angle, as though seen by a high-flying eagle, or from a balloon or airplane (see Figure 13.3). This latter form is thought by some to be more “map-like,” in that it displays the grid of streets much as seen on a town map, and even approaches the vertical perspective and consistent scale characteristic of maps in the post-Renaissance Western tradition. It should come as no surprise that makers of birds-eye views frequently used city street maps in constructing their city portraits. Unlike many of the materials discussed in this chapter, bird’s-eye views have been subjected to extensive research. The most important study of this subject is John W. Reps magisterial work, which lists most of the birds-eye views of New York.[43] This is supplemented by several other works, including the catalog of an exhibition of Bird’s-Eye views of the state organized by the New York State Museum, which lists several views not included in Reps’ catalog.[44] Bird’s-eye views were printed in such small numbers that some views still exist that cannot be found in the above works. I once discovered a previously undescribed birds-eye view in a window of a luncheonette in the town of Riverhead, Long Island.

When people look at these high-angle birds-eye views, they sometimes wonder if they were drawn from balloons, but this is thought not to be the case. Like somewhat similar seventeenth-century views, they were drawn from artists on the ground using aerial perspective. Only at the very end of this period were some birds-eye views created that appear to have made use of aerial photographs.[45]

These pictorial and birds-eye views are thought to be generally reliable sources of information about the appearance of nineteenth-century towns and cities. The towns appear somewhat sanitized and cleaned up, but the layout is generally accurate, and the architecture of buildings is correctly rendered. Industry was a source of pride, particularly to small towns, in nineteenth-century New York, and many of these views show factories and railroad engines industriously belching smoke. On many views, factories and other notable buildings are shown in drawings around the edge of the main map.

A small number of these views are misleading in that were drawn for real estate promoters to show developments that were never actually constructed.[46] But, generally, they provide valuable information for local historians, and can be used alongside maps and photographs to reconstruct the appearance of nineteenth-century towns.

A remarkable number of these birds-eye views were produced between 1870 and 1920. They exist for many towns in New York, including small ones. They were marketed in much the same way as town and city atlases. Artists would go from one town to another making drawings and obtaining subscriptions for their views. After drawing a view of one town, they would often go to neighboring towns and make use of civic pride and town rivalries to encourage local citizens to commission a view of their own town, so as not to be outdone by their neighbors. Business and property owners often paid extra to be listed in directories or have their buildings separately depicted in marginal vignettes. Chambers of commerce and real estate developers would sometimes purchase and distribute quantities of these views to attract potential settlers.

The Library of Congress has made its extensive collection of town views available on the World Wide Web.[47] This collection includes approximately 175 views of cities and towns in New York. Some 57 of these were created by a single artist, Troy-based Lucien (L.R.) Burleigh.

Advertising Maps

The increasingly low cost of maps made it possible to sell them at a nominal price or even to give them away—thereby making maps part of everyday life for most Americans. Although maps had occasionally been given away for advertising purposes as early as the eighteenth century, the widespread distribution of advertising maps essentially began in the second half of the nineteenth century. Maps thus played an important role in creating the emerging culture of consumerism.

Railroads and real estate developers (often working together) played a major role in distributing low-cost maps at this time. We have already seen hints of this in the use of maps by railroad companies to lure tourists and potential home buyers along their routes, and in the distribution of bird’s-eye views to potential settlers by towns and real estate developers. Some bird’s-eye views of towns were actually printed in newspapers as advertisements for real estate developments.

Maps were published in this period to draw people to New York’s major tourist attractions. Often, they were published by railroads, and included in promotional brochures. A good example of an inexpensive tourist map produced by a railroad is George H Daniels, The Central Lake Region of the Adirondack Mountains Reached by the New York Central & Hudson River R.R. (1900-04).[48] Resorts in the Catskills also used maps to attract business. Starting in the 1870s, Walton Van Loan published a series of maps directed at tourists. For example, in 1879 he published a Map of All Points of Interest Within Four Miles of the Catskill Mountain House, with Roads and Foot Paths, and in 1884 a Bird’s-eye View of the Mountain Resorts of New York State, and How to Reach Them.[49] In 1878, the Office of New York & Albany Day Line Runners sponsored William Link’s elaborate The Hudson by Daylight Map.[50] Many maps were published by railroads to draw sightseers to Niagara Falls, and a spate of maps were produced by merchants and real estate agents for the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo in 1900.

The Long Island Railroad was particularly active in producing advertising maps of various types. In 1884, it published a simple map of Long Island showing the railroad’s routes prominently marked in red.[51] In the same year, it published a larger map with the same title, which enthused in large type in the margins: “Buy homes on Long Island! The pleasure ground of New York. 250 miles water front on sea and sound. Swept by ocean breezes. Cool in summer. Warm in winter. The most healthful and delightful climate on the coast. Charming marine views. Sailing and fishing superb. Frequent and fast trains to all points. Cheap fares.”[52]

There is a good reason why the Long Island Railroad was so heavily involved in promoting suburban real estate. Long Island has some of the earliest and best-known suburban developments in the country, and access to these new communities was by streetcar and railroad. “The route of the dashing commuter,” as the Long Island Railroad later liked to call itself, therefore had a strong financial interest in promoting this trend. Maps emphasizing rail connections were produced by both the railroad and by real estate developers (which often mentioned the proximity of their properties to a railroad station). They are an important source for studying the first phases of suburbanization in the United States.[53]

A strong case can be made that Brooklyn was the first suburb on Long Island, and possibly in the United States.[54] To a certain extent, the settlement that became the nucleus of Brooklyn functioned from the early nineteenth century as a suburb of lower Manhattan. After the Civil War, Brooklyn expanded in a manner that prefigured what later happened in Queens and much of western Long Island. Separate towns, such as Gravesend and Flatbush, were tied together by rail lines, and improved transportation enabled them to become bedroom communities for workers in Manhattan. Many of the new neighborhoods were at first refuges for the wealthy, who later withdrew farther out on the island as they became more crowded. Maps depicting population growth in the New York Area between 1860 and 1920 show what looks like a constantly growing octopus with its arms following subway and rail lines (Figure 13.4).[55] This pattern of development continued until the automobile became the predominant means of urban commuting following the Second World War.A number of real estate maps shed light on the way suburbanization occurred prior to First World War. Usually, this early railroad and streetcar-based suburbanization is thought of as beginning at the end of the nineteenth century. But in the case of Long Island, one can trace its origins as far back as the 1850s. A very early example of a map touting a railroad-based suburban development, which can be examined on the Web site of the New York Public Library, is a Map of the Lakeland farms, Near the Villages of Lakeland and Hermanville, on the Long Island Rail Road.[56] This was published as a broadside, apparently in 1850, to sell land in the vicinity of Lake Ronkonkoma in the Town of Islip. It shows the location of individual parcels of land, which were marketed both to people who wanted to purchase residences, and to would-be small farmers. It included insets showing a view of Lake Ronkonkoma, a map of Long Island, and a view of “Lakeland Hotel, Post Office, and Depot of Long Island R.R.” It promised purchasers as a special bonus: “health, wealth, and domestic happiness to all who desire it.” An accompanying text explained the health and financial benefits of this wonderful location, and played up the advantages of being near a railroad depot. It included the prophetic observation: “All persons wishing to procure a residence in a beautiful and healthy place with easy access to and from the city of New York and where increasing facilities are now being given by the Long Island Rail Road Company in running an evening train of cars from Brooklyn and returning early in the morning; and it is confidently believed that this company whose stock is now much sought after by capitalists…will in accordance with its own interest, continue to give and extend every facility possible to all who purchase Village Lots or Farms on Long Island.”

A similar map was published around the same time entitled The Land of Beulah; 40 miles from New York on the Long Island Railroad, and Within Half a Mile of the Brentwood Depot.[57]

Such maps became more common after the Civil War. An 1889 map of Massapequa included on its back an advertisement offering to bring out potential buyers from Brooklyn and Queens by rail for only 20 cents (round trip). They were to attend a Decoration Day auction of “1000 elegant lots & plots” constituting the “greatest sale of the century.” [58] In 1904, an organization called the Seaside Villa Homes published a crude bird’s eye view accompanied with extensive advertising touting a development near Westhampton Beach named “ Oceanside” or “The Pines” (“the land being covered with handsome pine trees”).[59]

One of the more intriguing of these early real estate promotion maps shows the City of Breslau (now part of Lindenhurst).[60] This map, published in 1870, is another bird’s-eye view, with inset illustrations of individual buildings. It shows at a glance that it was designed and built to attract German immigrants. The streets are named after famous Germans, and areas are labeled in German “flowers and vegetables, gardens, farms.” Little has been written about Breslau, but it deserves study both as an example of an early suburban development, and for its targeting of a specific ethnic group. For a while, its growth was quite impressive. Writing in 1874, the historian Richard Bayles remarked: “It already has a number of large, handsome buildings, a population of about 1200, with churches, schools, hotels, factories, workshops breweries, lager beer saloons, gin-shops, and all the other usual accessories of a civilized, progressive community.”[61]

The best known of the nineteenth-century developments on Long Island is Garden City, which has received a fair amount of study.[62] In spite of the immense wealth put into it by its founder in the years after 1869, and its subsequent reputation as the suburb of the rich and fashionable, Garden City got off to a slow start. The Garden City Corporation issued typical real estate promotion maps praising the advantages of this then rather isolated and arbitrary location. But a map published as late as 1895 could make only the rather feeble boast that “there are already 70 houses, and more in the process of construction.”[63]

Although it is tempting to dismiss these transportation and advertising maps as commercial ephemera, the best of them were of reasonably high quality. Because they were so widely distributed, they played an important part in educating ordinary Americans about the geography of their nation and the world, as well as in indoctrinating them in the gospel of consumerism.

State and Regional Atlases

Several state atlases, of varying quality and purpose, were published during this period. They will be reviewed in chronological order.

The first post Civil War atlas of New York State was Asher & Adams, New Topographical Atlas and Gazetteer of New York. This is the first atlas of the state to appear since David Burr’s atlas, and it is much more of a mass-market undertaking than its predecessor. Reportedly, it is based on a wall map previously published by Asher & Adams. Three editions exist of this atlas (1869, 1870, 1871).[64] The 1871 edition is available online from the New York Public Library.[65] Stylistically it resembles contemporary county atlases, such as those published by the Beers family. The edition available at the New York Public Library, groups several county maps together on a page. These maps show town boundaries, and provide basic information about roads, lakes, rivers, and the location of settlements. It spite of the word “topographical” in the title, only a few elevations are shown by means of crude hachures. The atlas includes a railroad map of New York State, along with a meteorological map and a geological map. For good measure, it sports overview maps of the United States and Europe. Much of the atlas is taken up by a gazetteer of the state and a lengthy business directory, organized by city.

This atlas is very much a product of its time, and contrasts sharply with the earlier Burr Atlas. The Asher & Adams atlas was clearly designed to be sold cheaply to households as a home reference work. There is nothing very distinguished about its cartography. Much of its profit doubtless came from advertisers who paid to be included it the business directory.

Cartographically much more notable are the productions of Julius and Joseph Rudolf Bien. Julius Bien (1826-1909) was born and trained as a lithographer in Germany, and established himself in New York in 1850. He won numerous awards for his work, which specialized primarily in scientific subjects, and he has been described as the best American cartographer of the nineteenth century.[66] It may be recalled that he published the thematic maps that accompanied the 1870 census. His name often appears as the publisher of many other maps published by federal and New York State governments. In addition to the thematic maps for the 1870, 1880, 1890, and 1900 censuses, he lithographed and published such important works as Audubon art prints, maps of Civil War battlefields, and USGS geological atlases.

Julius Bien worked primarily as a lithographer and a publisher. The little-known Joseph R. Bien (presumably a relative of Julius) called himself a “civil and topographical engineer,” and engaged in surveying and drawing maps.

Several atlases produced by the Biens deserve particular mention. In 1891, Joseph R. Bien joined together with New Jersey based surveyor Cornelius Clarkson Vermeule (1858-1950) to create an Atlas of the Metropolitan District, which covered New York City, Westchester County, parts of New Jersey, and most of present-day Nassau County).[67] At a scale of two inches per mile (1:31,680), this detailed atlas showed individual street names and other information that you would expect to find on a conventional large-scale map. It is unusual in that it also included extensive topographic information, including contour intervals apparently derived from USGS maps, and accentuated by subtle shading. The overall quality of this work is apparent in the sample provided In 1893, Joseph R. Bien drafted a closely related Atlas of Westchester County.[68] This was an even more detailed atlas, which showed urban areas at a scale of 1:2,400, and suburban or rural areas at a scale of 1:31,680. The 1:2,400 scale sheets of urban areas included the same type of information contained in typical fire insurance atlases. In this atlas, there were two versions of each of the smaller-scale sheets. One version focused on topographic information, and was similar in appearance to the sheets of the 1891 atlas of the metropolitan district. The second version of these sheets showed houses and home owners in rural areas (much like a county property atlas).

Both of these atlases are remarkable for their graphic design and their overall quality. They contain more information on each sheet than modern topographic maps, and are much more attractive and easy to use. They more closely resemble the best European topographic maps, such as those produced by Switzerland, than typical American maps.

Equally remarkable, although for somewhat different reasons, is Joseph R. Bien’s, Atlas of the State of New York, which appeared in two editions in 1894 and 1895.[69] In most respects, this atlas is less detailed than his atlases of the New York Metropolitan Area and Westchester County. All of the state is covered—mostly at a scale of 1:58,000. At this scale, such standard information as roads, towns, railroads, and settlements is included. Some topography is shown on these maps, but relief is only depicted on some sheets, and then by hachures rather than contour lines. The lack of more detailed relief information reflects both the relatively large scale of these maps and the lack of USGS topographic mapping for most of the state at that time. The major cities of Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, New York, and Brooklyn are shown separately at scales ranging between 1:17,000 and 1:41,500. On these large-scale maps, individual street names are shown.

The Bien atlas includes a page of statistical information for the United States and New York, which is displayed mostly in the form of bar graphs and pie charts. Another page presents four thematic maps of the state prepared by Henry Gannett of the USGS. They show relief, population distribution, rainfall, and temperature.

The most unusual feature of the Bien atlas is its inclusion of extensive information about early land patents and their subdivisions. There is a separate index map showing the location of the original land grants and purchases in the state, and detailed information about the subdivision of these early patents is included on most of the individual maps. These features still make the Bien atlas a useful starting place for research into early land allocations in New York.

The last state atlas of New York produced prior to the First World War is the New Century Atlas of Counties of the State of New York, which appeared in two editions dated 1911 and 1912.[70] This appears to be the last major publication of the indefatigable Louis H. Everts (1838- ), who pursued a long and complex career publishing county atlases and local histories. As we have seen, he was earlier associated with the detailed fire insurance atlases of upstate New York published by The Century Map Company, and appears also to have had links with the Matthews-Northrup Company, which printed much of his later work.[71] This particular atlas states that Lew J.G. Ogden was in charge of surveys, and that A.C. Stark was chief draughtsman. The New Century Atlas is a typical mass market production, which is not particularly noteworthy, and suffers in comparison to the atlases of the Biens or even the detailed county atlases earlier produced by Everts.