California Map Society Conference, May 2015: “The Arbuckle Illustrated Atlases”

CMSAs a new student member of the California Map Society, I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Society’s conference at Stanford University on 2 May 2015. The speakers covered a range of fascinating topics. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing each talk from the event in separate blog posts.

“The Arbuckle Illustrated Atlases” – Leonard Rothman

First up, I’d like to share notes from Dr. Leonard Rothman’s talk. Dr. Rothman has an appreciation for map neckties, Holy Land maps, and coffee. He spoke about the atlases of John Arbuckle, compiled from advertisements distributed in coffee sold by the Arbuckle Brothers Coffee Company.


1890. Image links to source: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. This will be relevant in a later post! :-)

As Rothman explained, Arbuckle’s “Ariosa” Coffee was named for Arbuckle (A), bitter coffee found along the river (RIO), and the mild coffee found in Santos, Brazil (SA). The combination of bitter and mild gave Ariosa its distinctive taste.

Arbuckle’s coffee was successful because, prior to the introduction of his packaged coffee product, consumers had to roast and grind their own beans. This meant they had to use their beans relatively quickly. Arbuckle patented a process for preserving roasted beans to “seal in the flavor and freshness.”

His was the first nationally marketed brand, and Arbuckle used strategies like adding peppermint to the packaged coffee to appeal to children. He also added pedagogical cartoons and maps (accompanied by text praising coffee!) to the packages, and ran a promotional program that involved saving copies of his signature to exchange for items of varied value (a la the Kool Aid label rewards program, or Canadian Tire money).



There were some pretty hilarious items available, as Mark Pendergrast details in Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World:

2010, page 70.

Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds, 2010, page 70.

Rothman focused excerpts from two atlases:

Arbuckles’ Illustrated Atlas of Fifty Principal Nations of The World (1889)


Image links to the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

– Arbuckles’ lllustrated Atlas of the United States of America (1889)


Image links to the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

Along with maps, entries showcased images of local industries (such as mining and farming, or maple syrup in Vermont and grapes in California!), Indigenous peoples (in some cases), population statistics, and sang the praises of the hearty residents of a given state or country whose heartiness was derived–at least in part–from their daily dose of coffee.


Image links to the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.


Image links to the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

Rothman pointed out that not every atlas entry was particularly accurate, as the penguins mistakenly placed alongside the map of Greenland attest:


Image links to the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

He also explained Arbuckle’s role in dismantling the sugar cartel, evading anti-trust laws, and inventing nation-wide marketing in the United States.

Overall, it was a fascinating discussion of some very interesting maps!

Further Reading:

– “Maps from the Arbuckle Bros. Coffee Company,” The Philadelphia Print Shop Ltd.

– “Before Starbucks: Arbuckle Coffee,” New York History Walks, 9 January 2012

– “Coffee as a Disinfectant,” Boston Herald, nd.

The Coffee That Won the West by Francis L. Fugate (1994)


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One Response to California Map Society Conference, May 2015: “The Arbuckle Illustrated Atlases”

  1. Pingback: California Map Society & Stanford Lecture Series Notes | This dissertation is going to be fun, like dessert

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