The AGS Library at UW-Milwaukee: celebrating 40 years

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In August of 1978, Milwaukee welcomed the American Geographical Society (AGS) Library to its new home at the UW-Milwaukee Libraries. Our exhibits for this special anniversary year will highlight the library’s activities and achievements over the last 40 years. The first exhibit is devoted to the publications of the AGS Library.


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1927 Chicago Tribune Map of Chicagoland

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by Judy Aulik


The Milwaukee Journal was not the only Midwestern newspaper giant to publish road maps. But unlike the Journal, the Chicago Tribune still has maps produced in its behalf, albeit by Rand McNally. The folding style of Chicagoland map was a mainstay of Illinois drivers for many years. It developed some delightful idiosyncrasies, such as the locations of radio broadcast transmitter towers, but at this early date, the “Trib map,” as called by residents, only showed some colleges, religious institutions, cemeteries, parks, and golf courses as landmarks and destinations. In addition, on this 1927 edition, US highways were designated by the route number in a red circle, instead of the shields used by the Rand McNally portion.

What is noticeable is the number of communities which have ceased to exist. Northeastern Illinois is notable for the number of communities denoted by the railroad stations on the major lines, spaced at fairly regular intervals. For example, on the C.B.&Q. (now the BNSF, or Burlington Northern & Santa Fe) were communities such as Belmont, now part of Downers Grove; Eola, now part of Aurora; and Lovedale, no longer extant.

Communities located on highways were not immune. On Roosevelt Road, once US 30A and today IL 38, was York Center, still denoted by churches but incorporated into Lombard. On Butterfield Road, parts of which have become IL 56, was Utopia, which is today’s Oakbrook Terrace, famous for its vast stretches of shopping malls.

inset for article

lombard insert

Interestingly, the reverse, a map of the states contiguous with Lake Michigan, shows us that the Tribune‘s relationship with the Chicago map giant dates back to the earliest map of the series. “Rand McNally” above “Auto Road Map” is replaced by “Chicago Tribune: The World’s Greatest Newspaper,” but with the characteristic compass rose, cartography, and copyright statement, no one would be fooled. In addition, I have a 1927 Illinois map, issued by the Tribune, but published by Rand McNally.

From a collector’s standpoint, the Chicagoland maps are common, but very difficult to find in acceptable condition. The vast majority are misfolded, heavily worn, and many are taped together, proof of the maps’ popularity. Probably due to the growth of the region–the Tribune maps did not show land beyond the Fox River–the Chicagoland map ceased publication sometime in the 1990s, with one last 2000 map. Even today, I carry a Tribune/Rand McNally 7-county street guide in my car when traveling, despite GPS. It lacks the charm of the old maps, but still gets the job done–until the next round of highway construction.



View the map in the AGS Library Digital Map Collection here


Engaging Users through Social Media

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The AGSL Instagram hit 1,000 followers this December!


The account began in February 2016, and has since made over 200 posts. Students and staff alike share photo and video content of maps, atlases, globes, nautical charts, historic images, library events, and occasional goings-on about digital data.

belle and andrea
Belle Lipton and Andrea Ballard bring energy and fun to the social media outreach.

The theme of the account reflects many of the prominent themes of the AGS Library’s Collections: travel, adventure, exploration, and the boundless world. Visitors of the page are delighted by celestial globes and atlases depicting the night sky, and artistic flourishes on maps which add embellishment and distinguish the documents as more than mere navigational tools; especially popular are “Map Monsters,” who are scary, or sometimes silly dragon-esque creatures adorning the seas of some of the older maps in the AGS Library’s Collection.

An exciting benchmark for the AGS Library’s social media is a post from this past summer (2017) about Abraham Ortelius’ Map Monsters. The post reached over 1,100 notes on Tumblr!


Visitors likewise seem to enjoy maps and graphics which convey messages in unique and beautiful ways; the post with the most love is an image depicting comparative elevation of mountains in North America, coming from the Johnson Family Atlas of the 19th century (155 likes).


As promised, Stephen got the students an ice cream cake to celebrate reaching 1,000 followers at Instagram. December 20, 2017

agsl cake

Follow us @agslibrary on Instagram and at on Tumblr.

Instagram Account:

Tumblr Account:


And finally, we celebrate the graduation and successful employment of AGSL student cataloging intern Sam Balistreri. Congratulations and best luck as you embark on your career.

Sam cataloged nearly 3,000 nautical charts while at the AGS Library.

The 1913 State Highway Map of California

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by Judy Aulik

The moment I first saw this map, I knew it was something very special. California is a somewhat difficult state to map attractively because of its shape. There’s a lot of negative space to fill, and W. Elliott Judge used the expected list of cities and their population. But wait! There’s more! He added the graphic of an outline map with other states included to illustrate its size. Several eastern states’ outlines were twisted and turned to fill the space. It’s clever, and something I’ve never seen before on a road map.


At first glance, it appears to be bicolored, but then the red highways and wagon trails become evident. [1913ca-legend.jpg] legendHighway scarcity is expected in a 1913 edition.  Confusion, however, is generated by railroad lines not using the convention of crosshatches to represent ties (sleepers). The region around Fresno illustrates how early highways tended to parallel the major railroads of the day, which also were planned to avoid the worst of California’s mountainous terrain. The 1916 edition (not shown) is remarkably similar, except the vast amount of red ink used on highways and proposed highways is clearly identifiable.

The Complete Map Works of San Francisco, Judge’s employer, appears to have only produced California highway maps for a relatively brief period.  The 1913 map appears to be one of the first. Maps drawn by Judge appear in WorldCat, with the last a 1949 Pacific North West edition co-authored with W. Campbell Judge, presumed to be his son. Another Complete Map Works’ map series is the Engineers Official Map of … , which also cover midwestern states into the 1930s.




Click here to view this map in the AGS Library Digital Map Collection:


Polar Exploration and the Hollow Earth

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by Sam Balistreri-Daum

As I continued to catalog the British Admiralty charts this fall I was impressed by the way the AGS Library Nautical Chart collection in many ways shows the progress of exploration, especially in those last frontiers of the planet Earth, the Arctic and Antarctic Polar Regions.  In today’s age of Google Maps and satellite imagery it becomes hard for us to imagine a time when every corner of the Earth was not known or explored.  It still isn’t!  Just think of the deepest parts of the oceans.  So I decided I needed to learn more about what it was like in a time when polar exploration was at its most fervent if not urgent and theories, however crazy, were numerous as to what could be discovered at the poles.

John Blake, in The Sea Chart: The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational Charts (2016) gives a concise summary of the attempts to explore and reasons for the exploration of both poles.  Exploration of the northern Polar Regions has a longer history than that of the South Polar Region, which is due to the “discovery” of America and the obsession of European explorers to find a Northwest Passage to Asia and India.  Although a Northwest Passage does technically exist (during certain seasons), it is not a viable and profitable trade route.  Interestingly, much of the exploration of both Arctic and Antarctic regions was made possible by an increased availability of British Naval vessels in the period following the Napoleonic Wars.  Many of the names of ships and personnel responsible for these voyages such as William Parry, Commodore John Ross, Captains George Lyon and Frederick Beechey and His Majesty’s Ships Victory, Investigator and Enterprise to name a few can be found on the British Admiralty charts in the AGS Library collection.  The Antarctic region around the South Pole, though explored much later, inspired much anticipation and excitement among explorers and colonizers as many European nations had far-flung colonial empires.  Many early world maps and atlases, including Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570) depicted large continents at the poles, especially the massive “Terra Incognita Australis” in the South Polar Region.  There was even speculation that this large southern continent would have a temperate climate and would be populated with indigenous plants, animals and people.  Imagine that!  Realistic attempts at coastal exploration of what is today Antarctica did not occur until the Mid-19th Century and was often a byproduct of whaling and seal hunting expeditions.




Remember how I said there were many theories about unexplored regions of Earth “however crazy”?  Enter John Cleves Symmes (1780-1829), a military captain and veteran of the War of 1812.  A timely listen to an episode of American history / comedy podcast The Dollop introduced me to Symmes and his theory. Symmes even spoke to the AGS in New York about his theory! Here at the AGSL we actually have a copy of The Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres: Demonstrating That the Earth is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open about the Poles (1878) compiled by Symmes’ son Americus Symmes. They sure didn’t skimp on the title.  The theory posits that the Earth is “globular, hollow, and open at the poles”, with a northern opening 2,000 miles in diameter and a southern opening that is “somewhat larger” (because why not, right?). The elder Symmes took his theory on the road, beginning in 1818 with an open letter calling for the exploration of the Arctic Polar Region to look for an opening, touring and lecturing until his death in 1829.  Much like the speculation that a southern continent would have a temperate climate and be teeming with plant and animal life, the supposed hollow interior of the Earth according to Symmes would have a moderate climate and an abundance of flora and fauna.  To Symmes and those convinced of his theory, the hollow Earth and its openings explained several phenomena including climate variation among various regions occupying the same latitude (for example temperate Europe vs. cold U.S. and Canada in winter), the Auroras (Borealis and Australis) and the counterintuitive migration patterns of various fish, bird and mammal species and groups of people.  Want proof?  Symmes claimed that looking at the example of Saturn’s Rings (discovered in 1610) proves that concentricity can exist.  He also advanced the notion that not only Earth, but the rest of the planets in the solar system were probably hollow too.  Including the sun!  Needless to say Hollow Earth Theory doesn’t have much traction these days, except on the fringe where theories such as flat earth and the hollow moon (Aliens stole our moon and replaced it with a hollow one to spy on us?! Makes sense…) among others are alive and well.





The AGS Library is home not only to maps like the nautical charts that I have been working on cataloging during my time here, but a multitude of books, atlases and print materials that can be just as surprising as discovering the Earth is hollow.



Blake, John. The Sea Chart: The Illustrated History of Nautical Maps and Navigational Charts. Conway/Bloomsbury, 2016.

Symmes, John Cleves. The Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres: Demonstrating that the Earth is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open about the Poles/ compiled by Americus Symmes from the writings of his father, Capt. John Cleves Symmes. Bradley & Gilbert, 1878.

“Hollow Earth.” The Dollop from SoundCloud, 14 May 2015,

Century of Progress Maps

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by Judy Aulik

Chicago, celebrating an ill-defined centennial, hit the 40th anniversary of its 1892-1893 World’s Columbian Exposition with the Century of Progress fair of 1933-1934. Map publishers went into overdrive to commemorate the first large World’s Fair of the auto tourism era. Oil companies which commissioned these road maps for their gasoline brands include Barnsdall, Conoco, Deep-Rock, Diamond, Gulf, Lubrite, Pennzoil, Pure, Shell, Standard (Indiana), and Vacuum Oil. Both H.H. Gousha and Rand McNally produced many road maps for the occasion: some were essentially Chicago vicinity maps with an inset of the lakefront fair grounds. Some bore specially designed covers, such as those from Barnsdall and Pure. Others showed routes with a symbol celebrating each exhibit hall. Even post card manufacturer Curt Teich published a commemorative road map for its hometown!

But not every attendee drove. Many used the railroads instead. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was an obvious choice for those west of the city. However, five electric line stations plus the Illinois Central’s Central Station served the Century of Progress and the museums.


Although Chicago is a well-planned city, a city map and exhibit map would be welcomed by the tourist. In 1934, Illinois Central Railroad issued a Rand McNally map for this purpose.

Oddly, this is oriented east-west as opposed to a road map. By this time, the convention of using the top edge of the sheet being north was nearly universal. Lake Michigan comprises its top edge.

The Century of Progress Deco exhibit buildings do not survive, with the exception of a House of Tomorrow, on Beverly Shores, Indiana. Since 1997, the IC rail yards are greatly reduced, and Millennium Park occupies some of the area shown on this map. IC’s Central Station is demolished, but Chicago’s lakefront was returned to the people.

Click here to view the AGS Library copy in the Digital Map Collection

Pikes Peak-Ocean to Ocean Highway

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by Judy Aulik

It’s early days in auto travel. How successful would you believe a transcontinental highway spanning the continent would be? Now, what if you learned that New York City, Baltimore, Columbus, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco were some of the cities the fledgling highway was routed through? Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, Pikes Peak-Ocean to Ocean Highway (PPOO) emphasized connecting state capitals and county seats.  ppoo-purposeAnd despite the route shown in the 1915 map, it bypassed many of the above.

According to, the route was so poorly planned that only US 36 overlaid any significant part of the PPOO: Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas had sections which later became part of the federal highway system. From the July, 1919 issue of Automobile Journal, we learn that associations  that contributed to the PPOO included the William Penn Highway Association, the Hannibal-Springfield Highway Association, the Hannibal and St. Joseph Cross State Highway Association, The Rock Island Highway Association (Kansas), the Lincoln Highway Association (Colorado), the Overland Trail Club (Nevada),  and the Feather River Route Association (California).
ppoo-illIn its original Illinois routing of the PPOO, only Decatur, an agricultural industry center, and the capital, Springfield, lay on the route. By 1924, both Danville and Urbana wooed the PPOO highway officials into using SBI (State Bond Issue; an early designator for Illinois highways ) 10 as its local path. Since its PPOO days, SBI 10 has had multiple changes to its route. By 1927, Urbana appeared completely prepared for tourism, according to articles in the Urbana Courier and the Daily Illini. There was a significant cluster of automotive service providers on Urbana’s Main Street, now mainly residential. A 1923 tourist camp underwent improvements to its Crystal Lake park location through 1927.

A 1927 map shown on “The Appian Way of America” web page shows how the final route deviated from design. Columbus, Indianapolis, and even San Francisco no longer appeared on the PPOO. Instead, it terminated in Los Angeles. By that time, a motorist could use the straightforward US 66 instead from Chicago westward.

Like so many of the highly logical routes proposed by the National Highway Association, the Pikes Peak-Ocean to Ocean Highway was swerved by civic boosters and emotional appeals. However, the final product never rivaled either the Lincoln Highway or the National  Old Trails Road, later encompassed by US 30 and US 40, respectively, east of the Rockies.

Map from the AGS Library Digital Map Collection
Link to the map in the AGS Library Digital Map Collection:


Link to the FHWA 1927 map: