Every month on our home page, we provide a monthly list of maps that have been scanned and added to the online collections of the Geography and Map Division. As has become tradition (previous Year in Review posts), to celebrate the end of a year and to ring in the new, I take a look back at the lists of maps that were scanned this past year and choose just a few to share with you!
The exquisite shading of the map below, scanned in January, was the first thing to catch my eye. Eager to ease travel to the west, the U.S. Congress directed the War Department in 1853 to conduct surveys of the western half of the country for a possible transcontinental railroad route. This map was originally prepared in 1853 to accompany the reports of these explorations for a railroad route to the Pacific. Updated in 1867, this copy has the boundaries of the military departments marked in blue with the name of military posts underlined in red. Also marked out are the routes and dates of various western expeditions, with a listing on the right of the surveys used to create this incredibly detailed map.
Another railroad map, this time from the July list, and made only a decade later, also captured my attention. Titled, Colonists’ and emigrants’ route to Texas, this map is an early example from what would become one of the country’s most well known mapmakers, the Rand McNally Co. Started in 1868 by William H. Rand and Andrew McNally in Chicago, the company first started printing railroad tickets, timetables, and guides. Four years later, in 1872, Rand McNally published their first map in their railroad guide and continue to make maps to this day. The map below, made in 1877, not only gives the viewer a panoramic view of Texas with many of its towns and terrain, but also a larger view of the railway system throughout the eastern United States.
One last map to highlight that I found fascinating was scanned in August. This hand colored manuscript map, made in Japan between 1667 and 1797, depicts salt evaporation fields in Minamata in Kumamoto Prefecture. Manufacturing salt was an important industry in Japan for centuries. Starting in the eighth century, a method known as agehama was used, where water was drawn from the ocean and then spread on banked sand terraces to evaporate. This left behind a brine that was then boiled over a kiln to produce salt. In this map, the salt fields are mapped out with pasted labels of each owner, separated by man-made embankments. Also shown are houses, also labelled with the families names, a shrine, and a local government office building. Today, salt making by the agehama process takes place at only one location in Japan, the Okunoto salt farm on the Noto Peninsula.
There are many more treasures to be found within the Library’s digitized collections! Take a look yourself through what has been scanned this last year or check back every month of this new year for an updated list of the scanned items added to the online collections of the Geography and Map Division. With over 6 million maps in the collection, including the newly scanned panoramic map below, there is still plenty of scanning to do in the coming year!