A persuasive map is one that is designed to make a point, that is, to alter the viewers beliefs or perhaps even spur them to action.  The archetypal use of persuasive maps is for the purpose of political propaganda, such as the “Gerrymander” map, but they can address a wide range of subjects. In fact, we have handled persuasive maps in diverse fields such as advertising, moral education, social science, anti-nuclear protest, women’s suffrage, tourism, and even oil fraud!

The techniques of the persuasive mapmaker are many and varied.  To give just a handful of examples: Spatial distortion can emphasize the heights of mountains to make them appear more impressive for would-be tourists.  Arresting imagery can create an indelible visual metaphor for an enemy or ally.  Selective coloring can emphasize a threat or, for that matter, minimize it.

But a map need not necessarily distort reality to be persuasive.  Consider this map from the Civil War era, which makes use of careful shading to suggest how the pervasiveness of slavery varied across Virginia’s counties.



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A vicious anti-Napoleon broadside including an engraved cartographic satire and with text in Dutch, German, English and French.

A vicious anti-Napoleon broadside

A vicious anti-Napoleon broadside including an engraved cartographic satire and with text in Dutch, German, English and French. On his Persuasive Maps web site, PJ Mode offers a thorough description of a similar broadside, which differs in being English-only. “This is an English-language version of the “corpse-head” or “hieroglyphic” map, “the most widely-known of all the […]

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R. M. Chapin 1943 "Global Combat" map for Time Magazine

R. M. Chapin map of Allied offensives, drawn for Time Magazine

A striking 1943 poster depicting options for Allied offensives against the Axis, drawn by Robert M. Chapin for Time magazine. The poster features side-by-side maps of the European and Asia-Pacific Theatres on a stereographic projection, giving the viewer the sense of seeing the Earth from space. The theatres of war are, in a sense, carved […]

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1904 Russo Japanese War propaganda map

Unrecorded anthropomorphic map from the Russo Japanese War

A previously unrecorded Meiji 37 or 1904 anthropomorphic propaganda map celebrating Japan’s victory in the Russo Japanese War.  This map was issued in May 28 of 1904, immediately following Japan’s successful bombardment and siege of Russian-held Port Arthur (Dalian).  This is the second of four Japanese anthropomorphic maps associated with the Russo-Japanese war, predated only […]

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Franklin Leavitt map of the White Mountains

A wonderful and scarce pictorial map by the renowned White Mountains cartographer, adventurer and poet Franklin Leavitt. By the mid-19th century the transmission of the Romantic ethos across the Atlantic, the rise of a middle class with disposable income, and the development of rail links with coastal cities transformed the White Mountains into a major […]

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1878 Colton missionary map of the world

Mammoth 1878 Missionary Map of the World on cloth

A mammoth and colorful 1878 missionary map of the world printed on linen, highlighting the global reach of the Protestant missionary movement.   This enormous banner features a double-hemisphere map of the world, with national boundaries delineated by dashed lines and major cities identified. Areas served by Protestant missions are underlined in green for American […]

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10 War Department Newsmaps from 1945, focusing on the pivot to the Pacific Theatre

Ten War Dept. Newsmaps from 1945, focusing on the pivot to the Pacific

Ten striking propaganda Newsmaps published by the U.S. War Department during the Second World War, covering roughly the period between the surrenders of Nazi Germany and Japan. Unusual in being accompanied by their original War Department mailing envelope. This run of Newsmaps is not continuous, but all were issued between May 7 and August 13, […]

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A spectacular promotional bird’s-eye view of Mount Washington and the White Mountains, issued by the Boston & Maine Railroad.

Iconic bird’s eye view of Mount Washington

A spectacular promotional bird’s-eye view of Mount Washington and the White Mountains, issued by the Boston & Maine Railroad. By the early 20th century the Lakes and White Mountain regions of New Hampshire were major tourist destinations, with a well-developed network of hotels and resort towns and villages. With the proliferation of the automobile some […]

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Color printing. [Jacques-Fabien] Gautier [D’Agoty] / Gautier fils (engraver), CARTE ABR[E]GEE du CANADA levee sur les lieux par M.*** resident a Quebec année 1754. Paris: [Gautier], 1755.

18th-century cartographic color printing, by Gautier D’Agoty

A rare and fascinating thematic map of northeastern North America by a French artist, printer, anatomist and crackpot geologist, remarkable also as an early example of color printing. A former pupil of Jacob Christoph Le Blon, and a pioneer in color-printing, Jacques Fabien Gautier D’Agoty (1717-1785) improved on the methods of his teacher by developing […]

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World War I propaganda map

A large and dramatic World War I propaganda poster, cleverly demonstrating Germany’s aggressive intentions through the words of her own leaders and intellectuals.  Regions held or allegedly coveted by her are colored an unmistakable blood red. This is one of several such images published by Stanford’s in support of the war effort. References Persuasive Cartography: The […]

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The Prussian octopus

A brilliantly-designed and brutally-effective propaganda map, comparing Germany to a monstrous octopus threatening Europe. Germany is shown in different shadings of red, indicating its numerous annexations of surrounding territory since 1740, the most recent being its 1871 seizure of Alsace-Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War. Sprawled above it is a large octopus in a Prussian Pickelhaube […]

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