Journey in Road Maps |
|We've taken them for granted/aaa/074/centennial. throw-aways/aaa/074/centennial. issued
every year/aaa/074/centennial. free/aaa/074/centennial. colorful and easy to read/aaa/074/centennial. Luckily not
everyone has treated their maps in this way. Here are some
photos of a variety of historic road maps with some highway history
were popular, very few cars, terrible roads. |
|The motorcar was invented and built here and there in
backyard sheds with greater or lesser success. As automobile
manufacturing began, these high priced horseless carriages were one
of a number of late 19th century inventions to become the
fascination of the wealthy. The roads weren't good enough for
bicycles, there were no route numbers, and hardly any signs or
names. The maps reflected the times and were equally
bad. This is a map of the Central and Northern New Jersey area
from the pre-motorcar era. The primary form of transportation
between towns was the electric interurban (the trolley), so there
was little need for good roads or maps, except in metropolitan areas
where horse and carriage, and the bicycle, could be used
Publisher: Gustav Kobbe, 1890. |
automobiles but no good place to drive them. |
There were several automobile manufacturers and they were
being purchased by the wealthy/aaa/074/centennial. but the roads were terrible and
laws restricting motorcar use were still around. AAA was
founded to deal with issues such as these. Maps of this era
were primarily narrative route descriptions and even photo
guides. Maps did exist, but as with the earlier ones, without
route numbers they weren't very helpful. The first maps
contracted by AAA were produced by the Survey Map Company of New
York. There were large cards, some with narrative route
descriptions and some with maps. They were distributed in
packets for various regions. The photos show one of the 1905 packets for the
Catskill-Albany Region and a detail of one of the maps. Only
the red roads were "good roads" but remember that they weren't paved
and were rarely even gravel.
Photo route guides were often used to help the early
motorists navigate. The route below was published in a book of
California Roads about 1910, by Hamilton's. As you can see,
these were difficult to use/aaa/074/centennial. and what if someone cut the "yucca
forest" down? AAA had contracted with the Automobile Blue Book
Publishing Company to distribute their guide books with AAA embossed
covers and a few pages of AAA advertising. The ABBP books
contained hundreds of pages of route descriptions and maps. Here is a route segment from
Mystic to Groton, CT taken from a larger route description.
The miles are total cumulative for the trip with the shorter
distance being miles between each direction.
64.6 mi. 0.2
Mystic; Monument at 4 corners, turn left with trolley.
mi. 0.1 Irregular 4 corners; straight thru with
tracks across bridge
64.9 mi. 0.2 4 corners;
turn left with trolley
65.1 mi. 0.2 Fork at power
station; keep left with trolley
65.2 mi. 0.1 4
corners; turn left with trolley, follow same past W. Mystic Sta.
(over to left - 65.7)
67.2 mi. 2.0 Noank. Right-hand
road in outskirts of town; turn right, leaving trolley -
over Fort Hill.
67.8 mi. 0.6 3 corners just beyond
small stone bridge at foot of grade; turn right
1.1 Left-hand road between house and barn; turn left
downgrade; trolley comes in
left 70.1. Pass Poquonock Bridge P. O. 70.2, following
trolley on good dirt.
71.0 mi. 2.1 Left-hand road;
turn left with trolley, under RR. 71.2
0.5 End of road; turn right with trolley.
Automobiles became readily available, roads were slowly improving
but there were no route numbers and few signs.
Road building is expensive and always has
been. Couple that with governments saying it isn't their
responsibility, cars not exactly being popular, and nobody wanting
to pay higher taxes and you'll understand a bit about the
difficult times for car owners. In 1911, AAA began to publish some
of their own road maps. Route descriptions were still the
primary way of getting around in this decade/aaa/074/centennial. but keeping one eye
on the odometer, another on the route description and another on the
road/aaa/074/centennial. well you see the problem. Colorful signs were
going up on poles all over the country identifying the major routes.
Some of the most noted were the Lincoln Highway, National Old Trail,
Pikes Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway, Dixie highway, etc.
There were hundreds of these named roads. The photo above
shows some of the signs as listed on a map. Bigger news was
that Wisconsin had begun a program to number its roads!
Shown here is the cover of the 1911 New England map and a
section of the map showing Rhode Island and part of Cape Cod.
Only the main roads were shown.
The current, popular South Central Pennsylvania
map was not the first AAA map of the region/aaa/074/centennial. here is a detail from
the 1915 map distributed by the Auto Club of Philadelphia.
This is a card announcing the opening of the new
Topango Caņon road outside of Los Angeles in 1915. The Auto
Club of Southern California organized a caravan of motorists along
the route shown on the card. A barbeque was to be held in the
canyon, and free pennants for the occasion were available at the
|1920's: Time of
prosperity, the Auto Age had begun. state and federal route
numbers. Roads and maps were improving. |
| Road surfacing had begun in earnest. Notice the word
surfacing/aaa/074/centennial. this did not mean that roads were paved with concrete
or asphalt. Maps that had been black on white were now often using
another color to show the best roads. The image on the
right is from a 1922 AAA map of Pennsylvania. The colored
roads indicated the pole markings for the named roads. The
red, white and blue road was the Lincoln Highway. The road
sections with hatch markings indicated paved surfaces.
AAA published their first TourBook in
1926. One is pictured here along with a detail of the
Harrisburg, PA, listing. A detailed full-size state map was
inserted in the back of the book. !926 was the year that many
roads received the U.S. Highway designation. The familiar
black and white shields were going up everywhere, replacing the
interesting but confusing maze of colored band markings. It
was now possible to follow the same route numbers between states and
even coast-to-coast. The numbering of highways made both
travel and reading road maps easier and more practical.
|1930's: The Great
Depression took the cars from those without work, but many worked
and traveled on even better roads with much better maps.
|The prosperity of the "Roaring Twenties" didn't last and
the Great Depression was surely a devastating period. However,
highways needed paving and people were given work/aaa/074/centennial.
Improvements in detail, color, readability and reliability were
important cartographic developments. Of course, AAA was a
leader in sending out "pathfinders" to travel the roads measuring
distance and noting construction, surface, etc. The photo on
the right shows one of the early AAA Pathfinders comparing the roads
with his map/aaa/074/centennial. or maybe he was lost! Strip maps which had
been part of the various route books and early TourBook guides were
being issued on separate cards. Here is one printed for the
routes from Harrisburg and Gettysburg to Atlantic City. The
first actual TripTik routings were produced in 1937. |
|1940's: The war
years. Not much travel, road improvements or map
publishing. But after the war/aaa/074/centennial. |
|The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940, heralding a
new era in highway design, but World War II changed
everything. Tourism all but ended. There was gasoline
rationing, maps weren't being printed and road-building ground to a
halt. After the war though, times would never be the
same. Almost everyone had a car and travel simply
everywhere/aaa/074/centennial. babies, automobiles, travel. The roads were very
congested though. |
|Route 66 nostalgia? This was the time
period. But so much time was spent at traffic lights, whether
commuting to work from the new suburbs or on a vacation along the US
routes. President Eisenhower had seen the German Autobahns
first-hand and saw how rapidly vehicles and equipment could be
moved. The U. S. System of National Defense Highways was
born. Initially the idea of military use was prominent in the
early Cold War era, but travel quickly became the overriding
use. TripTik routings became one of the most popular forms of
construction! The Interstate System. Cheap gas,
relatively inexpensive cars, full color maps. |
|In the past decades, road changes on
maps were very often changes in road surface, as dirt became gravel,
which became macadam, which became concrete or asphalt paving.
But in the sixties the changes were the new interstates. These
new roads limited entrance and exits to interchanges/aaa/074/centennial. no more
traffic lights, restaurants, attractions, cabins, etc. along the
road. Maps showed the interstates as proposed, under
construction and completed and each year the changes were apparent,
inch by inch. The image here shows the Capital Beltway under
construction. Maps that began as black on white and for many
years were black white and red, were nearly all in full color by the
end of the decade. The color allowed the amount of information
on a map to grow as colors shaded parks, military bases and
more. Maps were often issued for special events, such as
World's Fairs, Olympic Games, etc. AAA issued a nice map to
help people visit Civil War battlefields and historic sites at the
time of the Civil War Centennial. |
shortages! Much higher gasoline prices. Interstate
system nears completion. |
|Travel grew at an uninterrupted pace until 1973.
There were problems in the oil supply, prices rose and lines of
vehicles could be found where gasoline was available. There
was some stability for a few years but again in 1979 we faced
similar situations. More and more miles of the interstate
system were completed. TripTik design improved by showing less
side roads, but added color made them easier to read. AAA was
75 in 1977. Look at the special map cover for that year.
Interstates finished/aaa/074/centennial. but repairs are needed. AAA's map
competition vanishes. |
|The interstates were finished but higher than expected
usage and increased trucking caused a deterioration in the
system. A pattern developed of spring summer and fall road
construction. By the eighties, few oil companies bothered with
maps. If motorists were to obtain maps they had to buy them,
get them from state highway departments, or join AAA.
Contracting out for more and more city and regional maps, in
addition to AAA's own publishing, hundreds of titles became
available to our members. |
current: Computers, Internet, GPS, but still people want paper
|From the nineties through the
present, the digital revolution is changing the way we look at
maps. There is ever increasing accuracy and more types of maps
available. Maps can be printed from computer programs and the
Internet. Global Positioning Satellite systems allow in
vehicle navigation. Does this replace the need for paper
maps? Not yet, but maybe sometime. Still, there is
nothing like exploring a few maps spread out in front looking for
the best places and the best ways. AAA is happy to be
providing the maps and the technology to enhance the touring
experience of its members as we enter the next hundred years.
|DID YOU KNOW? |
|The United States Postal Service issued an AAA commemorative stamp in 1952 featuring the AAA Safety Patrol. |
|AAA was not the
only organization to issue road maps. Auto travel was
becoming incredibly popular and other auto club organizations
and the oil companies were quick to get involved. Maps
distributed free from gasoline stations was a novel concept but one
that worked/aaa/074/centennial. travel was encouraged by colorful free maps, which
meant more oil products sold. From the twenties until the oil
shortages of the seventies, these maps were the expectation of the
traveling public, and they were a factor in improving the quality of
all maps as cartographers worked hard to improve their work. When
oil companies ended their road map programs after the oil shortages,
AAA became the major source of "free" maps and its membership grew
This is a section from one of the first maps to be
given away as service stations: 1914 Gulf Oil map of New
A route book issued by Havoline Oil in the mid-teens
described the route between Harrisburg and Altoona as "dirt roads,
some very bad"
Maps were issued all over the world by auto clubs and
oil companies. Here is an interesting map issued by Socony in
Japan in the early twenties.
1926 Standard Oil of Kentucky map, showing one of the colorful
covers of the era.
During World War II, there was not much traveling, but a keen
interest in news and places from the theaters of that war, prompted
a number of businesses to issue war maps. Oil companies, radio
stations, newspapers distributed such maps. Here is a photo of
one issued by the Yellow Cab Gasoline Company of Oklahoms.
In 1959, Amoco issued a series of maps with a AAA
safety patrol on the cover.
Oil companies gave away millions of maps but didn't
need to do it when cars were in line for gas. This is one of
the last from 1978.
|You may email this page's author with
questions and comments regarding AAA road map history.