{ subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/geography-and-maps.php' }

A Rare Atlas of the First World War

A anatomial chart showing five horses.

S.B. Willsden & Co. Willsden’s Unrivaled Livestock Anatomical Chart. 1914. Geography and Map Division.

 

On October 27, 2022, the Library of Congress held an event for members of the Philip Lee Phillips Society, the Washington Map Society, and the Friends of the Library of Congress. The event was named “Explore the Depths of the Geography and Map Division.” Unusual maps and atlases from the collections of the Geography and Map Division were displayed during the event. While searching for maps to display, I retrieved a unique atlas titled The Deseret News Atlas. The atlas was printed in 1914 for the Deseret News Publishing Company in Salt Lake City.

The Deseret News Atlas contains detailed maps of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, and the Panama Canal Zone. The atlas is unique because it also contains anatomical charts of farm animals with descriptions of their diseases and treatments. The anatomical charts were published by a firm named S.B. Willsden & Company. One of the charts from The Deseret News Atlas is featured on the right.

The  S.B. Willsden Company was based in Chicago and owned by Samuel Blake Willsden. Farmers purchased Willsdens’ Unrivaled Livestock Anatomical Charts for the care and treatment of their animals.

I decided to learn more about Samuel Willsden and discovered that he published  a World War I atlas titled The World’s Greatest War. The first edition of The World’s Greatest War was printed in 1914, a more detailed edition was printed in 1917. The Library of Congress holds both editions of the atlas, a digitized version of the 1914 edition is available  here.

The earlier edition contains detailed information about the royal families of Europe, histories of the nations at war, losses in wars since the year 1300, and other historical information. The atlas includes photos of aircraft, ships and weaponry. The second edition includes a chronology of World War I and a copy of President Wilson’s message to a joint session of Congress on April 2, 1917, when he called for a declaration of war against Germany.

The atlas is rare. Cataloged records show that two other institutions hold copies of The World’s Greatest War, the library at the University of Chicago and the library at the University of Oregon.

Featured below are a few maps and photos from Willsden’s atlas.

 

A map of European countries superimposed over a map of the United States.

S.B. Willsden & Co. The Relative Areas of the World’s Great Powers. 1914. General Collections.

 

A map of Belgium and France dated from 1917.

S.B. Willsden & Co. Western Battle Front: Nieuport to Reims. 1917. Geography and Map Division.

 

A map showing the northwestern theatre of war.

S.B. Willsden & Co. Northwestern Theatre of War and the North Sea. 1917. Geography and Map Division.

 

Photos of aircraft used during WWI.

S.B. Willsden & Co. Fighters of the Air. 1917. Geography and Map Division. 

 

Photos of the Battleship Pennsylvania, United States troops and a submarine.

S.B. Willsden & Co. Battleship Pennsylvania. 1917. Geography and Map Division.

Image of the cover of the atlas.

S.B. Willsden & Co. The World’s Greatest War. 1917. Geography and Map Division.

There is very little information about Samuel Blake Willsden (1867-1930). He was born in Brooklyn and died in Chicago. Willsden moved from Brooklyn to Illinois at a young age and spent time in Nebraska and Kansas. The S.B. Willsden Company was located in the  Heyworth Building, a Chicago landmark. Business directories dated from 1911 to 1930 list his name under newspaper specialties, printers, publishers, and novelties. In addition to the World’s Greatest War he also published a book titled World Tour National and American League Base Ball Teams. A copy of the book is held in the general collections of the Library of Congress. The book has been digitized and is available here.

Publishers in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston led the mapmaking trade until the late 19th century. Chicago became the map publishing center of the United States after the Civil War. Rand McNally, George F. Cram, the Poole Brothers, and other Chicago based companies dominated the mapmaking industry. In this post I have focused on a rare atlas and a lesser-known map publisher from Chicago, Samuel Blake Willsden.

Learn More: Read about the history of mapmaking and map publishing in Chicago in the Encyclopedia of Chicago.

 

 

Louise E. Jefferson – A Hidden African American Cartographer

This is a guest post by Iris Taylor, a senior cataloging specialist in the Geography and Map Division. It is a common belief that you can acquire inspiration from a variety of people, places, or things. Seanna Tsung, a Library of Congress staff member, recently uncovered a unique collection of maps in the Geography and […]

Jules Verne and His Geographical Novels

Jules Verne was a prolific writer. He is often referred to as the “father of science fiction.” Verne became famous for his Voyages Extraordinaires, a series of 54 novels that were originally published by the French publisher and author Pierre-Jules Hetzel. The most widely read novels from the series are Around the World in Eighty […]

Nicolas de Fer:The Royal Geographer

The French cartographer and engraver, Nicolas de Fer, was a master at creating maps that were works of art. The maps that he published were printed during the Baroque period when the decorative arts were characterized by ornate detail. De Fer’s detailed maps and atlases were valued more for their decorative content than their geographical […]

William Hacke: A Pirate’s Cartographer

William Hacke was one of the most prolific manuscript chart makers for his time. According to the Oxford  Dictionary of National Biography Hacke produced over 300 navigational charts from 1682 to 1702. In this post I will briefly discuss his career and his role in the pardon of the notorious pirate Bartholomew Sharp. William Hacke was […]

Millard Fillmore: Lawyer, President, and Map Collector!

President Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) was elected to the Office of the Vice President of the United States in 1848 and, due to the untimely death of President Zachary Taylor in 1850, Fillmore became the 13th President of the United States. From the standpoint of the Geography and Map Division, however, Millard Fillmore’s most important contribution […]