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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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1912 United States of Guggenheimerica

Cartoon map taking aim at the Guggenheim mining empire

An unusual and mildly anti-Semitic cartographic cartoon from 1912 taking aim at the power of the Guggenheim Family and their purported corrupt dealings in Alaska. The cartoon depicts the United States in outline, towered over by eight of its industrial titans. East of the Mississippi are Morgan, Rockefeller and Carnegie, glaring across the river at […]

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Puck cartoon satirizing the Benjamin Harrison Presidency

A splendid cartographic cartoon lampooning the flood of Republican office seekers after the 1888 election of Benjamin Harrison to the Presidency. The image has President-elect Benjamin Harrison emerging from a skylight in the roof of his home and using a telescope to look out over the dozens of aspirants scattered about the country (While Harrison’s […]

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Extremely rare 1902 promotional map of Harris County Texas

A separately-issued, detailed and extremely rare promotional map of Harris County Texas, published at a transitional moment in the region’s history. The map was published in the immediate aftermath of two epochal events in the history of southeast Texas: the catastrophic Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901, which […]

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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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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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Main Administration of Geodesy and Cartography, ПОЛИТИЧЕСКАЯ КАРТА МИРА / РАССТАНОВКА СИЛ НА МЕЖДУНАРОДНОЙ АРЕНЕ [“Political Map of the World [:] The Alignment of Forces in the Global Arena.”] Leningrad: Political Division of Naval Bases and Naval Academies, Jan. 1, 1970.

Warsaw Pact propaganda map emphasizing the imperialist threat

A fantastic propaganda map, issued at the height of the Cold War and using geopolitical statistics and other simple persuasive techniques to overstate the threat posed to the Warsaw Pact countries by “imperialist” forces. The map was produced by overprinting geopolitical statistics on a standard-issue Russian-language world map. A table at top center lists 14 […]

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Prospectus for the Compagnie Franco-Américaine … with three unrecorded maps!

Very rare mid-19th-century French prospectus promoting investment in the Compagnie Franco-Americaine, which proposed to operate transatlantic passenger steamers between L’Orient and Norfolk, Virginia. With three seemingly unrecorded maps charting the journey from Lorient in Brittany to Norfolk, Virginia, and thence via railroad into the interior of the United States. The opening of the American West […]

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Mary Ronin's 1958 pictorial map celebrating American diversity

Mary Ronin pictorial map celebrating American diversity

A colorful and upbeat pictorial map of the United States celebrating the “great diversity in its land and its people.” Drawn by Mary Ronin and published by the Department of State for the United States pavilion at the Brussels Universal and International Exhibition, better known as Expo 58. I quote at length from P.J. Mode’s […]

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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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