Milwaukee’s First Brownie–William Wallace Rowland Part Three

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by Judy Aulik

1925 Wisconsin Official Highway Map

Beginning ca. 1924, state official maps had improved dramatically. The distractions of the Poole Bros. base map were gone. Improved highways were noted, which had always been a staple of the “Brownie” columns. The Milwaukee Journal Tour Club began to publish more specialized maps, such as Northern Wisconsin Lakes and their stand-alone Wisconsin maps, printed on heavy stock, in addition to their Call of the Open Road books.

The first blow to the Tour Club came when Wisconsin changed from the large detour maps, installed on large wooden signs at intersections by highway contractors, to the overprinted detour maps issued regularly. Each week, the Tour Club’s Information Station had updated detour information to go with the maps which membership conferred. Another Milwaukee Journal Tour Club function was superseded, although years before, AAA had begun to offer similar service.

After the Great Depression hit, The Milwaukee Journal tried to advertise its Tour Club more prominently in other newspapers. It offered more atlases and transcontinental maps as other states developed their state highway systems, and as the Federal Highway system, introduced in 1926, made cross-country travel more common.

In the same era, W. W. Rowland assumed more responsibility with the Journal. Map offerings by the Tour Club began to dwindle, and by 1933 the Milwaukee Journal Tour Club ceased to exist. Perhaps coincidentally, oil company advertising, especially road maps, reached their artistic peak. Milwaukee local Wadham’s Oil, in conjunction with Langwith, distributed beautiful maps before and after its merger with Socony-Mobil. National companies used either H. H. Gousha or Rand McNally to produce their maps, and Shell and Sinclair are especially noted for their advertising maps of the early ’30s, distributed free, of course. You can only guess what went through Brownie’s mind when the decision to terminate the Tour Club had to be made. Was it nostalgia for the earliest highway trips with his mother? Was there wistfulness for the days he coupled automotive trials and road reviews with his faithful “Poor Cuss?” Or did he merely say to his staff, “Job well done!”?

Eleven more years passed. His sister continued a woman’s column as he reached the vice-presidency at the Journal. In 1944, William Wallace Rowland passed, but “Brownie” lived on in the hearts of Milwaukeeans.

stations-lowres-rev - Copy

-End of series-

Part 1

Part 2
Portions of these blog entries came from research for the Road Map Collectors Association’s publication, The Legend,  and an April 23rd, 2017 presentation at the American Geographical Society Library.

Special thanks to the AGSL guest blogger, Judy Aulik. With an extensive road map collection of her own, Judy Aulik  has served as past President of the Road Map Collectors Association, an organization founded in 1996.  Now boasting a membership of several hundred in the US, Canada, and Europe, the club publishes a quarterly newsletter, has a website, Facebook page, and hosts an annual “Road Map Expo.”  Judy is a retired Adult Services Librarian with a PhD from UW-Madison. She recently spoke to the Wisconsin Map Society about the history of the Milwaukee Journal Tour Club, and its influence on highway signage and mapping. 



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