“[M]ap-obsessed, to a degree quite uncharacteristic of middle America”

A while back, I read an exchange about a book (and review) that really stuck with me. The article, in the journal Cartographica, was a “Review Article of Denis Wood’s The Power of Maps and the Author’s Reply” by Barbara Belyea, with a response from Denis Wood.

It’s kind of an amazing exchange (as in, I am left amazed by it), and interested folks can go read it in Cartographica Volume 29, numbers 3 & 4, 1992, pages 94-99, if you have institutional access to the journal. So much happens in there, but for now I’ll just focus on Wood’s “call for an ethnography of map use among contemporary Americans.”

In the spirit of attending to “map immersion,” I’ve been collecting maps that I notice in passing on websites, road signs, license plates, product labels, t-shirts, and other sources. Someone (TM) was surprised to learn about some of the places where I found maps, so I thought I’d share some URL / address bar maps to offer a nod to the pervasive (dare I say?) nature of maps.

alabama VT


 (This one’s on the page, rather than in the browser address bar.)

url mi

tx wisc





 (Images link to more maps!)

Granted, the process of collecting ALL of the maps that I come across has become a bit tedious to friends and family members (“PULL OVER I HAVE TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THE STICKER ON THAT TRUCK!” “No! We are on the highway! Close the door! What is wrong with you?! I thought grad students were supposed to be smart!”), but it has been interesting to attend to the banal and persistence presence of maps.


Are there maps everywhere? (Decoration in my aunt and uncle’s condo.) What are the implications of representation for understanding environmental history, colonialism, and contemporary identity politics tied to geographical understandings? Also, where did they get that it is cool.

Are maps reminders of place, signals of identity, signals of colonialism, or just pretty decorations? Stay tuned for the stunning conclusion. (Spoiler: probably all four and more, depending on the context!)

PS In case you thought I forgot about Canada (and, really, how could you while reading this blog?), here’s your Canadian content in the form of a URL map-as-logo / icon:


(Unlike the address bars above, this doesn’t link to any additional images right now because I’m password protecting / hoarding all of my dissertation research until The Thing is DONE.)

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On this day in history: Estevan, Saskatchewan


On this day in history…


(He starts singing at 1:16. You can use this link or fast forward to skip the chatting if you prefer.)

In a little mining village
Scarcely noticed on the map
Bourgeois guns were turned on workers
And their life’s blood there did sap.

No one dreamed of such a slaughter
In that town of Estevan.
That armed thugs with guns and bullets
Would shoot men with empty hands.

Just a protest from the miners.
And boss bullets then did fly,
Caring not who was the target
Or the number that would die

Blazing forth nine hundred bullets
Bodies full of lead did fill,
Murdered three, and wounded twenty-
But the Cause they could not kill.

Three more martyrs for the miners,
Three more murders for the boss
Brutal laws, to crush the workers
Who dare fight in Freedom’s cause.

As those miners lay a-dying
In their agony and pain Whispered,
“Though we die for freedom,
Yet we do not die in vain.”

“For we know our class will triumph
Whey they shall united stand;
They will tkde the world for labor
And the workers rule the land.

Then the workers’ day of vengeance
Will be proclaimed with each breath;
Labor’s cause is right and mighty
And beyond the reach of death.”

- Canadian Miner, Calgary, 30 January 1932, via Begbie Contest Society

Canadian Labor Defender, Toronto, November 1931, in Great Canadian Political Cartoons edited by Charles Hou & Cynthia Hou.

Canadian Labor Defender, Toronto, November 1931, found in Great Canadian Political Cartoons edited by Hou & Hou.

Additional Sources:

BienfaitThe Saskatchewan Miners’ Struggle of ’31 by Stephen Lyon Endicott

Estevan Coal Strike” by Garnet Dishaw in The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan 

Estevan Riot,” Wikipedia

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This post took more thought than most politically-themed mailers.

There is a hilarious (by which I mean mostly pitiful) debate raging in the mailboxes of Irvine about the upcoming election.

My mom does always say to think about the things that you post on the internet, then think about them again, and then probably just don’t even.

I didn’t think too hard before publishing that link posted above, because it was hurting my eyeballs to scrutinize democracy in/action too closely.

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Texas / Kansas / Banana For Scale

Researching maps usually involves thinking about perspective and scale.


Maybe the best part of “Jurassic Park.”


Banana for scale.

There’s a popular(ish) meme that involves taking a picture with a banana somewhere in the image to show the relative size of other items in the photo.

Here are some maps that use Texas like a banana:


Alaska asks, “Isn’t Texas cute?”

dont-mess-w-ri-either Don’t mess with Rhode Island either.

Here’s one featuring Kansas for scale on a map of Europe:


Found on a map calendar given to me by KM.

And some more uses of countries as scale for other countries:



From Pictorial Maps by Nigel Holmes, page 166

From Pictorial Maps by Nigel Holmes, page 166

Note: Images jump to other pages!


Someone shared a photo of this delightful Texas-unicorn t-shirt that I had to share:

tx unicorn

And here’s a 1936 map of the United States with England & Wales for scale:

Map of United States 1936

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Things to do / see / eat in Chicago(land)

Sometimes people email me and they are like “HEY I AM GOING TO CHICAGO” and I am like “AWESOME” and then I type them up an email of everything I think they should do. From now on, I’ll just send them this link because LAZINESS (aka “stream-lined efficiency”). [I wrote about Stuff To Do in Chicago before, but I forgot that I did that, so here's my revised list.]

The name Chicago is derived from an Indigenous word that is widely considered to mean “smelly onion.” As a Settler (or non-Settler) visiting or living in the territory, you have an excellent opportunity to appreciate the colonial legacy of the grids, buildings, and environmental transformation all around you, as well as the present-day colonial implications of commerce, industry, transportation, and residency in the Chicagoland area and the broader North American context. Chicago was founded in 1833, so that leaves several hundred millennia unaccounted for in most (re)tellings of the area’s history.

Adapted from timelines of Canadian and Australian history via @InsideHistory on Twitter.

Adapted from timelines of Canadian and Australian history via @InsideHistory on Twitter.

With that in mind, regular readers know the drill. I like to eat food and read books. With those emphases in mind, here’s a partial and evolving list of thing to do / see / eat in Chicago for future visitors and / or Settlers and / or residents and / or other interested parties (all of which can be intersectional categories):

Myopic Books in Wicker Park is a great place to wander for hours and hours through precariously stacked shelves. It’s a treasure trove for book lovers / readers, and I found way too many while I was there (including some Doonesbury, Nature’s Metropolis, and some Brian Andreas anthologies, to list only the books nearest to me at the moment). (Thanks, CP!)

– If you, like me, have a greeting card / stationery problem, it’s definitely worth checking out the cute wares at Paper Doll (2027 West Division Street). (Thanks again, CP!)

– Likewise, Paperish Mess (1955 West Chicago Avenue) is an awesome place to poke around, pass some time, and pick up some Chicago map art, greeting cards, stationery, or paraphernalia.

– The Art Institute is a pretty rad museum. (If you bring a student ID, you get a discount! If you’re a Chicago resident, you get an even better discount.) It’s right beside Millennium Park, which generally has live music or ice skating or interactive sculptures or garden walks or other things to get up to whatever the weather.

– The Field Museum has very interesting exhibits. If you find yourself down in Hyde Park, there are great bookstores and a nice place for burgers / milkshakes called the Medici. Plus there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house down there with a decent tour, and the University of Chicago campus is pretty fancy.

– The Newberry Library (60 West Walton), if I haven’t swooned about it enough in this blog, is super awesome. It’s a public research library! You can go use it! As long as you are over 16 with a photo ID! Everyone who works there is really helpful and kind, and their gift shop has SUPER ADORABLE / AWESOME books and greeting cards. They also have exhibits and events (and host weddings – man, missed opportunity!) and the time traveler in The Time Traveler’s Wife totally worked there (it’s fiction. shut up, I know that. don’t watch the movie – it’s the worst!).

– The John Hancock building is really tall. It has a lounge on the 95th floor, and an observation deck on the 96th floor. The observation deck costs lots of money and you don’t get a chair. The 95th floor lounge costs the price of a drink ($10ish, depending on what you order), and you get a chair so you can sit and look out the window at the awesome views of the city (if you find buildings and grids and lakes and boats aesthetically pleasing). Plus you can sit there as long as you like / order more drinks / tip well. Don’t forge to go to the lady’s room for the best view out the windows! (Not a joke.)

Harold Washington Library, in addition to being an awesome public repository for books, has a very nice top floor with a glass roof if you like to look at buildings / architecture.

– If you do zoos, the Lincoln Park zoo is free. They have a nice light exhibit around the winter holidays.


– The Chicago Architecture Foundation puts on a great river tour. They also have walking tours, which are likely just as good. (I’ve only been on the river tour like 30 times – I have yet to do a walking tour!)

– The Chicago Cultural Center offers free neighborhood tours hosted by authentic Chicagoans. Worth checking out if you want to get off the beaten tourist trail, although the Bean and all that is nice, too.


– There are lots and lots of theaters and performances in Chicago. The Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier puts on great shows, but there are many, many more venues, including Second City, the Chicago Theater, the Beverly Arts Center. There’s opera, ballet, orchestral performances, singing, dancing, comedy – check the free weeklies for concerts, shows, stand up, or whatever strikes your fancy!

– The Hideout at 1354 West Wabansia Avenue is a place I had never even heard of before Bingo night with CP. It was really fun! They served hot dogs and beer – and we played Bingo. What’s not to like? It’s up-wind from the Chicago garbage truck lot, so we were in pretty good shape for Bingo night.

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. They decide how much your ticket costs by rolling dice. I can’t even explain how much I love this show. Just go. My one regret in life is that I only started attending their performances recently when I could have been going for my entire life! (That’s it, that’s my one.) It is super-fantastic. Maybe the most fantastical thing ever. (I say this as a person who has attended a pirate and ninja wedding reception, which was pretty great, but this might have been better.)

– Caught a jazz performance at Kingston Mines on Halsted with JZ. Having only been there once, I would say it’s great! Also, showing them our student IDs got the cover charge waived. Woohoo, free music.

– You can find more amazing jazz over at the Green Mill (at 4802 North Broadway Avenue). They are open until 4 am! (That was really awesome when I lived next door. Now, it is still awesome, but my life is less conveniently located.)

– While you’re in the neighborhood, hit up the Tattoo Factory (at 4441 North Broadway Street). You know you want a Chicago flag tattoo. ALL the kids are doing it, and inevitably some of them are cool, so you, too, could be a cool kid with a Chicago flag tattoo.

– I swear one time I went line dancing at a cowboy bar in Chicago. I’ll have to get KP to remind me of the details on that, because it was pretty fun… But it’s worth wandering around to see what you can get up to on the streets of Chicago!

– For additional wanderings, you could check out Chicago’s underground Pedway (which will be useful, depending on the weather!). I knew about Montreal’s underground network of tunnels, but I first learned about Chicago’s Pedway from a December 2007 article in Chicago Magazine by Kim Conte. (There are apparently other secret tunnels, as well as some not-so-secret.)

Of course, on the topic of FOOD, there is much to say! I’ll leave you with:

– Bourgeois Pig Café has a quirky and delicious menu. (Thanks, JZ!) We sat outside under the trees in the shade at sunset and had a great chat, which I’m sure is influencing my review of the establishment. Also, the dude at the counter had on an awesome shirt and was very pleasant. Nice place to have a relaxed coffee / sandwich / intellectual banter session.

Oysy Sushi (50 East Grand Avenue) was recommended to us by some Marylanders in Southern California, but they were spot on. Lunch there was great!

– Hot Doug’s is apparently closing (sad), but you can still get a Chicago-style hot dog! Broadway Grill & Pizza (I did not know that place had a name until I Google’s it), just next door to the Green Mill, has hot dogs and they are open LATE. I know this because reasons.

– Finally went to the Berghoff on my last visit to the city. It was interesting to finally go inside the beer hall. Dinner was pretty good. I don’t think I need to go there again, but I’d recommend it if you like Chicago lore, because the backstory on that place is convoluted (like most things).

– There is so much pizza. I like… Fox’s (veggie is great!), Connie’s (deep dish), Waldo Cooney’s, Pizzeria Uno (because tourists), Giordano’s (deep dish)… You know, I am sure that there are blogs about this. All the pizza in Chicago is good, except for Pizza Hut and California Pizza Kitchen, which I am ruling out mainly because I have never eaten them.

– There are loads of neighborhood bakeries (Swedish Bakery, Beverly Bakery, any bakery anywhere in Pilsen), as well as doughnut shops (Glazed & Confused, Stan’s Donuts), if sweets are your thing.

– Beer! There is so much beer in this city. Go nuts with microbreweries if that’s your thing. Goose Island is particularly Chicago-y.


This list is strongly informed by a recent summer in Chicago. Additions will be added as I recall more. (And the overlap with the last list I made of Stuff To Do in Chicago tells you that my recommendations are so solid, I came up with some of them twice.)

I haven’t even started on comic book shops, thrift stores, 24-hour diners, Cubs games, Sox games, cross-town classics, boutiques, or general restaurant recommendations… but it’s a great city to visit and explore and critically analyze, so have fun! (More suggestions are always welcome.)

Kudos to lots of friends for several of the recommendations on this list! :-)

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Scotland: Map-Mania


In light of yesterday’s referendum, here are some timely maps-as-logos and carto-caricatures:

_62937303_graph304x300 Scottish independence. Is it Scotland marching into the past? 'Go on then, walk out. But don't come running back to me when you run out of money.'

'The future's this way.'

0 1961547_662154397165294_980255488_n-438x620 506619537

cover_9781849545945 scotland_independence_facebook_cover



Disunited Kingdom, from the subreddit community r/MapPorn

Disunited Kingdom, from the subreddit community r/MapPorn

And, in conclusion:

UK 00678r

Herblock, circa 1939-1943, via the Library of Congress

Or maybe…

We'll end on a more pro-USA jingoistic note via Busted Tees.

We’ll end on a pro-USA jingoistic note via Busted Tees.


Great minds think alike. :-) There are some more map cartoons of Scotland up at BlueSkyGIS!


 brought these to my attention via the medium of tweeting.

Rupert Besley's Greetings from Scotland postcard.

Rupert Besley’s Greetings from Scotland postcard.



"A correct outline of Scotland" by Lillian Lancaster

“A correct outline of Scotland” by Lillian Lancaster

Cartoon of Queen Victoria, Le Rire, 22 April 1899

Cartoon of Queen Victoria, Le Rire, 22 April 1899

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Swipes #42: Manifest Jersey

Sometimes, New Jersey takes over everything:

usa NJ

From the 13 October 2010 episode of South Park on Comedy Central (via BlueSky GIS).

usa nj2 “Manifest Destiny,” 28 May 1998

If you’re interested in seeing more New Jersey carto-caricatures (map cartoons, logos, and so forth), the link jumps to a (growing) collection.

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Selfies, Foodies, & Other Redundancies

Continuing the theme of “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” here are two cartoons:


Mount Rushmore selfie by Jimmy Margulies (2013)


Alternately labelled as “Before Instagram” or “Before Facebook,” this image posits Paul Cézanne’s work as the precursor to contemporary food pics.

Others have commented on the similarities between historical self-portraits and modern-day #selfies. For example, one tumblrite (tumblr-er?) wrote:

selfie culture

I like these images because they showcase the artificiality and arbitrariness of the boundaries between art, popular culture, self-portraiture, and historical or inherent meanings and values of visual images.

Plus, the four dudes and Cézanne just look ridiculous, which is an important element of caricature (in my not-so-humble opinion).

(Their farcical appearance lends further credence to the cartoonists’ critiques and biting commentary on the preposterousness of the modern condition, with its built-in historical and contemporary redundancies and inanities, someone more pretentious than me might say.)

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NEH: Application for “Mapping Nature Across the Americas”

This is the first of what might wind up being 20 posts summarizing an awesome summer at the Newberry Library for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) seminar “Mapping Nature Across the Americas.”

For curious parties, or future applicants, I’ve included part of my application letter of interest here to give you an idea of some of the research questions that guided my archival work over the course of the program:

Excerpt from Amanda Murphyao’s Mapping Nature Across the Americas National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Application

William Faden

Cartouche by William Faden,
“A map of the Inhabited Part of Canada…,” 1777.

William Faden detail

Detail from cartouche by William Faden,
“A map of the Inhabited Part of Canada…,” 1777.

The beaver features prominently in Harold A. Innis’s seminal text on Canadian political economy, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History. In fact, the book opens with a discussion of the mating habits of the beaver, which segues into a discussion of the animal’s suitability as a source of fur for hats. The beaver appears on the cartouches of many historical maps, alongside figures of waterfalls, rocks, trees, and other “natural,” exploitable features of the Canadian environment. Innis argues that the beaver trade dictated European expansion into the North American continent, and the waterways dictated the route that they would follow. Former fur trading posts have become cities on the water with names like Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Chicago.

As a young Chicagoan, I first became aware of the impact that the Indigenous and European fur trade networks had on my home city while on a field trip that involved singing French Canadian voyageur songs with intrepid IMSA history teacher Claiborne Skinner and falling out of a canoe at Starved Rock State Park. Since then, I have learned from Peter Williams—over a delicious meal of seal meat curry—that Alaska Natives may harvest marine mammals for subsistence, and that sea otter fur makes incredibly soft (and expensive) hats.

I offer this brief foray into the history of haberdashery and my nautical misadventures to illustrate questions that are central to my research and teaching: what can practices of adornment—from hats on heads to cartouches on maps—tell us about the commodification of land and resources? How can an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to history and geography transform our understandings of the environmental imperatives underlying North America? What are the implications of ongoing resource exploitation for the future of our society? How can educators support students as they go from learning that “Joliet, Illinois” is an anglo-cized name of a French Canadian and a french-ified name of an Indigenous term, respectively, to studying the federal legislation around marine mammal protection in the contemporary global fur trade? In short, where have we been and where are we going?

Interrogating the construction of nature through maps of environmental history is a fruitful avenue for understanding the world and how people find a place in it. It was delightful to discuss these topics in further depth during the seminar. Some answers, but mostly lots more questions that came up over the course of the summer, will be covered in subsequent posts!


neh app

This post was re-tweeted by the NEH account, so I thought I just wanted to add a small tip to future applicants out there (if paper applications are still required next year!). If you can afford the $6 or so for covers and binding at a copy shop, your finished application will look really polished and professional (and will garner notice from the selection committee! At least in my anecdatal experience.). :-)

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Fifty U.S. States & New Shapes

As the Swipes File more broadly demonstrates, there can be many ways of presenting the same information, as well as different approaches to presenting geographic places (spaces?). Here are some variations on the theme of the United States (reunited as a skull, an alternative UShapia, and a heart):



"States United"

“States United”

As part of research into and thinking about the intersections of cartography, cartoons, caricature, comics, communication, and colonialism (the 6 Cs!), I’ve launched several websites to showcase images of territory that I have collected so far:

- Ushapia (the term for maps of the United States missing Alaska and Hawaii)

Washington, DC

- Florida Carto-Caricatures

- California Carto-Caricatures

Illinois Carto-Caricatures

- Other US states in cartoons, maps, carto-caricatures, and logos

- Canada Carto-Caricatures

- Québec Carto-Caricatures

This collecting process is helping me to think about carto-caricatures and banal colonialism as part of my dissertation and other research projects. If you come across cartographic imagery and you’d like to share, I would be happy to see more!

(My current research focus is on the present-day United States and Canada, but I am interested in the claim-making of cartographic imagery more broadly–dare I say globally?)  :-)

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