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Junking 101: Rand McNally & Vintage Maps

Posted on: Friday, October 25, 2013

For those of you addicted to the vintage treasure hunt, we bring you our series on knowing a bit more about your valuable finds. Junking 101 posts will focus your eye in on items that have stories to tell in history, and when to spot a truly unique lovely! It's gold, Jerry!


classroom wall map at Ruby Rose | photo cred: Kendra Aronson
These days, our Google maps and GPS systems direct us around town and around the world, surveying the land from satellites high above us. But remember back to atlases, AAA maps, and the pull-down maps in your school classrooms? Though it is unlikely we will be unfolding a county map to get directions to a friend's house in Shell Beach any time soon, these tangible maps still catch our eye and gather in our collections. They inspire the pioneer spirit of discovery and adventure, and hold lasting attraction as amazing works of art!

Newman's CA Missions map | photo cred: bigmapblog.com
Blum's CA Bicycle road map | photo cred: bigmapblog.com
The first maps were engraved on wood blocks during the Age of Exploration (15th-16th centuries), as explorers (Columbus among them) dispersed to the undiscovered lands. Thanks to Martin Walsdeemuller for putting us on the map-in 1507 he drew the first true world map and was the first to label the New World America! Then came Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia (1588), one of the most popular books of this era, describing the world through cartography. From here, and with advanced printing methods, maps move from elite ownership into the hands of the people-and the wanderlust spreads!


Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia | photo cred: columbia.edu
Fast forward to our American roadmap friend, William Rand, a man dedicated to printing maps. In 1856, he opened up a print shop in Chicago, a couple years later hiring Andrew McNally to help man the presses. An iconic partnership is formed, and in 1872 Rand McNally print their first map. During the Great Chicago Fire, Rand even buried his machinery in the sand to keep them safe from the flames!

maps at Ruby Rose | photo cred: Betsi Clark
atlases from Ruby Rose | photo cred: Betsi Clark

If you have a pull-down map hanging around, chances its maker is AJ Nystrom & Co, America's oldest producer of classroom wall maps. They began on April 1, 1903 (no foolin'!). And James Wilson was the first American globe maker, making his first in 1810! Take a look at your globe: ones with a full meridian (metal ring circling it) are considered more valuable than those with a semi-ring. Use this handy reference to determine how old is your globe?

Maps change and improve as cartographers better understand the world, relying too heavily on them may lead you to nonexistent streets or to thinking California is an island! Remember to always let your conscience by your guide, not your 1650 atlas.


Vingboon's map | photo cred: bigmapblog.com
I love this quote by Clara Webb: "we need to know where things are—geography starts with that—but it doesn't stop there." So spin your glove, point your finger, and take off to wherever it lands...


RubyRoseMaps video | videography & editing: Betsi Clark | music by: Fialta

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