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1920s Road Trip: The Lincoln Highway in Strip Maps

The following post is by Ryan Moore, a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.

The “strip maps” published by the Automobile Club of Southern California are considered a collector’s item in some circles of map enthusiasts. Strip maps once helped drivers navigate major routes and often included a list of “approved” hotels, restaurants, and auto repair stations. Their name likely stems from the narrow rectangular paper strip upon which they were printed. The maps were made to an exacting cartographic standard, often relying on the U.S. Geological Survey, state highway maps, and local maps as sources of reference.

Detail of Lincoln Highway from Omaha to Chicago and Philadelphia, about 1921. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Detail of Lincoln Highway from Omaha to Chicago and Philadelphia, about 1921. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The Automobile Club of Southern California was founded in 1900. They produced magazines and maps for those interested in road travel. They also participated in debates on transportation policy. Among the many sets of strip maps that they produced, one of the most sought after by collectors is of the Lincoln Highway from Omaha to Chicago and Philadelphia, a set made up of 24 maps. The complete uncut set, seen below, was acquired by the Library in 1921.

Lincoln Highway from Omaha to Chicago and Philadelphia, about 1921. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Lincoln Highway from Omaha to Chicago and Philadelphia, about 1921. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The Lincoln Highway was one of the earliest transcontinental highways.  Conceived in 1912 by the entrepreneur and racing enthusiast Carl G. Fisher, it ran from New York to San Francisco, passing through thirteen states and spanning some 3,389 miles. In 1928, the highway was redirected through a portion of West Virginia, thus it passed through fourteen states and more than 700 cities.  By the late 1920s, the Lincoln Highway was incorporated into various U.S interstates.

Automobile Road Map of the United States, 1918. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Automobile Road Map of the United States, 1918. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Maps back then were important for road trips and remain so today in both analog and digital formats.  So carries on the Automobile Club of Southern California as an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, popularly referred to as AAA.  Its strip maps serve as resource of social and transportation history in the United States. Many of its historic materials, including strip maps and photographs, have been digitized by the University of Southern California and can be reviewed by clicking here.

Edited: The original post stated the strip maps are uncut. In fact, they are cut and assembled on full pages.

5 Comments

  1. Larry
    February 26, 2018 at 6:10 am

    Very neat!! Thanks for sharing!

    Larry

  2. Mark Greaves
    February 26, 2018 at 11:46 am

    I’m a bit confused, the description for the second image states “the complete uncut set” yet you can clearly see gaps between the individual strips of paper and some strips have different tones. So, clearly those are individual strips of paper, not an uncut sheet, right?

    Also, do these exist for the western section of the Lincoln Highway, from Omaha to San Francisco?

  3. Julie Stoner
    February 26, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Thank you for your interest and question. We were incorrect in our use of the word “uncut”. We were trying to indicate the maps were not bound in a book but they are in fact cut and assembled on full pages. We have corrected this in our post.

    In answer to your second question, the Automobile Club of Southern California published strip maps for other sections of the Lincoln Highway, such as Lincoln Highway from Philadelphia to New York and Lincoln Highway from Ely to Salt Lake City. Another set of strip maps of the Lincoln Highway includes from Salt Lake City to Omaha. As to whether they published a set of strip maps covering the distance from San Francisco to Omaha, we have not come across such a set. However, that does not mean one was not created. The University of Southern California Library holds the archives of the Automobile Club of Southern California. To further your search, we suggest looking there. If you find something out, let us know.

  4. Frank Parente
    February 27, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I remember as a child using these strip maps, or maps just like them, for our family road trip from Chicago to Denver in 1953, visiting my mother’s relatives along the way in Iowa, Lincoln and Denver. My brothers and I were in the back seat of our ’51 Studebaker Champion, parents in the front. We all passed the maps back and forth and puzzled out our route along the way. Cool maps and lots of fun.

  5. Mary
    March 4, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    I remember the 1950s strip maps too, and they were stapled together at the “top” (north) to make a booklet. I think the ones we used came from AAA, and they could assemble needed booklets depending on the route and destination.

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