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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.

View Boston Rare Maps Catalog 3, Reformers & Visionaries, Scoundrels and Incendiaries: 250 Years of Persuasive Mapping



214 results, ordered by Publication Date

Items Available for purchase

Rivers / Photo by Malcolm Varon / Printed by Colorcraft Offset, Inc., America Needs MCGOVERN. HE CAN PUT IT TOGETHER. [New York?: McGovern presidential campaign? 1972.]

Cartographic poster for the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern

A striking, quirky and quite rare poster for the catastrophic 1972 presidential campaign of South Dakota Senator George McGovern. The 1972 campaign took place against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, ongoing cultural upheavals and the still-fresh memories of Kent State and the assassinations of two Kennedys and Martin Luther King. I was only five […]

$950
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The Dangerfield Printing Co. Ltd., SUBJECT NATIONALITIES OF THE GERMAN ALLIANCE. London: Stanford’s Geographical Establishment, ca. 1917.

Subject Nationalities of the German Alliance

An imposing First World War Allied propaganda map highlighting the hegemonic nature of the Central Powers and arguing for a post-war reorganization of Europe according to the principle of national self-determination. The map depicts Europe and the Near East, color-coded to indicate the dominant nationalities in the vast region then controlled by the Central Powers of […]

$750
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Bruno / Imp. Paul Dupont, LIRE LA BASTILLE Journal Hebdomadaire Illustré ANTIMAÇONNIQUE [“Read La Bastille, the Illustrated Weekly Anti-Masonic Newspaper”]. Paris: [Paul] Copin-Albancelli, ND [but ca. 1906].

Octopus map reflecting French anti-Semitism at the turn of the 20th century

A spectacular albeit noxious French persuasive map using the octopus motif to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Freemasonry. As in other European nations, French anti-Semitism has a long history, most famously manifesting itself in the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s and collaboration with Nazi deportation of Jews during the Second World War. In the public mind, Jews were […]

$4,500
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E[phraim] Gilman, Draftsman, / P. S. Duval’s Lithy. Philada., [Untitled map of the United States.] Washington, D.C., 1848.

Fascinating map of the United States promoting President Polk’s agenda

A fascinating map of the United States prepared in late 1848 to accompany President James Polk’s final annual message to Congress.  The map was drawn on short notice by Ephraim Gilman, at the time the Principal Draftsman of the General Land Office. Gilman’s map depicts the United States as a trans-continental power, a status achieved […]

$1,500
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John C. Mulford, Chief Cartographer / C. C. Faunce, Cartographer / A. Hoen & Co., Baltimore, GOOD ROADS EVERYWHERE[:] TOURING EASTERN UNITED STATES SHOWING 100,000 MILES OF MAIN TRAVELED HIGHWAYS…. Washington, D.C.: National Highways Association, Automobile Club of America and Keystone Automobile Club, 1926.

Pitching a “Four-Fold System of Highways”

An exuberant and entertaining 1926 persuasive map of the Eastern United States by the National Highways Association (NHA), touting construction “of a system of 250,000 miles of United States highways … to be built and forever maintained by the United States Government.” The map depicts the eastern section of a vast proposed national highway network, […]

$2,500
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VOTES FOR WOMEN A SUCCESS [:] The Map Proves It. New York City: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, Inc., February, 1914.

Rare women’s suffrage handbill with an iconic persuasive map

A clever handbill arguing for the expansion of voting rights for women in the United States, using a persuasive map to highlight the expansion of suffrage across the states. The handbill features a small map of the United States, with the states shown in simple outline and shaded according to the extent of voting rights enjoyed by […]

$1,500
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Pattillo Higgins, REVISED MAP OF JEFFERSON COUNTY, TEXAS. SHOWING LAND SURVEYS, RAILROADS AND WATER WAYS. Beaumont, Texas: Pattillo Higgins, 1898.

Before Spindletop, Pattillo Higgins puts Jefferson County, Texas on the map

A very rare 1898 promotional map of Jefferson County, Texas. Published by Pattillo Higgins, the Father of Texas Oil, a few short years before the gusher at Spindletop transformed the global oil industry. Background Higgins (1863-1955) was born in Sabine Pass, Texas but spent most of his life in nearby Beaumont. His unpromising early years were marked among other things […]

$6,750
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Earl Purdy / Division of Information Federal Public Works Administration, PWA REBUILDS THE NATION. Washington, D.C.: Public Works Administration, [1935-39?]

Vibrant government poster promoting the New Deal and the Public Works Administration

A delightful Depression-era propaganda map issued by Federal Government to promote the contributions of the Public Works Administration, one of the major programs in FDR’s New Deal. The PWA was established by the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act and was tasked with spending billions on major public construction projects to generate employment and help stabilize […]

$3,000
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[Theodore Geisel and Munro Leaf] / Army Orientation Course, Special Service Division, Army Service Forces, [recto:] THIS IS Ann.. …she drinks blood!  [verso:] NEWSMAP / MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1943. Washington, D.C.: War Department, 1943.  Double-sided poster printed in color halftone, 34 ¾”h x 47”w at sheet edge. Minor smudging at one corner, else excellent.

World War II anti-malaria poster by Doctor Seuss

A clever, striking and rather rare pairing of anti-malaria poster and pamphlet produced for members of the American military during World War II, illustrated by Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.   The Japanese conquest of Indonesia and the Philippines in early 1942 cut the Allies off from their supply of cinchona bark, which provides the […]

$1,750
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