WELCOME Articles on Historical Maps of Pennsylvania WELCOME

A Close Look at Historical Maps of Pennsylvania

by Harold Cramer

A close look here means with a digital microscope. A map is a type of print and identifying how prints were made is a bibliographic craft or skill that librarians, archivists, and dealers in old books and prints find useful; and many publications have been written on this subject. [1] Similarly, how maps are printed can be both informative, as when trying to date a map, and useful, as when suspecting a reproduction. [2] Today's world is rapidly replacing the printed image with the computer generated one and the map as a physical object created in some way may eventually become irrelevant compared to the pixel image, with paper maps consigned to the storage shed or the furnace. However, for historical maps, the technique of how the image was created on paper and the resulting appearance is still both interesting and, well, historical.

The earliest printed illustrations were created by wood block relief printing, as were the first printed maps. However, as America was being explored and mapped, the use of intaglio copper plate engraving to make maps became well established. From 1548, when the first regional maps of North America appeared, engraved plates were the dominant printing method used until the early 19th century. Thus, a map of the Pennsylvania region from before say, 1820, is almost always an intaglio print from an engraved copper plate. Then, things began to change rapidly. Lithography was invented, followed by wax engraving. Steel replaced copper for intaglio printing. Mechanized printing equipment appeared and photography became a way of making and transfering images onto plates for mechanical presses. Finally, after around 1920, most commercial maps were printed by offset lithography. The late 20th century methods of silk screening and inkjet (or giclee) printing have not been much used for maps, so far.

There are three things to consider when looking at a map: the image, the printing method, and the paper. Clearly, of these the image is most important and is usually what constitutes a map description. Paper and paper making is a subject all its own and not directly connected to maps, although a knowledge of paper and watermarks can be useful when attempting to identify an unknown map. The intent here is to examine several maps of the Pennsylvania region that display the printing practice of different times and places and the look of the maps that result. The maps are presented chronologically and do not exactly follow the timeline of print technology.

1561 TIERRA NVEVA (Italian intaglio copper plate engraving.) This map is from the Girolamo Ruscelli version of Ptolemy's geography La Geografia di Claudio Tolomeo, the second printed regional map of the American coast. It is similar to one in a 1548 Ptolemy geography by Giocomo Gastaldi except for some mountains and rivers added to the landscape; however, the plate used for this map was newly engraved and slightly larger. The 1548 book was the first to contain regional maps of America, all printed from copper plate engravings like this one. The last state of this map appeared circa 1599 with some additional place names added. The Pennsylvania region is named L'arcadia, a description applied by Verrazzano to the wooded coast during his voyage of 1524. Scale: 1 inch = 350 miles. Size: 7 x 9.5 inches.
The quick way to identify an intaglio print is to look for a plate mark, which is evident here. To print from a plate carrying ink in recessed lines requires high pressure leaving a plate mark in the paper around the image. Also, intaglio prints typically have a blank verso, although this one has text. The ink line, shown at left with a close up here, lays on top of the paper rather than being pressed down into the paper as in a relief print. Gasgoine gives the following description: "The characteristic of the ink in an intaglio print is best seen in the darkest lines...the recesses in the copper plate were deep at that point, and the result is two characteristics impossible in relief or planographic (i.e. lithographic) printing. One, there ia a greater physical depth of ink in the darkest lines; and two, the ink is further carried up from the surface by the paper beneath it being pressed into the groove in the plate. The result, when a good impression is viewed through a glass, is that darker lines will often appear as quite visible ridges of ink."[3] The text on the back of this map is also intaglio engraving, not letterpress, as shown in this close-up.
Tone on intaglio prints, often created by both line and etching, is very important and care is taken to create it. Maps seldom use tone and are usually just line engravings. When tone is required, it is done with hand color on older maps, and printed color after about 1850. This very early map, however, is an example of using tone, all be it crudely. The image above shows how the shore line tone was made with short lines. The ocean area is delineated by small dots shown at left and in close up here. They are light and lie in a line indicating some type of stipple tool. They are probably cut by the tool into the metal, not etched, but it is difficult to tell.
1693 A MAP OF FLORIDA AND THE GREAT LAKES OF CANADA , by Robt. Morden (British intaglio copper plate engraving set in a page of letterpress type.) This map appears on page 587 of Morden's Geography Rectified, and is a small map of the east coast from New York to Florida and west to the Mississippi. Pennsylvania is named and the Great Lakes shown with some accuracy, indicating that Morden had access to French maps or other maps that copied them. This particular image is from the 1693 edition and is identical to an earlier 1688 version. Set in a page of text about Florida, it names Pennsylvania and some of the other colonies, but not Philadelphia. The verso was also printed with text. Longitude east from Ferro, text on verso. Scale: 1 inch = 370 miles. Size: 5.25 x 5 inches.
The plate mark around the image is noticable from the stray ink line and the map plate was slightly misaligned relative to the text. To create a page including both relief letterpress type, as shown at left and with a close-up, and the map image required two print runs. A close-up view of the bottom right edge of the map where the neat line overlaps the word 'of' indicates the map was printed first and the type second. In fact, this sheet was printed three times: once for the intaglio map image, once for letterpress type on the front, and once for type on the verso. These operations were time consuming and expensive. Relief wood cuts avoided this because they could be set with pages of type. Gascoigne gives the following description of the relief line: "the unmistakable way in which the pressure of the raised printing surface pushes the ink into a rim round each printed area - a feature known as ink squash."[3] This feature can be seen in these views of the letterpress type at the page bottom.
Here is a view of the intaglio type in the map image, and a close-up.
Finally, here is a view of the intaglio map image line, with a close-up, showing how the mountain image along the Mississippi was done.
1756 DIEFE LAND CARTE ENTBALTDEN ABRIS DER LAGE DER ENGLIFCPEN DROPINZEN IN NORD AMERICA (American relief woodcut set with text.) This anonymous and undated map is believed to come from a German almanac printed during the last half of the eighteenth century when there was a large German population entering Pennsylvania. The latest date in the text on the verso is 1756 so that date is used here, but it must date somewhat later. The area shown is that of the French & Indian War and the term "United States" is not used, suggesting a date before 1780. If so, this would make it one of the few maps printed in the colonies. The source is unknown; it may come from Neu-eingerichteter americanischer Geschichts-Calender, as a copy of this publication from 1758 was seen that contained a map of Nova Scotia similar to this one. The land is drawn to look three dimensional and the map pictures rivers, lakes, including four of the Great Lakes: Ontario, Erie, a distorted Huron, and the lower part of Superior. The locations of Montreal, Quebec, Lake Champlain, Crown Pt, Philadelphia, Ft Frontenac, are noted though hard to see. No longitude markings, scale at top indicating ~150 miles to the inch. Size: 4.75 x 7 inches.
There is also type on the verso of this map, so the page was printed twice. However, because a relief wood block was used for the map, unlike the intaglio map above, a third printing was not required. The text under the map appears to be letterpress type as shown at left and here is a closer view. The relief effect is not pronounced probably because the printing was done directly from the wood block. The verso type was lightly printed, also without a pronounced relief look.
The text in the water areas of the map appears to be letterpress also as shown at left and here is a closer view. The type here was embedded in the wood; while the text in the darker areas of the map, which appears as white, has been carved out of the wood. Again, the relief effect is not pronounced although it can be seen in some areas.
Finally, the line printing on the map is shown at left and here is a closer view. Again, the relief effects are not pronounced probably because the print was made under heavy ink and light pressure directly from the wood.
1789 A NEW MAP OF THE STATES OF PENSYLVANIA NEW JERSEY NEW YORK CONNECTICUT RHODE ISLAND MASSACHUSETS AND NEW HAMPSHIRE INCLUDING NOVA SCOTIA AND CANADA (American intaglio copper plate engraving.) from the latest authorities, engraved for Gordon's History of the American War. C. Tiebout Sculpt. N. York 1789. This map is from The History of the rise, progress, and establishment, of the Independence of the United States of America : including an account of the late war, and of the Thirteen Colonies, from their origin to that period, by William Gordon, D.D., in three volumes, New-York : Printed by Hodge, Allen, and Campbell, and sold at their respective book-stores, 1789; as listed in the LOC catalog. The map shows the northeastern United States, the Great Lakes area and much of eastern Canada. Several towns are named including Bedford, Ft. Pitt, Venango Ft; rivers are shown and named. A key at the right side of the map provided symbols for boundaries, towns, forts and Indian villages. Originally folded, blank verso, longitude from London at top, Philadelphia at bottom. Scale: 1 inch = 112 miles. Size: 10.5 x 16 inches.
Prior to the Revolution, few maps were printed in the colonies. Maps and books and atlases were among the finished goods the British thought colonies ought to buy from them. This map is an early American effort at map making, although the engraver was very likely an immigrant. The intaglio ink line is shown at left and here is a closer view. The engraver has tried to add a little tonal effect to the shoreline areas by the small straight lines shown in these images.
1813 TOWN OF PLAINFIELD (American manuscript.) This manuscript map in a very good hand shows a plan view of Plainfield, Northampton County. The original town plan is annotated in a different hand and bears the date 1813 on the verso on an attached (with paste) slip of paper at the bottom. It is not clear if the attachment was made for the note or to enlarge the sheet for the drawing. The names given are all landholders, no author identified. The town is still there, population 376 in 1990. The manuscript was originally folded. Size: 13 x 15 inches.
A manuscript map like this one can usually be known from a glance. Closeup, as shown, the hand written line has a relief print appearance due to the pressure of the pen pushing flowing ink down into the paper and to the edges of the pen nib, here is a closer view. The period, though, is just a liitle blob of ink.
(Inkjet print) Someone could print out a scan of an authentic map on an old looking sheet of paper and try to pass it off. Here is a view of an inkjet print from the authentic manuscript map above, and here is a closer view. The ink line is broken and irregular and the dot pattern can be seen.
1825 AMER. SEP. PARTIE DES ÉTATS-UNIS. NO. 51 (Belgian (or French) lithograph with hand color.) Dressee et dressine par Ph. Vandermailen. La lettre par Ph. Lippens. Dressee sui ?? et litho par H. Ode 1825. This is Plate 51 compiled and published by Belgian geographer Philippe Vandermaelen (1795-1869) from his Atlas universel de geographie physique, politique, statistique et mineralogique, Brussels, 1827. The atlas was a huge work of six volumes with a total of 378 map sheets drawn as globe gores on a conical projection at a 1:1,641,836 scale - the whole of which assembled to form a globe of 7.775 meters in diameter. North America was covered in volume 4. The completed atlas offered the largest picture of the earth's surface that had ever been recorded. This project allowed Vandermaelen to found the Brussels Geographic Institute, whose library had the only example of the giant globe ever constructed from the plates of the atlas. This map shows only the eastern part of Pennsylvania; the only states shown in toto are New Jersey and Delaware. The ocean is occupied by a large table. The rest of Pennsylvania appears in the adjacent map to this one. More information on the atlas is at the Princeton Library. Blank verso, longitude from Paris. Scale: 1 inch = 26 miles. Size: 18.75 x 22 inches.
This is one of the earliest 'important' lithograph maps. A lithographic line shows ink sitting on the paper in a smooth and orderly way. The ink image on the map is shown at left and here is a closer view. The way the hand applied color lies can also be seen. Gascoigne says the following: "With a lithograph the ink can have a great intensity of blackness but even so will seem, through a glass, just to sit on the surface of the paper, deposited smoothly and without pressure." [3]
The ink image on the text at the map right is shown and here is a closer view. The even and flat ink line is seen.
1828 MAP OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA SHOWING CAPTN. HALL'S ROUTE THROUGH THOSE COUNTRIES IN 1827 & 1828 (British intaglio steel plate engraving with hand color.) Engraved on steel by W.H. Lizars. Sources indicate this map was published: Edinburgh by R. Cadell, 1830, in Travels in North America by Basil Hall. However, the first edition date is 1829 and this map may come from that edition; the latest date on the map of 1828 is used here. This English map shows the United States west to beyond the Mississippi and includes Florida. Maine lacks its final border with Canada. The route is traced in heavy black line, some possibly laid by hand. Blank verso, longitude west from Greenwich. Scale: 1 inch = 135 miles. Size: 13.25 x 11.5 inches.
This is one of the earliest steel engraved maps seen. It is difficult to tell whether a map is printed from a steel or copper plate, the printer has provided that information on this map at the lower right edge. Usually, a steel plate intaglio print has a smoother, cleaner appearance because the engraved line is thinner and the steel does not wear over thousands of strikes, whereas a copper plate may show appreciable wear after only a few hundred. Steel plate engraving was used for maps more in Europe, especially in England. However, high end material like banknotes and stock certificates were, and still are, printed from intaglio steel plates. The ink image is shown at left and here is a closer view. The ink ridge typical of intaglio prints is evident, but indistinguishable from a copper plate. Although, the very clearness of the line is an indicator.
1830 PENNSYLVANIA (American relief wood engraving.), from An Epitome of Universal Geography…, by Nathan Hale, Published by N. Hale; Richardson, Lord & Holbrook; Crocker & Brewster, and Gray & Bowen. Boston 1830. This book is one of the most attractive of the early geographies and contained sixty maps including maps of the other states. The Pennsylvania map dates 1820-31 by counties shown, and some county seats are identified, mountains crudely shown. The Philadelphia-Columbia railroad and parts of the mainline canal are identified, one of the earliest maps to show these. Text on verso, longitude west of London. Scale: 1 inch = 50 miles. Size: 3.75 x 6 inches.
A wood engraving prints in relief and the ink relief appearance can be seen, here is a closer view. The verso is page 68 with letterpress type. The actual printing was done from a stereotype metal plate prepared from a mold of the wood engraving. Although artists would print directly from the wood engraving, the usual commercial practice after 1800 was to replace it with a sterotype metal plate which could endure many more strikes and allow printing of the same image from several presses. Here, most of the wood has been cut away so the print looks correct, that is, like an intaglio print, compared to the "reverse print" wood engraving map shown below. Though both are relief print techniques, there is a difference between a "woodcut" made from a wood plank, and a "wood engraving" made from the end grain of boxwood. The wood engraving is cleaner and sharper with greater detail. Both these wood print methods antedate movable type.
1835 UNITED STATES. No. 227 (British relief wood engraving.) London. Published for the Proprietors, No. 2 Wellington Street, Strand. This undated circa 1835 map is thought to come from a serialized work called Guide to Knowledge, edited by William Pinnock, circa 1832-1838. The map was probably engraved by Joshua Archer, as library records list Archer as having prepared a large number of maps for Pinnock's guide circa 1834-35. Missouri seems to be recognized as a state, but not Arkansas (1836). The map shows the eastern United States west to beyond the Mississippi. Longitude west from Greenwich, blank verso. Scale: 1 inch = 300 miles. Size: 6.5 x 9 inches.
This is a wood engraving where the image outline is removed from the plate resulting in "reverse printing", as compared to intaglio. This minimized the amount of wood that had to be cut away, compared to the wood engraving map above. Although the print is in relief, here is a closer view, the relief characteristics are not so evident. This is because the pressure is distributed over a large area here and not concentrated on lines. Illustrations from wood engravings for books and magazines were ubiquitous in the 19th century; however, maps were not usually printed in reverse this way. The reason is obvious when looking at this print, it is just not attractive for a reader accustom to intaglio prints.
1840 MAP EXHIBITING THAT PORTION OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA TRAVERSED BY THE SURVEYS FOR A CONTINUOUS RAIL ROAD FROM HARRISBURG TO PITTSBURG. (American lithograph.) Made under the direction of Charles L. Schlatter. C.E. in the year 1839 and 1840. Drawn by Charles Cramer. Lithographed by J.T. Bowen, No. 94, Walnut St., Philadelphia. This map covers the territory between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh and is one of the earliest maps seen laying out a railroad across the Alleghenies. The map references (1) the line surveyed in 1839 and 1840, (2) line of survey made under the direction of Hother Hage in 1838, (3) rail roads currently in operation, (4) canals in operation, (5) lines surveyed by proposed canals, (6) a middle route, (7) line surveyed for a Mcadamized road from Laughlintown to Loudon. It was apparently prepared for a report, thin paper folded as issued. Something brown (coffee?) spilled on it at one time. Blank verso. Scale : 1 inch = 6 miles. Size: 18 x 31 inches.
Although lithography was well established in Europe by 1820, it took a while to get to America. This is one of the earliest lithograph maps seen of the Pennsylvania region, and is identified as a lithograph on the map. The ink image on the map is shown at left and here is a closer view. The color line, shown here in close-up, was likely added by hand. The orange color appears to have been very fluid, while the blue was chalky.
1840 PHILADELPHIA . (British intaglio steel engraving with text and illustration.) Published by the Society for The Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 59 Lincolns Inn Fields, September, 1840. This is a town plan of Philadelphia with two building views at bottom, the United States bank, and the Exchange. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) was founded in England in 1826 to provide self-improvement information at affordable prices (it was the age of Samuel Smiles), and their maps are regarded as some of the most precise of the mid-19th century due to their detail. Blank verso, no longitude markings. Scale: 1 inch = 1500 feet. Size: 14.5 x 12 inches.
There is a difference between a map with text and illustration; and a map set with text and illustration. This map is an example of the former, and the 1844 map directly below is an example of the latter. Although it is difficult to tell the difference between a steel and copper plate engraving, this certainly appears to be a steel engraving. It is printed in thin line with clarity and detail. Much of the map is composed of straight lines, for which an engraving machine could be used. Much of the line work on steel engravings was done with engraving machines and etching, not hand engraving. Also, it is known that the SDUK printed from steel to produce a very large number of prints (see Cain). The Society apparently turned down cheaper methods of printing (copper plate, lithography) for the clean line and precision of steel engraving. Everything is engraved on the plate, the map is an engraving, the text is engraved, and the illustrations are engraved. At left, the line of the map is shown with this close-up. The ink ridges of intaglio printing can be seen, also the text was engraved after the straight lines had been done with a ruling machine. The small bits of color were added by hand.
At left, the details of the illustration engraving are shown with this close-up.
Finally, here are the details of the text engraving with this close-up.
1844 PENNSYLVANIA (American relief wax engraving with printed color set with wood engraving and text.), from Morse's School Geography; A System of Geography, for the Use of Schools. Illustrated with More Than Fifty Cerographic Maps, and Numerous Wood-Cut Engravings..By Sidney E. Morse, A.M. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1844. The first title is on the cover. This geography is a 72 page book with many partial page maps; Pennsylvania is on page 25. It is the first edition of the geography that helped introduce wax engraving printing for maps. This 12 x 9.5 inch page represents the 'holy grail' of early 19th century printers. The cost of making this sheet was a fraction of the cost of the 1840 steel engraving shown above. A wax engraving map, a wood engraving illustration, and letterpress type are all combined on a single page printed in relief. Morse introduced his cerographic method in three publications, all appearing circa 1842-44: The Cerographic Atlas of the United States, Morse's North American Atlas, and Morse's School Geography. The geography was the most successful and was printed almost unchanged for twenty years. It was also one of the earliest, perhaps the earliest, 'quarto' size geographies, i.e. ~ 12 x 10 inches. Longitude from Washington at bottom, from Greenwich at top. Similar map, text, illustration on verso. Scale: 1 inch = 45 miles. Size (map): 5.5 x 8 inches.
A wax engraving plate prints in relief and the ink relief appearance can be seen, here is a closer view. The yellow is printed over the black. Besides being one of the earliest wax engraving maps, this is also one of the earliest with printed color; added by a line block probably prepared at the same time and in the same way as the map plate. Woodward [2] gives a discussion of the cerographic process, which was also called wax engraving. This became a popular way of printing maps in America in the 19th century. It created a relief printing surface by electrochemical deposition of metal. It was cheaper than metal plate engraving, but did not produce as clean an image. The big advantage was that a relief plate was created which could be assembled with letterpress type (and even wood engraving illustrations as here) in a single print plate. The yellow has been added with a fine line grid and overprinted on the black.
A view of the wood engraving illustration on the page is shown at left, here is a closer view. This engraving, and probably the letterpress type also, were probably printed from a sterotype plate. Here again, a relief ink line is seen.
Finally, a view of the letterpress type on the page is shown at left, here is a closer view. This has the typical characteristic of relief letterpress type printing. For comparison, here is a view of the wax engraving type from the map, which is very similar to the letterpress.
1875 PITTSBURG FORT WAYNE AND PENNSYLVANIA RAILROADS. (American relief wax engraving with printed color.) Rand, McNally & Co., Printers, 79 and 81 Madison Street, Chicago. This train schedule has a picture of the horseshoe curve on the front, and is dated from "excursion rate fare good until June 30, 1875,", which dates it to 1874 or 1875. It opens up to a color map showing the route from the east coast to Chicago. The area shown extends from New York to Wisconsin and south to Virginia and Kentucky. The map is on the verso of a railway timetable which folds to 7 x 3.5 inches; on the bottom is ‘form b, 5-1-bx.' Scale: 1 inch ~ 80 miles. Size: 13.75 x 21 inches.
Rand McNally is the grand name in American map publishing, and now that paper maps are going the way of the buggy whip, their output won't be surpassed. The company began by printing railway timetables in the 1860s, and did not print maps until the 1870s. They adopted wax engraving for printed maps, probably because the plate could be set with the letterpress type used to print the timetables. This is one of the earliest Rand McNally maps seen of the Pennsylvania region, and is, in fact, from a timetable. A view of the ink lines is shown at left, here is a closer view. The printing is in relief from a wax engraving plate, and the color is printed from a line block.
The view on the front of the folder is of the famous Horseshoe Curve outside Altoona. This view was likely prepared from a wood engraving and printed with a stereotype plate. A view of the ink lines is shown at left, here is a closer view. The fancy title lettering probably also comes from a wood engraving.
1878 THE PRINCIPAL TRANSPORTATION LINES EXTENDING WEST FROM BOSTON, NEW YORK, PHILADELPHIA, AND BALTIMORE, 1878 (American lithograph with printed color by the Osborne photographic transfer process.) A.M. Photo-litho. Co. N.Y. (Osborne's process). No. 2 from a book of like maps of other railroads believed issued by the United States government. It shows the mid-Atlantic west to Illinois with no detail, just rail lines. Blank verso, no longitude. Scale:1 inch ~ 55 miles. Size: 15.75 x 23 inches.
The development of photography in the middle of the 19th century led to a slew of printing experiments to take advantage of photography's ability to transfer an image and to reduce or enlarge it. John Osborne (1828-1902), an Irishman employed by the Australian government survey, circa 1860 developed a process for what came to be called photolithography [4]. He emigrated to the United States where the American Photolithographic Company secured rights to his patents, and the process was used to print this map. Osborne's camera techniques were in use as early as 1866, well before this map was made; and there are incidental records of other American lithographers exploring photography in the 1850s. A view of the ink lines is shown at left, here is a closer view. The lithographic line is evident, ink smoothly and evenly laid on the paper. The close-up view shows that black was printed last; which probably contributes to a bolder look. Since no screen was used in printing the colors, photographic transfer is not obvious except for the statement 'Osborne's process' on the map.
1880 GETTYSBURG AND VICINITY, showing the lines of battle, July, 1863, and the land purchased and dedicated to the public by General S. Wylie Crawford and the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. (American relief wax engraving and lithograph.) Eng’d by American Bank Note Co. New York. The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association was formed in 1864 and disbanded in 1895 tranferring its land holdings to the government to form Gettyburg National Military Park, so this map dates 1864-95 and perhaps 1895 as a record of the land being given. However, Crawford died in 1892 and the map note would indicate he was still alive when this map was made. Also, the note indicates land was still being bought by the association, not the government, as money became available. So, this map is thought to date circa 1880-90. There is an inset of cavalry operations to the east. The names of land owners are on the map, much of whose property was later bought to form the park seen today. Blank verso, originally folded, thin paper. Scale: 1 inch = 0.25 mile. Size: 16 x 12.5 inches.
This map is an affirmative answer to the question: Are two different printing methods ever used for the same map? A view of the ink lines on the map is shown at left, here is a closer view. The printing is in relief, almost certainly from a wax engraving plate that may have been prepared for use elsewhere.
The color printing on the map, however, is done by lithography. A view of the color ink lines is shown at left, here is a closer view. The flat, smooth lithograph line is evident for the color. Curiously, the color was printed first, the red, then the blue, and finally the black in relief.
1910 UNTITLED (American intaglio print with color on silk cloth.) This untitled and undated silk map of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the surrounding area comes from a pack of Clix cigarettes, which is printed on one edge. On the other edge is ‘Factory No. 25. 2nd Dist. Va.’ Clix was a brand from the American Tobacco Company, and silk images appeared also in their Fatima, Piedmont, Old Mill, and Chesterfield brands, issued circa 1910. All of these brands are now history. Other similar images included state flags, country maps and symbols, and pictures of pretty women. These little giveaways were put into adult cigarette packs for the same reason little toys were put into kid's Crackerjax boxes. (The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.) Blank verso. Size: 1.5 x 2.5 inches.
Silk was used for these maps (and other images) because it was very light and could fold into the pack, and because it had a dense weave which held an image well. Nowadays cloth is usually printed by silkscreening, and even by inkjet. Textile printing has a history all its own; the best known example of maps on cloth is probably the terrain maps given to military pilots and commandos during WWII. A view of the ink line is shown at left and here in close-up. This is believed to be an intaglio print from an engraved roller plate, and is in four colors using a line screen for the color, which appears to have been printed after the black. The tight weave in this silk cloth looks continuous, like paper.
1932 UNTITLED ( American relief halftone with color.) This map of Pennsylvania and New Jersey is by Berta and Elmer Hader, a husband and wife artist team, and is from Berta and Elmer Hader’s Picture Book of the States, Harper & Brothers, c1932, New York. The book has pictorial cartoon maps of all the states with descriptive text on the verso. Size: 9 x 12 inches.
This map and the 1935 map directly below have similar size and image content and are as much illustration as map, but were printed using different methods. A view of the ink line is shown at left and here in close-up. [5]. The relief effect is seen most clearly in the black line overprinted on the color. This appears to be a red-yellow-blue three color halftone image with overprinting giving magenta and other muted colors. The screen grid effect indicates a photographic transfer process was used. The text on the verso is printed in letterpress relief.
1935 PENNSYLVANIA (American offset lithograph with color.) This map is page 87 from Our USA - A Gay Geography with text by Frank J. Taylor and pictorial maps by Ruth Taylor, Little, Brown & Co. Boston 1935. (Legear L114). The word ‘gay’ meant ‘happy’ in the 1930’s. The book is 113 pages of illustration and text and each map has a page of text next to it. States and territories of the time are included and the verso of this map is page 88 with text on the Phillipine islands. The text on Pennsylvania would have been opposite this page. The map has little geographic detail but is filled with colorful cartoon illustrations representing industries and local attractions. Size: 8.5 x 11.75 inches.
A view of the ink line is shown at left and here in close-up. [6]. The text on the verso is printed by lithography. Here the color is printed directly with no screen used, and the color appears printed after the black. Direct color printing like this would require (almost) the same number of printing plates as colors printed, printing exactly in register with one another. This print is brighter and more attractive than the 1932 one above.
1937 PRESQUE ISLE THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE PARK AT ERIE. (American diazo or blueline lithography.) This is an advertising map from Rider’s-on-the-Bay and Erie Marine Supply; prepared by Warren H. Boyer, 5-6-37. There is a small inset map of Pennsylvania at bottom right. The park is shown in some detail, with a rudimentary drawing of the Erie waterfront. Blank verso. Scale: 1 inch = 600 feet. Size: 16 x 23 inches.
This map is believed to be an example of diazo lithography, also called blueline, a contact print process that essentially creates a 'reverse' blueprint. It is commonly used to produce check prints before the final commercial print is made. The name comes from the chemicals used which can cause the image to fade upon exposure to light as appears to be happening with this copy. The view at left shows the grainy nature of the coating, here is a close-up. Prints like this were (almost) never made for commercial sale, only for in-house use, as the process is not suitable for mass production.
This image at left shows the final commercial version of this map printed by lithography as seen in this close-up..
1941 WARREN COUNTY, PA. (American blueprint.) Dec. 1941 One of 70 maps by A.N. Goldfinch (Map-Man) 521 W. Washington Street, Corry, Pa. This is a road map of the county with streams and towns shown. Blank verso. Scale:1 inch = 1 mile. Size: 29 x 39 inches.
The blueprint process was invented in the late 19th century in Europe. A paper coated with ferro-gallate (other compounds were later used) and exposed to light turns an insoluble permanent blue. A coating of this chemical on paper (or other material) can be used to reproduce an image from a translucent document. The process was used primarily by architecture and engineering firms to reproduce technical drawings, so much so that today the word blueprint is synonymous with a technical drawing. The advantages of the process were: no bulky photo-reproduction equipment needed, the print is the same scale as the original, the image cannot be easily changed. Blueprint images of maps were (almost) never made for commercial sale as the process does not lend itself to mass production, they were in-house copies made mostly for checking. The view at left shows the nature of the coating, here is a close-up; it is similar to the blueline process shown above.
1959 PLOT PLAN FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS AND ADDITION, FAIRVIEW TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY, PA. (American 'blackprint'.) C.l. Hartwell, Reg. Engineer, Shavertown,Pa. Revised 1954. A note on the back says this map was copied "2-20-59" for an attorney. The original print from which this copy was made is dated 1954, as indicated under the title. Blank verso. Scale:1 inch = 119 feet. Size: 14.5 x 23.5 inches.
This map resembles the 1835 relief wood engraving shown above, but it is actually a blueprint; or in this case a 'blackprint.' The finish instead of blue and matte is black and glossy. The difference is due to the chemicals used to treat the paper before processing. The glossy surface finish is seen in the image at left and here is a close-up showing the image is on the surface and not in relief. Blank verso. Scale:1"=119ft
1992 SCHUYLKILL COUNTY PENNSYLVANIA. (American offset lithograph with halftone color screens.) A signature by the author appears to be Wannetta Brophy with a second undecipherable signature. No publisher or printer is identified. It can be dated circa 1992 by a future reference in the text to 1993. This is a large map on heavy coated paper which causes the glare in the photograph; the type put out by local societies as decorative wall hangings. Blank verso. Scale:1 inch ~ 1 mile. Size: 24 x 36 inches.
This map represents the common commercial color printing of today [7]. Like the color maps shown above, it is as much illustration as map. This is a four color image of red, blue, yellow, with black printed on shiny paper. The black was printed first followed by red, blue, and then yellow. Here is a close-up. The dot patterns in this type of printing are not arbitrary, but worked out to get the right color combinations and avoid the patterned, or moire', effect.
2002 (SMETHPORT) (American xerography.) An untitled and anonymous plain street map of Smethport, McKean County, issued by the Smethport visitor center for tourists. Blank verso. Scale:1 inch ~ 1 block.. Size: 8.5 x 11 inches.
This map is a common xerox from a photocopier. From 1960 to the twenty-first century, a xerox machine was commonplace in offices. The process involves using an electrostatic field to arrange fine powder particles on paper which are then fixed by heat. The process can be identified by the fineness of the powder which gives a softness to the ink line, shown in the image at left, and the random distribution of very small particles away from the line. [8]. Here is a close-up showing the tiny random particles away from the line.
2013 SKETCH B (BIS) SKETCH SHOWING THE POSITIONS OF THE BUOYS PLACED IN DELAWARE BAY & RIVER UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE SUPERINTENDENT U.S.C.S. BY LIEUTS. COM. J. R. GOLDSBOROUGH & R. BACHE U.S. NAVY, 1847. (American inkjet print.) This is a modern reproduction of a Delaware Bay chart from the 1848 edition of the Superintendent's Report of the United States Coast Survey. It covers the bay and river from Cape May and Cape Henlopen north past Wilmington and Philadelphia as far as Trenton. The placement of various buoys to guide shipping are shown. Blank verso. Scale:1 inch ~ 4.5 miles. Size: 22 x 16 inches.
This inkjet (or giclee) reproduction of an 1847 map shows part of the present and perhaps the future of printed maps, at least for small printing runs. The inkjet process prints from a digital computer file, for this map probably one originally created by the Library of Congress and subsequently downloaded through the internet. So, the images here are digital files created by a transfer process of a paper inkjet reproduction printed from a digital file created by a transfer process from the original 1847 lithograph (probably) print. Would you like that repeated? This map was printed by inkjet because it has color, otherwise it might have been printed by xerography [8]. The colors on this print are particularly striking, and the image size indicates a commercial size printer was used. In this close-up of the blue field, the light blue seems to be printed first, followed by the darker blue and then the black. A distinguishing characteristic of inkjet printing is the random arrangement of dots along rows, and the jagged edge appearance of printed text, as shown at left. Printing from digital files is also now adapted for high volume, high speed printing processes like offset lithography.

This article has been a short description of the techniques and methods used to print maps and show how the resulting product looked. Maps are only a small fraction of the history of printed images, and methods advanced to improve the image and lower the cost of printed illustrations rather than maps (though wax engraving and some photo transfer methods may be an exception). Methods adding tone to illustrations and later printed color were not done to print maps, though map printing made use of developments. Combining illustration with letterpress type on the same sheet in the same press run was a major objective of techniques such as wood engraving, lithography, wax engraving, and photographic transfer techniques in the 19th century. The ultimate objective being, of course, a reduction in costs.


[1] A good short general history of prints is Prints and Visual Communication by William M. Ivins, Jr., Harvard University Press, Cambridge 1953. This book emphasizes the importance of printed images, including maps, in shaping society. There are innumerable other books on prints, many are windy tomes on printing techniques not used for maps. The 'bible' for identifying print types nowadays is How to Identify Prints by Bamber Gascoigne, Second Edition, Thames & Hudson, New York 2004. These are also good sources for the definitions of print terms.

[2] Compared to prints in general, there are far fewer books specifically on map printing; the best known is probably Five Centuries of Map Printing edited by David Woodward, the University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1975. A book specifically on wax engraving is The All-American Map, Wax Engraving and Its Influence on Cartography by David Woodward, the University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1977.

[3] Gascoigne, pages 51b-d.

[4] In Gascoigne, page 41a, this process is called a line photolithograph.

[5] In Gascoigne, page 55r-s, the relief halftone process is discussed.

[6] Gascoigne, on page 44c, calls this offset lithograph, hand-originated, where the artwork is done separately for each color process plate.

[7] Gascoigne discusses halftone screens on page 74a-f.

[8] Gascoigne discusses xerography and inkjet printing on pages 57g, 79e.

Copyright 2012 by Harold Cramer. All rights reserved.
Revised April, July, 2013; January, 2014; August, 2015.


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