Milwaukee’s First Brownie–William Wallace Rowland Part Two

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by Judy Aulik

In a strange burst of synchronicity a century ago, two numbered highway systems arose: that of commercial map publisher Rand McNally, and that of the State of Wisconsin. One interpreted the national blazed trails, the other rejected it entirely. W.W. Rowland catalyzed the latter.

1920rmnshsRand McNally cartographer John Brink understood that a road map with written trail names along its roads was confusingly cluttered. His $100 idea was to place a legend on the Auto Trails (and Junior Auto Trails) maps with a number, the trail marking, and the trail name. Routes were tagged with the number in white in a dark rectangle. Although Rand McNally did attempt to sign these roads, the waterproofed cardboard signs were unlikely to survive the way Goodrich’s Guide Posts would. The clutter Brink removed, however, reappeared in advertising of area hotels and restaurants in certain road maps.

Consider using a highway map to navigate. The maps of the last 90 years had alphanumeric symbols printed on each highway, and road quality was designated by the type or color of line used. Try navigating through a major city if these signs are absent from the road! Navigating the state had the same trouble prior to 1918. Before the State Highway Trunk System, you were lucky to have a map. The Journal map insets, and accompanying text, plus The Call of the Open Road showed you if, for instance, a road was unimproved and likely to be muddy, but unless a trailblazer had marked the route, you wouldn’t know if you were on the correct road unless it followed a railroad or river.

After Wisconsin State Highway Commission employees A.D. Hirst and W.O. Hotchkiss developed the system, numbering the highways from 10-99 according to the length of each, in one mad week in May, 1918, county highway departments erected numbered road signs. The first major style was a wooden post with a flared top. The cut yielded triangular sign, with the route number above WIS in the tapered point was painted on the face. It was also used as a milepost, with the mile number painted on the round post beneath the route sign.


Although the state official 1917 map was not intended for the tourist, it bore some resemblance to the modern road map. By 1918, it was improved. Blazed trails were deemed illegal in the state, although only the Yellowstone Trail was truly affected. However, the map still looked a bit makeshift, with the state trunk highways in red, overlaid on the Poole Bros. map base. Mileages between cities or intersections were still unlabeled, and highway surfacing unmarked. In use, until the mid-’20s, Wisconsin official maps, although free and accurate, fell short of the nearly streamlined maps The Milwaukee Journal and its Tour Club provided at low cost for the auto tourist.

-End Part Two-

Part 1

Part 3

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. 

Milwaukee’s First Brownie–William Wallace Rowland Part 1 of 3

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By Judy Aulik

wwrowland The Milwaukee Journal has a unique role in the history of Wisconsin’s State Trunk Highway system, thanks to one man: “Brownie” Rowland. Born in 1878, he worked his way up from office boy “Wallie” to becoming the Journal’s vice-president. But in the meantime, he was known to millions as “Brownie,” accompanied by his sidekick on the Wisconsin roadways, “The Poor Cuss.”

Early on, Rowland realized that two things were needed to improve the lives of auto tourists: good maps and good trailblazing. Nationally, beginning in 1912, the few good roads were known as “Blazed Trails,” and the best known of these was the Lincoln Highway. Predating the more well-known route, however, was the Yellowstone Trail, the only transcontinental blazed (named) trail to pass through Wisconsin.

In true Wisconsin spirit, he set out–at first with his mother as navigator–to 16806991_1343151472405824_4377947373314305350_nmark the better highways of the state as Journal Roads. These mapped routes were printed in the Sunday Journal. Parallel to this effort was that by the Wisconsin Advancement Association, which blazed convenient roadside objects with geometric blazes in red, white, or yellow; considerably more primitive than the Journal markings.

By early 1916, an ad in the Journal urged people to keep a scrapbook of maps clipped from the columns found in the sport section. Maps could come from other sources, such as B.F. Goodrich Company promotions. But something was brewing which lasted to the end of Prohibition: The Call of the Open Road.

1916fcThe 1916 edition wasn’t revolutionary. The maps were the insets previously seen, plus a state map of Tentative Main Travelled Roads of Wisconsin, from late 1915. Some of the WAA trails were shown. However, the narrative style of previous guidebooks and the concept of navigating by landmarks were to be replaced with maps.


Final two image credits: Rowland, William W. The Call of the Open Road: Helpful Maps of Wisconsin Tours (Milwaukee, Wis.: Milwaukee Journal, 1916). Online facsimile at

-End part one-

Part 2

Part 3
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. 

AGSL Acquired “Shoreline” by Leah Evans

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by Susan Peschel

Recently the AGS Library acquired a “map” entitled, Shoreline, from Wisconsin fiber artist, Leah Evans.

Leah was one of 21 artists to participate in the prestigious 2015 Smithsonian Craft Show held in Washington, D.C. and was chosen to receive the first “Honoring the Future Sustainability Award” for this piece. The award “recognizes an artist whose work educates the public about climate change or inspires or models a sustainable response to climate change.” ( click here for more information )

Leah’s description of this piece provided for the show’s application sums up a recurring theme in her designs:

“An overarching theme in my work is human impact on the environment. Effects of climate change addressed in my current work include species loss and displacement, changes in shorelines and subsequent effects on human and wildlife communities, and water conservation. Through handwork and a majority of re-purposed materials, I create subtle reminders of how our actions can create both destruction and opportunity.”

This beautiful work is on permanent display at the AGS Library in the UWM Golda Meir Library.



French nautical charts at the AGSL

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by Sam Balistreri-Daum

I have been working as an intern here at the American Geographical Society Library for the past few months, and my work is focused on indexing and cataloging 19th and 20th Century nautical charts. These charts originate in various countries consisting of hydrographic surveys from around the globe.  This has been an amazing project to be involved with and I would like to share my progress on the French nautical charts created by the Service hydrographique de la Marine and its predecessor, the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la Marine.

The Service hydrographique de la Marine (today the Service hydrographique et océanographique de la Marine or SHOM) is an office of the French Ministry of Defense, established in 1720.  While there are obvious military and strategic implications for the creation of detailed nautical charts, the Service Hydrographique also provided a public service by making accurate charts available to navigators sailing for business and recreation. (Wikipedia)  The collection of French nautical charts at the AGSL features charts from around the world including South and Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Polar Regions, the Pacific Islands and Europe as well as world maps and various tidal and atmospheric charts.


The charts themselves are remarkable not only in their accuracy but in the standards employed in their presentation.  The charts are printed using a method called intaglio printing, where the detail of the map itself is etched on a hard surface, such as copper, inked, and then pressed to paper.  The AGSL collections also features a guide to the design and creation of these charts entitled Dispositions Générales Relatives aux Cartes et Plans (1914).


Dispositions Générales Relatives aux Cartes et Plans (1914).

This guide was helpful in understanding the structure and format of nautical charts from the presentation of scale, terminology and printing methods.  Here are a few formatting examples from among the many that are included in this great resource.



Hubbard Park was once an outdoor beer garden and amusement park

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” … Ravenna Park was a private amusement emporium and was the last in a series of predecessors to Hubbard Park, a retreat on the east bank of the Milwaukee River in Shorewood. It started when F.A. Lueddemann opened his farm to the public in 1872. Otto Zwietusch, a soda-water maker and inventor, bought Lueddemann’s-on-the-River the next year fir $9,000 and turned it into his Mineral Springs Park. In 1900 it was sold again, to become Coney Island, an amusement park complete with a roller coaster. But Coney Island lasted only three years. It was revived in 1905 as Wonderland, and its owners added a Ferris wheel and a tower covered with electric lights. In 1909, R.W. Hopkins changed Wonderland into Ravenna, adding movies, a miniature railroad and a “laughing gallery.” Milwaukeeans reached the amusement park via the suburban railroad and later on streetcars. In 1916 it was divided into three parts: today’s Hubbard Park, a residential neighborhood adjacent to it and Electric Co. streetcar yards off Edgewood and Oakland Aves., which now is the site of an apartment complex for the elderly.” – Milwaukee Public Library Digital Collections –



To view this Sanborn map in more detail at the UWM Libraries Digital Collections.


Here are some postcards from the UWM Archives Digital Collections that depict the amusement park as it was …


Bump the bumps, 'Wonderland,' Milwaukee
Bump the bumps, ‘Wonderland,’ Milwaukee


Panoramic view, 'Wonderland on the River, Milwaukee'
Panoramic view, ‘Wonderland on the River, Milwaukee’


Wonderland, Free Vaudeville Act, Milwaukee, Wis.
Wonderland, Free Vaudeville Act, Milwaukee, Wis.



Native American Mapping of the Belcher Islands

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This map is the central object in the story of how geographical knowledge was passed from an Inuk man named Wetalltok to a non-native explorer. In an article in the Geographical Review in 1918, Robert J. Flaherty (1884–1951) recounted the story of how, while he was searching for iron ore deposits on the east coast of Hudson Bay, Canada, Wetallok explained the intricacies of the bay’s island system and shared with him this remarkably accurate Eskimo map, which Flaherty reproduced in the article.


Flaherty later became a director and producer whose first film, Nanook of the North (1922), was one of the best known documentaries of the silent-era. Flaherty also told the story of his encounter with Wetallok in his 1924 book, My Eskimo Friends: “Nanook of the North.” Recent historians of cartography, notably G. Malcolm Lewis in Cartographic Encounters: Perspectives on Native American Mapmaking and Map Use, and Lewis and David Woodward in History of Cartography, also have used the map as an example of indigenous cartography.

The map is drawn with pencil on the back of a missionary lithograph. Notations are in English and Inuktitut syllabics. Flaherty’s annotations include “Little Whale River” [with arrow], “Whale River” [with arrow], and “3 days = dogs = app. 70 miles.”

Missionary lithograph that Wetallok’s map was drawn on.


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

Creating a school wall map in 1913

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This print shows three building views of Justus Perthes’ Geographische Anstalt in Gotha, Germany. The illustrations show the process used in the creation and printing of Justus Perthes school wall maps in 1913.

View this item in the AGS Library Digital Map Collection


Points identified in red are indexed in: Wie eine Schulwandkarte entsteht : eine Führung durch die lithographischen Werkstätten von Justus Perthes’ Geographischer Anstalt / von Hermann Haack, 1913 (viewable here: )