Persuasive Maps, Atlas Maps, and Unique Treasures



George Clason is perhaps most well-known for his essays on economics and financial independence, as well as his 1926 book, The Richest Man in Babylon. After serving as a Civil Engineer in the Spanish-American War, Clason moved to Denver, Colorado, and found employment as a draughtsman for local patent attorneys, mostly involved in the mining industry. Clason began producing his own maps for commercial sale in 1902, and formed the Clason Map Company in 1904. Clason’s business grew quickly, and by 1910 he had shifted from maps of Colorado to maps of western states beyond Colorado, as well as city maps of western metropolitan areas. Over the next decade and a half, Clason expanded the size and range of his company exponentially.

Clason was an early innovator in highway maps and quickly became known for his company’s road maps, touring atlases, and green guides. These pocket-sized guides consisted of a booklet containing information on the state or city and one or more large maps attached to the inside cover. The Clason Map Company produced the nation’s earliest road atlases, including the first road atlas of the United States and Canada, Clason’s Touring Atlas of the United States, which sold over a million copies. A financially-minded man, George Clason used his maps, atlases, and guides to promote migration to the West, as well as energy development. Many of Clason’s maps show oil, gas, and coal prospects, and he also published maps and brochures promoting recreation and tourism in an effort to draw visitors and residents to the region. The Clason Map Company was hit hard by the economic crash of 1931, and declared bankruptcy the following year.

24. George Samuel Clason, Sketch Map of Nevada, 1906
Naden Collection

State Map

More About Nevada

Statehood: 1864
Fun Fact: Jeans as we know them today were invented in Nevada.

North Carolina

Using a culmination of surveys completed by the United States Coast Guard and Geodetic Survey, and the United States Army, among others, W.C. Kerr created this 1882 map of North Carolina. Color-coded by county, the map depicts towns, railroads, waterways, and swamplands. On the bottom, a list of towns with 500 people or more are listed, along with notes that include: latitude/longitude, elevation, population by race, etc. The map is dedicated to the then-Governor of North Carolina, Thomas J. Jarvis.

The bottom of this map has been stamped with information regarding immigration and land sales, calling into question the origins and original usage of this map. The map was published “Under the Authority of the State Board of Agriculture” and could have been used for distribution at Agricultural Fairs. These popular fairs were a way for farmers to show off new technologies and to provide entertainment for the masses. They were also a way for farmers to come together and learn about the world. The map could have contributed to a particular exhibit on immigration, or the south in general, as a way to show the typically isolated farmers what was developing around the United States. The stamp on this map points those with questions to Boston, a hub for these fairs.

25. W.C. Kerr, Map of North Carolina, 1882
Story Collection

State Map

More About North Carolina

Statehood: 1789
Fun Fact: The world’s first flight in a aircraft took place in North Carolina.


Samuel Augustus Mitchell started his career as a school teacher in the early- nineteenth century. Frustrated with the poor quality and inaccuracy of geographical resources available to teachers, he began publishing his own maps and geography textbooks.

Mitchell’s map of Illinois is attached to the inside cover of the book, Illinois in 1837. This book, published by John Grigg of Philadelphia, explains many of the advantages of moving out west. However, Mr. Grigg had a vested interest in the purchase of lands in Illinois. Circa 1825, the government announced it was going to give Revolutionary War veterans acreage to farm in the new land of Illinois, or it was to be sold by the government at $2 an acre. John Grigg purchased over 10,000 acres of land and, in many cases, he sold this land to settlers, farmers or migrants, for $3-$5 per acre. This publication, rife with westward expansion propaganda, would have had a personal interest to Grigg.

One section of this book, entitled “Suggestions to Emigrants,” provides information about how to reach the west by different transportation methods: steamboat, train, or stage. It also provides instructions for farming and building a home. As the author noted, “Any young man, with industrious habits, can begin here without a dollar, and in a very few years become a substantial farmer.” (70)

26. S. Augustus Mitchell and H.L. Ellsworth, Mitchell’s Map of Illinois from Illinois in 1837, 1837
Osher Collection

State Map

More About Illinois

Statehood: 1818
Fun Fact: The world’s first ferris wheel was built in Chicago, Illinois.

South Carolina

This map of South Carolina comes from the 1796 atlas, The American Atlas, published by John Reid, and was designed to accompany William Winterbotham’s An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the United States. The atlas has long been a popular format among map lovers because it assembles a variety of related maps and provides a convenient way to retain and preserve maps in a home library. Following the Revolution there was an urge to carve out the shape of America, separate from the British precedents. Most state governments began to organize state surveys, mapping out the new nation. The private sphere of map-making in the newly formed country was small to start, but grew quickly with the introduction of the first atlas of the United States, by Matthew Carey of Philadelphia (1794). After this initial atlas, book publishers added atlases to their lines and were soon very successful.

The second atlas to be engraved and published in the United States, and the first to feature a plan of the city of Washington, was published by John Reid in 1796. The American Atlas was designed to accompany William Winterbotham’s An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the United States. Winterbotham’s work, published in London, was originally accompanied by An American Atlas, a series of nine maps of sections of America by John Russell. Reid copied nine of Russell’s maps and included sixteen additional maps. Reid was perhaps inspired by Matthew Carey, who had had remarkable success.

Prior to the introduction of Lithography in the U.S. (1827) and wax engraving (1841), printing and publishing maps and atlases was time intensive and expensive. These two new methods of printing allowed publishers to print a higher number of maps at a lower cost, making them affordable to many. Unfortunately, while the quantity of maps increased, there was a decline in quality.

27. John Reid, South Carolina from The American Atlas, 1796
Osher Collection

State Map

More About South Carolina

Statehood: 1788
Fun Fact: South Carolina’s Charleston Museum was founded in 1773, and is regarded as “America’s First Museum.”


This map of Washington state was published in 1893 in The Matthews-Northrup Adequate Travel-Atlas of the United States. Published just four years after Washington’s statehood, the map depicts—as the title suggests—all railroads, cities, towns, and principal villages in the state. In addition, it also shows various waterways, mountain ranges, and Native American reservations, all designed to aid an increasing amount of westward travelers at the close of the nineteenth-century.

The Matthews-Northrup Company (also called Matthews-Northrup Works and later J. N. Matthews Co.) was known for squeezing as much information as possible onto each page of their atlases, thus creating a set of comprehensive and incredibly useful maps for travelers. Weighing only 12 ounces, the Matthews-Northrup Company achieved their goal of creating an imminently practical guide rife with minute and informative details, all while still able to be “shoved into a coat pocket.”

28. Matthews-Northrup Company, The Matthews-Northrup Adequate Travel Map of Washington from The Matthews-Northrup Adequate Travel-Atlas of the United States, 1893
Osher Collection

State Map

More About Washington

Statehood: 1889
Fun Fact: Washington’s Mt. Mitchell once got over 14 inches of rain in one day.

West Virginia

Appleton’s Atlas of the United States is comprised of general maps of the United States and territories, and a county map of each of the states, together with descriptive text outlining the history, geography, and political and educational organizations of the states, with the latest statistics of their resources and industries. The map of West Virginia on display here is from the 1885 edition.

D. Appleton & Company was founded by Daniel Appleton. As a merchant, Appleton frequently imported goods from abroad and began importing English books with his merchandise. In 1830 Daniel Appleton, along with his two sons, began publishing and printing material on a wide variety of subjects. D. Appleton & Company was particularly well known for printing the works of contemporary scientists at moderate prices. Daniel passed away in 1849 leaving the company to his sons. In 1869 they began to produce Appleton’s Journal, which later became known as Appleton’s Magazine.

29. D. Appleton & Co., West Virginia from Appleton’s Atlas of the United States, 1885
Osher Collection

State Map

More About West Virginia

Statehood: 1863
Fun Fact: West Virginia is home to the second oldest river in the world.


This map is an example of persuasive cartographic design. Maps have been consumer goods for hundreds of years but it is only since the late-1800s that maps promoting other goods really came about. Promotional cartography is most often geared towards tourists, as travel is geographically focused and travelers rely heavily on geographic information. Promotional maps were first used to spur the development of railroad tourism. As local governments were largely responsible for road maintenance and improvement, and many rural communities did not have the money to do so, it could be dangerous to travel between towns and cities and road maps were necessary to show the safest routes and roads. By the early 1910s many large companies had a vested interest in consumers traveling, typically closer to them and their businesses, and sponsored the improvement of long motorways, often cross-country. The first federal road aid acts were passed in 1916 and 1921, helping to make routes more easily navigable and convenient.

Since most oil companies offered the same product, they attempted to stand apart with great service and free travel advice. The cost to the oil distributor decreased with the entrance of companies like Rand-McNally and Gallup. Every spare inch of the maps were filled with advertisements and graphics to promote the oil companies. These maps or atlases not only provided consumers with the routes, but also recommended hotels and provided information on the states and national parks. The Gallup Map Company is still in business today.

30. Gallup Map and Supply Co., Gallup’s Comprehensive Road Map of Wyoming from Highway Atlas of the United States and Canada , 1931
Yensen Collection

State Map

More About Wyoming

Statehood: 1890
Fun Fact: In Wyoming, it is illegal to leave a fence gate open.

New Jersey

This engraved copper plate of the state of New Jersey was created around 1780 by Evert Bancker, Jr. His primary purpose was depicting partition lines that sectioned the state, as well as showing the borders between New Jersey and his home state of New York. The accompanying printed engraving shows us these lines distinctly, thanks to the detail of Bancker’s copper plate.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many maps were engraved on copper plates because of the precise images that could be produced. Creators of these maps intricately engraved the copper by hand, using a sharp pointed steel tool called a “burin.” This process accounts for the impressive and minute details on Bancker’s map of New Jersey, such as the Revolutionary Era skyline of Philadelphia.

When copper plates were used to print maps, the image printed was always reversed from the engraving on the copper. So, the creators of the maps had to reverse the image as they engraved it. On the map of New Jersey, we see backwards “3’s” along the left and right sides of the map, as if the engraver mistakenly forgot to carve them in reverse.

35. Evert Bancker, The State of New Jersey, c.1780
Osher Collection

State Map

More About New Jersey

Statehood: 1787
Fun Fact: Thomas Edison’s first lab was located in New Jersey.