The pictorial maps symbolize an undervalued form of American visual art. The illustrated maps will provide direction for people who want to acquire something, whether for a brand or a vacation in another country.
Pictorial maps were flourishing in the United States since 1920 till the 1960s, according to professor of geography at the University of MaineStephen Hornsby. He is also the writer of Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps. “The book shows the liveliness of American popular culture,” he continues.
The maps shown in Hornsby’s book were created by selected businesses and printed on brochures or posters as a tool for promotion. The other illustrated maps were styled by the local government agencies trying to entice more companies and guests to check out the area. Others were made to satisfy the interest of schoolchildren and invite faraway people to these places.
“The maps portray a certain kind of playfulness to have all the fun,” says Hornsby. “This is how to be proud of our community as much as the inclusion of the American optimism, which can turn out inviting.”
Hornsby’s love for pictorial maps dates back to his childhood. His family used to live in Sri Lanka as his father worked at a base for the British Royal Air Force. His mother worked as a teacher where she kept illustrated maps of the island designed by Gill MacDonald, an influential British graphic artist. The map is extravagantly shown with elephants, leopards, and other animals. On the waters of the island coast are colorful ships, which turn out a great fascination for the imagery.
However, pictorial maps weren’t important topics of study for a graduate student in geography, especially that he had collected maps from everywhere. Hornsby placed aside his interest for maps while building his career. A leave in 2013 offered him an opportunity to revive his interest in them for his book.
Amidst the Depression and World War II, he continued his interest for pictorial maps. However, in the 1960, photography was introduced to American advertising, and many illustrators renowned for illustrated maps had their careers nearing to an end. Although there are some artists and cartographers still interested in this fascinating pictorial maps, the genre of today never recovered its midcentury popularity.