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.
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.
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.
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.