road map

The Poole Brothers, Printers of Wisconsin’s Official Highway Maps

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by Judy Aulik

Chicago is known for its “Printers’ Row,” an industrial street which housed several commercial printing firms, one of which was the Poole Brothers. Founder George A. Poole (1843-1916) was originally a partner of William H. Rand and Andrew McNally, but struck out on his own in 1870 along with his brother William. His grandson, George A. Poole III, led the family business after 1930, and was a noted book and manuscript collector.

The Poole Brothers printed some exquisite panoramic view maps, which can be seen online on the Library of Congress site. However, they are best known for their railroad maps, but in the earliest years of road maps, many were overprinted onto a railroad map base. Skokie Historical Society, on its Skokie: A Community History Using Old Maps web page, comments on how these early road maps (1915) weren’t detailed enough to retrace street development and community development because of their railroad genesis. Despite these shortcomings, the State of Wisconsin chose the Chicago printers for its state highway maps in 1918 and 1924 (two maps below).


agdm_14261_smallWisconsin 1918




agdm_7245_smallWisconsin 1924

Possibly due to a flowery, ornate style seen on its railroad-commissioned work, Poole Brothers maps fell out of favor by the 1930s, except for those accompanying railroad timetables. Near the end of its existence, the firm passed through several corporate owners, including American Can Company.  of favor by the 1930s, except for those accompanying railroad timetables. The printers kept afloat by printing journals and trade magazines. Near the end of its existence, the firm passed through several corporate owners, including American Can Company.  Other interesting Poole Brothers maps in the AGS Library include Alaskan territorial gold field maps, plus:

• The 1914 C&NW Wisconsin and Michigan Hunting and Fishing Resorts map, featuring its railroads north of Antigo.  agdm_6974_small

• The 1893 Chicago Evening Journal map of Chicago, showing Streets, Parks, Railroad Depots, Ward Boundaries, with Street Guide. Chicago, Illinois 1893



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


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: