Pictorial maps that are also known as bird’s eye view city map or map illustrations were popular in the United States from the 1920’s to 60’s These maps showed how vibrant the American culture was during those days. The pictorial maps were usually used to convince people to buy something like a tropical vacation, a version of the American dream or a bottle of bourbon.
Companies used bird’s eye view maps on posters and brochures for advertising. Others were commissioned by state tourism boards and local chambers of commerce to attract visitors and businesses to the city. No matter how the map is used, it always sparks an interest on far-off places and people.
Some of the bird’s eye view maps are geographically correct but most of them cannot be used by a geography student because they are not drawn according to strict scale. It is common for pictorial maps to sacrifice geography for the sake of simplicity or emphasize a point of view.
A certain kind of playfulness is typical in bird’s eye view maps for the sake of fun. The maps reflect pride in the community and the usual cheerful optimism of the American people, which is quite appealing. While pictorial maps are unsuitable for a geography student, many collect them because they reflect a city during a certain period of time.
According to Stephen Hornsby, a professor of geography at the University of Maine and author of the new book “Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps”, pictorial maps told the story of United States and how it emerged as a world power. The economy of the United States was revving and companies have lots of money to spend on advertising. Hand-drawn maps were lavishly illustrated with drawings to invite people to visit certain places like Elvis’ Graceland.
There is always a story behind every bird’s eye view city map from locations to landmarks that were lost due to property development. Maps show the differences between the city today and how it looked decades ago. This is the reason why bird’s eye view maps are not only used as marketing tools; they are subjects of many collections.