Mapping the Nation by Susan Schulten (Making Maps: DIY Cartography)

Susan Schulten is a professor of US History at the University of Denver, where she specializes on the history of maps. Her recent book Mapping the Nation is a fantastic resource for historic maps that gave rise to many visualization techniques still in use today.

The connections between historic maps and “infographics” and contemporary visualization is one of the major themes of Visualizing Systems. As the book approaches publication, I am isolating particular techniques such as isolines as seen in Transportation and Rates of Travel below, chloropleths as seen in Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States below, and many, many more. It is so interesting to see how these techniques, many of which emerged from mathematics, are continuously evolving to become applicable to things as diverse as social networking, politics, animal habitat, etc. I will continue to explore these topics in a series of blog posts this fall.

Emma Willard, “Introductory” Map of American History (1828)

Willard’s second map in the atlas marked the earliest voyages to America, and took pains to represent change over time. Note the inclusion of failed voyages and settlements.

Transportation and Rates of Travel (1932)

Here Charles Paullin represented advances in transportation technology in geographic terms in order to depict the qualitative changes over the course of American history.

Map of the Cotton Regions of North America (1862)

Mallet designed this complex map to guide the British as they developed cotton in India, drawing on existing geological and environmental maps from the era.

Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States (1861)

One of the first American attempts to translate the census into cartographic form, and a favorite of President Lincoln during the Civil War.

Map of Bison Distribution Over Time (1876)

This map depicts the shrinking bison population, highlighting the effects of expansion at the nation’s centennial. It became the model for William Temple Hornaday’s well-known map of 1887.

Geological Map of the United States (1872)

This stunning map owed much to its antebellum maps of geology as well as the fine chromolithography of Julius Bien.

For more of maps from Schulten’s book, also take a look at Fast Company’s 11 of the Most Influential Infographics of the 19th Century, many of which were examined for my recent Visualizing Systems exhibit at Harvard. Also make sure to check out John Krygier’s blog Making Maps: DIY Cartography, which is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in unique and sometimes whimsical historic maps.

Mapping Vice in San Francisco 1885 | Mapping the Nation | Susan Schulten | Making Maps: DIY Cartography.