WELCOME Articles on Historical Maps of Pennsylvania WELCOME

Pennsylvania in Early Pocket Maps

by Harold Cramer

Briefly, a pocket map is a separately issued, folded map with a cover; they are sometimes also called case maps. Pocket maps have a long history in European cartography associated with traveling or military use. In the United States, retail pocket maps appeared on the market in the 1820s from makers like H. S. Tanner and S. A. Mitchell; and they became associated primarily with rail travel which started at about the same time. The early and middle nineteenth century was a period of expansive travel in the United States, by rail, canal, steamboat, stage, wagon train or horseback; and pocket maps became quite popular. The Civil War also provided a military incentive for making and carrying them. Later in the century they became an advertising medium, the equivalent of the automobile road map of the twentieth century.

The covers of pocket maps are either attached to the map or in the form of a slip cover. Slip covers are usually paper or thin cardboard. Attached covers can be simple heavy paper or cardboard; but sometimes they are like the cover of a book, and quite fancy with leather and gilt lettering. The map would normally be attached to the inside of the back cover, and the publisher or dealer would put ads or other information on the inside front cover, and sometimes on the outside back cover.

Since paper folded many times will tear, pocket maps may be pasted on linen, perhaps with small gaps between the sections for folding. Or, sometimes they are printed on tougher paper like onionskin or banknote paper. When a folded map is not identified in the title as a 'pocket' or 'travellers' map, but is still linen backed and/or has a plain cover, it may not be clear who actually made it. Dealers took maps from other publishers and made pocket maps out of them; owners did likewise to make a map easy to carry.

Do to the frequent folding and type of use, pocket maps have a low survival rate compared to bound maps. The ones that do survive are often in poor shape, torn or with missing covers. The earlier pocket maps are typically better made, with leather or hardboard covers and good paper. In the latter nineteenth century printing became cheaper and pocket maps became more ephemeral, printed on cheap paper with paper covers. They became so cheap they were used as an advertising medium.

The maps shown here date from circa 1825 to 1925, when automobile road maps became common. All are from American publishers and of Pennsylvania and the surrounding region; many illustrate rough usage. A couple are also shown elsewhere on this website. The image size is given, sheet sizes are only slightly larger for pocket maps. The coverage is divided into three periods, circa 1825 to 1874, 1875 to 1899, 1900 to 1925.

1825 to 1874

1875 to 1899

1900 to 1925

Copyright 2011 by Harold Cramer. All rights reserved.


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