The cartography of hopes and dreams: The nineteenth-century bird's eye maps of the midwest and prairie states

2010 2010

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Abstract (summary)

Over 5,000 bird's eye views of nineteenth-century North American cities and towns completed between 1820 and 1920. These maps provide an important documentation of the American landscape but have long been overlooked by the cartographic community. Adapting technique from landscape painting, military mapping and cadastral surveying, the bird's eye map makers created one of the most popular mapping formats of the nineteenth-century.

This study focuses on the bird's eye maps of the Midwest and prairie states between 1865 and 1918, which was a tremendous period of change for the entire country. The end of the Civil War changed how the world saw The United States, and how we saw ourselves. Much of this introspection was undoubtedly the result of the influx of thousands of immigrants into the Midwest and prairies and the promise of the American Dream.

This work looks at the cartographic components of 483 maps of the Midwestern Territories and the major artists who developed a profitable niche market within the larger commercial map trade that flourished during the nineteenth-century. They constructed maps rich in the iconography of patriotism and civic pride that were unparalleled in their ability to communicate sense of place. As these maps were carefully constructed graphic displays of local and regional characteristics, it was possible to "deconstruct" the maps into symbols, iconography and text that could be quantitatively studied though a modified version of context analysis. The application of context analysis to the bird's eye maps proved to be a very useful method of measuring the occurrence of cartographic elements of the map as well as documenting the changes in the maps over time that would eventually transforms the message of the map.

Underwritten by railroads, real estate developers, local governments and proud local citizens, these incredibly detailed maps matched the desire of a nation in pursuit of its Manifest Destiny. These portraits of democratic idealism enticed thousands of settlers to the Western Territories. Today they are a seldom tapped repository of spatial and cultural information.

Indexing (details)

0366: Geography
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Bird's eye maps; Bird's eye views; Content analysis; Nineteenth-century cartography; Panoramic maps
The cartography of hopes and dreams: The nineteenth-century bird's eye maps of the midwest and prairie states
Williams, Roberta
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Patton, Jeffrey C.
Committee member
Bennett, D. Gordon; Nelson, Elisabeth S.
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
College of Arts & Sciences: Geography
University location
United States -- North Carolina
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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