On our road trip from Chicago to Seattle, I was quite fond of pointing out (usually during periods of inclement weather and / or unusual traffic patterns, such as why are you trying to force us off the road, truck?!) how lucky we are that Google Maps and assorted digital cartography resources even exist.
“What did people even do in the olden days?! I mean, if you got lost in 1983, what would happen?! How did all of those hippies even get to San Fransisco in the 1960s? How did they pay for gas? What was the plan?” I would wonder aloud as weather and trucks hampered our progress toward our just-booked-on-priceline hotel.
Or, as Dumb and Dumber puts it:
Lloyd: I’m only human, Harry! Come on! Stop being a baby. So we backtracked a tad!
Harry: A tad? A tad, Lloyd? You drove almost a sixth of the way across the country in the wrong direction! Now we don’t have enough money to get to Aspen, we don’t have enough money to get home, we don’t have enough money to eat, we don’t have enough money to sleep!
Of course, this over reliance on digital technology overlooks the historical importance of phone books and atlases, amiright?
This realization came to me all of a sudden like when I found a mention of the Chicago-to-Milwaukee Photo-Auto Guide from 1907 published by the Rand McNally Company in an article I was reading.
I immediately stopped reading things related to my dissertation and hit up the ole Library of Congress digital archives. What a treasure trove of magical pre-Internet street views!
Here’s the link to every page of the Guide, and here are some of the gems I found (alongside their contemporary iterations):
Obviously, I could do this all day, because it’s loads of fun. Perhaps less obviously to me, I can’t do this all day – back to work!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief foray into Chicago and map history. Feel free to browse the rest of the book. It’s amazing! I am amazed.