Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paddle-to-the-Sea is on Google Earth!

A young Indian boy carves a little canoe with a figure inside and names him Paddle-to-the-Sea. Paddle's journey, in text and pictures, through the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean provides an excellent geographic and historical picture of the region.
When I was in school one of the teachers showed us the movie version of Paddle-to-the-Sea. At first I thought it was kind of dumb watching a kid carve a canoe and I probably wasn't paying complete attention. Then suddenly, the canoe slid down the hill and into the river and began its journey. I was transfixed and transformed and all those other cliches. Ever since then the movie has had a powerful hold on my imagination, though not in the forefront of my mind until I found out that you can see it in Google Earth.

The COSEE Great Lakes web site allows you to download a kml file and explore it, chapter by chapter. Here are the beginning chapters from the Nipigon River region of Ontario.

Paddle the enters Lake Superior. After heading the wrong way and getting stranded on beaches and marshes, it eventually finds its way to the Soo Locks with the help of a dog sled.
After a detour through Lake Michigan, it ends up in the lower Great Lakes where it tumbles over Niagara Falls and into the St Lawrence Seaway.
Finally reaching the Atlantic it gets caught by a French fishing boat and brought to France.
The book itself is worth re-reading or even purchasing. I took a nicely worn copy of it out of the library. Here is an image of the main map from the book taken from SecretPlans.

In addition to the geography lessons, the book also diagrams a sawmill, a canal lock, a lake freighter and several other industrial processes that take place in the Great Lakes region. It also has diagrams that morph the lakes into recognizable shapes long before morphing became fashionable. Lake Superior is morphed into a wolf's head, while Huron becomes a trapper carrying a pack of furs.The maps also show the birthplace of the Dionne Quintuplets - this must have been a big story for the pre-octomom era. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Film Map

In honor of this weekend's Academy Awards, here is a Film Map from Dorothy, an art collective based in the U.K.

The Map, which is loosely based on the style of a vintage Los Angeles street map has its own Hollywood Boulevard and includes districts dedicated to Hitchcock and Cult British Horror movies. Like most cities it also has its own Red Light area. There's an A-Z key at the base of the Map listing all the films featured with their release dates and names of the directors.

Here is a detail of Reservoir Dogs (Silver Lake) from their News page.
Finally, one more detail of the Killing Fields of Los Feliz.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Map of Chicago's Gangland

On my recent visit to the Newberry Library, I walked into the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography. It was not clear whether the public is welcome there but the room was unlocked. On a large table under glass was a copy of A Map of Chicago's Gangland from Authentic Sources. This is a tounge-in-cheek map from 1931 "designed to inculcate the most important principles of piety and virtue in young persons and graphically portray the evil and sin of large cities."

This map romanticizes the prohibition era and Al Capone style gangsters with details showing events from gang wars, neighborhoods such as Little Sicily, bootleggers, auto theft, Mrs. O'Leary's cow, a lawyer running to spring his client and machine gunners from Detroit arriving for "Post-Graduate work," and a scale of murders, instead of miles. Gangland killings are marked with skulls and crossbones. Here is a detail of the area around the Newberry.
The map can be seen in greater detail at the Encyclopedia of Chicago.

Note the cartographic and cultural differences between a 1931 gangster map and the current map.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Purple is the New Scary

With winter storm Nemo* bearing down on us the weather cartographers have decided that purple is now the scary color. Kind of like the recent Australia maps except this time indicating snow instead of heat.

Maps are from The Weather Channel. Apparently oblique is now the scary map angle. Working in the "Action" zone, I just set up our town's emergency mapping function - sounds more exciting than it really is.
So hunker down and buy all the bread and milk you can find, it's going to be a purple day for many of us. 

* Since when do they name snow storms? It used to always be the Blizzard of (Insert Year Here.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Newberry Library-Part 3

In addition to the vast holdings that can be accessed in the map room, the main sections of the library also have a treasure trove of maps on the walls and in the stacks. I had the opportunity to examine and photograph their prints of the remarkable "Maps Descriptive of London Poverty, 1898-9" by the British philanthropist Charles Booth.  These maps are part of a 12 volume set in which he colored in each block of a set of Ordnance Survey maps from 1897.

The information for each block was gathered by social investigators who followed policemen on their beats. The comments of the police officers were combined with their own personal observations.
The color scheme is described by Booth as follows:
Black: Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.
Dark Blue: Very poor, casual. Chronic want.
Light Blue: Poor. 18s. to 21s. a week for a moderate family.
Purple: Mixed. Some comfortable others poor.
Pink: Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings.
Red: Middle class. Well-to-do.
Yellow: Upper-middle and Upper classes. Wealthy.
From the above map you can see that Victoria Street was quite well off while very close by Great Peter Street was in the lowest two classes.

It appears, from this detail around Blackfriars Road in South London that the main streets were "well to do" areas, but there was lots of poverty along the back streets and alleys. The middle classes apparently didn't mind living by the lunatic asylum.
Below is another section on the edge of Regent's Park. I chose this partially uncolored section to show the wonderful detail of the old Ordnance Survey maps.
The London School of Econmics has an interactive version of these maps. You can scan zoom and pan to any section of London and see what it looked like in 1898.