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Geography and Map Division



Thematic Maps and Atlases
Statistical Data
Landownership Maps and Atlases
Land Use Maps
Panoramic Maps or Birds'-Eye Views
Pictorial Maps
arrow graphicGraphic Images on Maps





Graphic Images on Maps
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Shell Road Map: Pennsylvania (Chicago: H. M. Goushá, 1933). Title Collection. Geography and Map Division. Printed with permission of Shell and Rand McNally.

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A variety of visual art material appearing on maps provides an additional source of information about women and their roles in society. For example, cartouches—the scroll-shaped frames containing the map's title, author, and publication information—often contain drawings or engravings. Designed as decorative features of the map, and including elaborate figures, scenes, and illustrations related to the map's content, they also reflect cultural perceptions related to place. Cartouches and other drawings on early modern maps frequently depict the prevailing image of the country or continent shown by feminine personifications, often with Europe portrayed as a genteel lady and America as a Native American woman.

The contrast between America and Europe was emphasized by European cartographers such as Joel Gascoyne, whose 1682 map of Carolina shows a bare-breasted, seductive America (G3870 1682.G3 TIL Vault). Perhaps the best-known allegorical image comes from one of the most important maps ever published of America, the John Mitchell map, which was used to draw the boundaries of the newly independent nation (G3300 1755.M56 Vault and later numerous editions). Mitchell's map shows a Native American woman seated above a male figure with symbols of New World richness—corn, lumber, fishing nets, a beaver, and coconut palm trees. The Native American theme on cartouches gradually gave way to a new image of “Liberty,” an Anglo-Saxon woman who was often surrounded by symbols of freedom. One of the best known images in this genre can be seen on the 1783 Wallis map of the United States (G3700 1783.W3 Vault). (Both images are available online.) (See “‘With Peace and Freedom Blest’” in this volume.)

Advertisements provide additional visual images related to time and place. Twentieth-century road maps published by major oil companies sometimes feature cover art such as the young, attractive woman driving her automobile along the open road, suggesting the growing independence of women (see illustration). A survey of road maps for Michigan, home of the automobile industry, indicates that during the decade of the 1930s more of these “independent women” appeared as artwork on maps than they did during the 1920s and 1940s. Oil company maps of all periods advertise the availability of clean restrooms to women and girls traveling by automobile. Road maps are filed in the Title Collection under the name of the state and the subject “roads”; sometimes they are also found under “gas” or “gasoline.”

Some thematic atlases contain more text, artwork, and photographs than maps. An example is the Illustrated Atlas of Native American History (Edison, N.J.: Chartwell Books, Inc., 1999; uncataloged) edited by Samuel Willard Crompton. Although the volume contains many maps, its primary value to scholars is its illustrations. There are photographs of the Cherokee Female Seminary, which was the first institution west of the Mississippi established solely for the education of women, and many illustrations, some taken from maps and government surveying reports. Artistic renditions of Native American life, pictographs, a formal portrait of Pocahontas, and an engraving after John White's drawing of a Florida Native American woman are also found in this work.

A similar atlas entitled The Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans (New York: Macmillan, 1991; E185.A8 1991) by Molefi K. Asante and Mark T. Mattson includes maps related to the life of Sojourner Truth. Other maps show African American women in the workforce, heads of household, birth rates, an age table for men and women, and the birthplaces of performing artists, including Leontyne Price, Mahalia Jackson, Josephine Baker, Diane McIntyre, Marian Anderson, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey, and Ruby Dee. The atlas also contains many photographs and illustrations, including a section on women's contributions to abolitionism and examples of advertisements for the sale of slaves, including women and children.

A wide variety of graphic material can be found throughout the collections of the Geography and Map Division. The Lowery Collection: A Descriptive List of Maps of the Spanish Possessions within the Present Limits of the United States, 1502-1820, by Woodbury Lowery, edited with notes by Philip Lee Phillips (Washington: GPO, 1912; Z6021.A5 U6), not only provides a list of maps recording Spanish exploration and settlement in North America but also has beautiful, full-color images of women on its title page. Even the verso of World War II maps clipped from newspapers show women's clothing styles and accessories. Locating these resources is often time consuming but can be very rewarding.

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