Judy Aulik

Road Maps in Transition: 1920-1925

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by Judy Aulik

    Wisconsin officially numbered and sign posted its highways between 1916 and 1918, following the state trunk highway system (STH) designed by A.R. Hirst. Illinois followed in 1918 with its first round of state bond highways (SBI), and Michigan began its M system in 1919. After a five year gap, when Rand McNally resumed publishing road maps in 1917, later coupled with a proprietary, rudimentary, coated cardboard road marking system and an arbitrary space saving numbering system, it resulted in a peculiar set of road maps with five distinct highway designations, including the blazed trails, such as the Lincoln Highway. Had Rand McNally chosen the detail allowed by Wisconsin’s unusual county trunk highway lettering systems, it would have had six!

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     The Wisconsin State Historical Society has digitized maps of this era, as they have unquestionably passed out of copyright. Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and northern Illinois comprise District No. 8 in the Auto Trails Map series. Cartographer John Brink had an entry in a company contest which won him $100. His big idea: make a clearer highway map by numbering the major roads and trails, using a map legend which assigns a Rand McNally route number to each trail.

     However, the decluttering concept fell by the wayside as his employer began to sell advertising, primarily for garages and hotels. printed in red in the clear space left.

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     Clearly, the extra information could prove helpful to the auto tourist. However, Brink’s Rand McNally route numbers, in white on a dark rectangle, generally conflicted with the route numbers used by the states. For example, the National Parks Pike, its eastern terminus in Madison, was designated as No. 9 on the Rand system; STH 19 (designating the highway as the 9th longest in Wisconsin) from Madison west; and blazed in red, black, and white for the National Parks Pike. After 1926, the Federal Highway system, which took over the best state routes, cleared up the confusion. The No. 9 route east of the capital city eventually became US 151; plus STH 19 west, on into Iowa (Primary Route 19; also the National Parks Pike), US 18.

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    Other highways the Federal Highway System also subsumed included SBI 4, which became US 66; a westerly stretch of the Yellowstone Trail in north central Wisconsin, which became US 10; and the mother of all renamings: the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial Highway (ca. 1915), which became SBI 5 (ca. 1918-1967), which also was co-blazed as the poorly publicized and long forgotten Atlantic-Yellowstone-Pacific Trail  (1923, per the Iowa DoT) in northern Illinois, which was taken over by US 20 (ca. 1938, now Business US 20 in segments). Confusing, yes, but that’s why road maps and highway history are so fascinating!

 Sources:

http://cdm15932.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/maps/id/14541

https://iowadot.gov/autotrails/atlantic-yellowstone-pacific-highway

 

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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Milwaukee’s First Brownie–William Wallace Rowland Part Three

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by Judy Aulik

1925nowilakes
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.

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-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. 

 

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.

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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.

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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 http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1680

-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.