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Posts Tagged ‘maps

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing”*…

 

What did the United States look like to Ottoman observers in 1803? In this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled “The Country of the English People” (“İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi”). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the “Government of the Six Indian Nations.” Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis)….

See a larger version of the map and learn more about it and about the history of Turkish maps of North America at “The Ottoman Empire’s First Map of the Newly Minted United States.”

* C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

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As we ponder perspective, we might recall that it was on this date in 1918– four years and a day after joining World War I as allies of Germany– that the Ottoman Empire surrendered and signed an armistice with the Allies at Mudros, ending the war in the Middle Eastern Theatre.

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Written by LW

October 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

“It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago”*…

 

A page from Anna Heermans’ 1875 project, A Hieroglyphic Geography of the United States

These pages… tell little stories about the New England states and New York, in picture form. Published by E.P. Dutton & Co., a company that then specialized in juvenile texts, the pictorial atlas was intended for children’s use—an attempt to bring life to geographical information through imagery.

A rebus (the broad name for this type of writing system) replaces words, or parts of words, with pictures. To take one example, from the New Hampshire page:

Translation: “Mt Washington, the most elevated peak, is 6,234 feet high. The summit is an acre of comparatively level ground, upon which is the Tip Top House.”

More (and larger) examples, and a discussion their significance in the history of geographical education, at the redoubtable Rebecca Onion’s “Go Ahead, Try to Decode This 19th-Century Rebus Atlas of New England.”

* Dan Quayle, who might have avoided the gaffe had he paid more attention in geography class… or not.

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As we consult our maps, we might recall that it was on this date in 1919 that the first transcontinental air race in the U.S. got underway.  63 planes set out from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, vying to be the first to reach San Francisco, 5,400 miles away.  The winner, Belvin W. Maynard, an Army Lieutenant and Baptist preacher from North Carolina, reached the Presidio in his Havilland DH-4 (Named “Hello Frisco”) in just over three days. He and his two-man crew rested and serviced the plane for another three days; and then returned to Long Island in just under four days.  The victory made Maynard such a celebrity that the Army assigned him to PR and recruiting duty, and his native Winston-Salem named its first airfield for him.

Soon thereafter, however, Maynard fell afoul of the Army.  While delivering a series of both lectures and sermons in New York in November of 1919, the Flying Parson averred that many military airmen were accustomed to flying drunk, and that drunkenness had been the cause of the twelve deaths during a recent aerial derby.  In a sermon just days later, he condemned the women of New York for their lack of clothes and frivolous lifestyles.  The Army yanked him off of the publicity trail and discharged him.

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Written by LW

October 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

“When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign: that the dunces are all in confederacy against him”*…

 

Genius follows its own law of gravity. It migrates in ever greater numbers to where it thrives. Hence places like Silicon Valley – and attempts to replicate it elsewhere, like London’s Silicon Roundabout. The phenomenon is older than the microchip, of course…

Watch the centers of creative gravity migrate through Europe, from 1400 to 1950, at “The Geography of Genius.”

* Jonathan Swift (the inspiration for John Kennedy Toole)

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As we put on our sailin’ shoes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1853 that Steinway & Sons sold its first piano in the United States.  The company had been founded in March of that year by Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who’d started making pianos in his native Germany in 1935 (and who didn’t officially change his name to “Steinway” until 1864).  Working in a loft on Varrick Street in Manhattan, he called his first U.S. piano “Number 483″ as he’d built 482 pianos before immigrating.  It was sold to a New York family for $500.  Over the next thirty years, Henry and his sons, C. F. Theodore, Charles, Henry Jr., William, and Albert, developed the modern piano; almost half of the company’s 127 patented inventions were developed during this period.

An “Original Style” Steinway piano like #483

source

* Jonathan Swift

Written by LW

September 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

“In politics the middle way is none at all”*…

 

In the midst of the intense partisanship we experience today– with Americans polarized into red and blue camps and no convergence in sight– it’s easy to forget that much of the nation’s history was characterized by similarly-intense political rivalry, especially the late nineteenth century.

The map above, created in 1883, was created by Census Superintendent Henry Gannett, and  published the massive Scribner’s Statistical Atlas, which included maps of each presidential election.  The series ended with this unprecedented attempt to map the returns of the 1880 presidential election not just at the state but the county level.

Such data maps are routine today. But this one stunned nineteenth-century Americans by showing them a nation organized not according to railroads and towns, or mountains and rivers, but Democrats and Republicans. The parties, of course, represented entirely different agendas then, and even their color associations were reversed. On the Scribner map, red denotes Democrats, while blue marks Republicans. Yet the overall portrait is strangely familiar, with red blanketing much of the south while blue spreads across the north. (As to the color scheme reversal, it’s a bit of a mystery. Republicans are now generally represented with red and Democrats with blue, a change that seems to have taken hold sometime after the 2000 election. But other colors were used as well through the twentieth century, as in Paullin and Wright’s Atlas of 1932.)

The 1880 campaign itself was rather routine, with little of substance to differentiate the two parties aside from their positions on tariff policy. Yet the election itself was as much of a nail biter as 1876 had been: nine million Americans turned out, and when it was over Republican James Garfield had outpolled the Democrat by a margin of just 7,000 votes nationwide.

Focus on the outcome by statesthe only measure that matters in the Electoral Collegeand the map shows a nation that seems hopelessly divided along a north-south axis, still fighting the Civil War by other means. Democrats control the former slave states, while Republicans hold an edge in the northeast and Midwest… the map revealed spatial patterns and relationships that might otherwise remain hidden, or only known anecdotally. Perhaps its no coincidence that at the same time the two parties began to launch more coordinated, disciplined, nationwide campaigns, creating a system of two-party rule that we have lived with ever since.

More all-too-familiar-seeming charts and graphs– and an account of the social and political temper of those times– at “The Story Behind the Ancient Map That Invented Red and Blue States.”

* John Adams

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As we party on, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that the Lincoln-Douglas debates began.  It was the first of a series of public encounters on the issue of slavery between Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky-born lawyer and one-time U.S. representative from Illinois.  The two politicians, the former a Northern Democrat and the latter a Republican, were competing for Douglas’ U.S. Senate seat.  In the seven debates–each lasting about three hours–Lincoln argued against the spread of slavery while Douglas maintained that each territory should have the right to decide whether it would become free or slave.  Lincoln lost the Senate race, but his campaign brought national attention to the young Republican Party– whose Presidential candidate he became two years later.

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Written by LW

August 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”*…

 

(detail)

In 1813, Isaac Eddy and James Wilson created a “Chronology Delineated,” a history from 4000 BC to 1813 AD in the form of a large, living tree on which each branch representing an empire or state.

 click here (and again on the image there) for a zoomable version

 Via HistoryShots

* Percy Bysshe Shelley

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As we get down with Gibbon, we might note that this, the first day of July, kicks off National Blueberry Month, National Cell Phone Courtesy Month, National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month– and perhaps most saliently, National Anti-Boredom Month.

From our friends at Instuctables:  an Anti-Boredom Kit.

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“Ah, to think how thin the veil that lies Between the pain of Hell and Paradise”*…

 

 click here for enlargeable and navigable version

From the remarkable Russian periodical, INFOGRAFIKA (see also here), a handy map of Hell.  per the title of this post, one just never knows when it might come in handy…

* George William Russell (AE)

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As we bird-dog Beatrice, we might send sardonic birthday greetings to Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce; he was born on this date in 1842.  A journalist, editor, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist, Bierce is probably best remembered for his short-story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (which Kurt Vonnegut considered the greatest American short story, a “work of flawless genius”) and, pace Dante, for his scathingly satirical lexicon The Devil’s Dictionary

  • Advicen. The smallest current coin…
  • Boundaryn. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other…
  • Yearn. A period of three hundred and sixty-five disappointments…

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“Ideologies do not map the complete living processes of a World”*…

 

We expect maps to tell us the truth. That is their eternal promise. But maps can’t help lying to us. That is their original sin. To be more precise: the map’s lie (or sin) is one of omission. They show us just one version of the truth, carefully edited by the cartographer.

This map does one better: it gives us not one but two versions of reality. Both are contained within the same frame, staged on a single world, denoted by an identical set of shading. All you need to do is tilt the image a quarter turn, and the cartographic form reveals an alternate version of the truth, while remaining entirely commensurate with the first one.

Clever and simple, as most brilliant things are.

The map shows you the world as it is in Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s political parable of a dystopian future (he wrote it in 1948) in which the world is dominated by three totalitarian superstates.

The book is set in Airstrip One, “once called England or Britain”, a province of Oceania. This superstate covers North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and large parts of middle and western Africa.

The second superstate is Eurasia, which covers continental Europe, Russia all the way to the Bering Strait, a small sliver of North Africa and a big chunk of the Middle East and Central Asia. The smallest superpower, at least in area, is Eastasia, essentially China, Japan, Korea and the northern half of the Indian subcontinent.

These three superstates are engaged in a war for global dominance. The battle is fought in two contested zones: the Polar Front, covering the North Pole plus northern Greenland and bits northern Canada and Siberia; and the Equatorial Front, a zone stretching from North Africa via the Arabian peninsula and the southern half of the Indian subcontinent all the way to New Guinea.

No single superstate is strong enough to win a victory on its own. So one superstate allies itself with another against the third. But no single superstate is weak enough to be defeated by the other two. With alliances shifting over time according to perceived strategic advantages, this is an eternal war…

Winston Smith, Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s protagonist, works at the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to eradicate newly inconvenient truths from photos, newspaper archives and encyclopaedia entries. All evidence of what was previously self-evident and true must be destroyed by throwing it in the Memory Hole.

This map, by pointing out the before and after simultaneously, would have been tantamount to blasphemy. But, by pointing out the similarities between two opposites, it hints at the frightening ease with which an audience preconditioned to Doublethink can process cognitive dissonance in accordance with the ruling ideology.

Or, as David Kendall, who found this map here on The Visual Telling of Stories, puts it rather more straightforwardly: “You tell me that isn’t the most clever use of shading, orthography, and legend placement to ever grace the printed page.”

Read the whole story at “Orwellian Cartography 101: How to Tell Two Truths with One Map“… and remember: the map is not the territory.

* William Irwin Thompson

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As we toe the line, we might spare a thought for Orwell’s critical antagonist, Evelyn Waugh; he died on this date in 1966.  A prolific journalist and writer of non-fiction, Waugh is best remembered as a novelist (e.g., Decline and Fall,  A Handful of DustBrideshead Revisited, and his trilogy of Second World War novels, Sword of Honour.  Waugh was a “difficult” man; writer James Lees-Milne judged him “the nastiest-tempered man in England.”  Indeed, when asked by Nancy Mitford how he reconciled his often objectionable conduct with being a Christian, he replied that “were he not a Christian he would be even more horrible.”   On his passing, long-time acquaintance and photographer-to-the-stars Cecil Beaton reckoned that Waugh “died of snobbery,” observing  that “his abiding complex and the source of much of his misery was that he was not a six-foot tall, extremely handsome & rich duke.”

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Written by LW

April 10, 2014 at 1:01 am

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