clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How Chicago Put Itself on the Map as a Cartography Capital

Chicago has had a long, distinguished history of cartography, a legacy born of the city's central location and long-time role as a transportation hub (as we've previously covered). A new article from CityLab explores how Chicago stole the East Coast's mapmaking crown in the middle of the 19th century as lithographers such as Henry Acheson and Edward Mendel moved to town and Rand, McNally & Co., a publisher of railway guides, began utilizing more flexible techniques, such as wax engraving and quicker updates, to chart the nation's expanding settlements and transportation lines.

In addition to Rand, McNally & Co.'s expansion, the city's booming publishing industry, as well as civic mapmaking enterprises, such as those of Jane Adams and Hull House and Burnham's Plan of Chicago, rapidly expanded the territory being mapped out and the storytelling potential of cartography. As the article neatly summarizes, these different trends helped chart the "grandeur of economic success for some, and the pain of societal ills for others."

·Chicago, the Last Great Capital of Cartography [CityLab]
·Cool Map Thing archives [Curbed Chicago]