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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



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[After David Horsey], THE WORLD ACCORDING TO RONALD REAGAN. Information Center of the World Peace Council , [1982-83?].

World Peace Council edition of the World According to Ronald Reagan

An entertaining persuasive map from the early years of the Ronald Reagan Presidency, published by the Helsinki-based World Peace Council and offering a liberal caricature of the Great Communicator’s world view. The map depicts the United States and Soviet Union wildly out of scale with the rest of the world. The United States is divided […]

$750
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Maurice Neumont / P.J. Gallais et Cie., Edit. Imp., En 1788 MIRABEAU disait deja : LA GUERRE est l’industrie Nationale de la PRUSSE [“Already in 1788 Mirabeau was saying: War is the national industry of Prussia.”] Paris, [1917.]

First World War propaganda map by Maurice Neumont, portraying Prussia as an octopus

A brilliantly-designed and brutally-effective First World War propaganda map by Maurice Neumont, 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 the 1871 seizure of Alsace-Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War. Sprawled across Germany is a […]

$2,250
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U.S. Government Printing Office, [Nav War Maps 1 through 6.] Washington, D.C.: Navy Department, 1944.

Striking Second World War “Nav War Map” of the Mediterranean

A mammoth and colorful “Nav War Map” of the Mediterranean issued by the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II. This impressive, separately-published propaganda map was produced in 1944 to highlight the strategic importance of the Mediterranean, which “offers many approaches to Fortress Europe.” It also emphasizes Allied successes there during the Second […]

$1,200
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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 […]

$350
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ARMOUR’S FOOD SOURCE MAP[:] THE GREATNESS OF THE UNITED STATES IS FOUNDED ON AGRICULTURE. [Chicago?] Armour and Company, 1932.

Armour and Company makes the case that meat packing matters

A vibrant persuasive map of the United States by meatpacking giant Armour and Company, making the case for the strategic importance of its industry. Founded in the 1860s by Philip Danforth Amour (1832-1901), Armour and Company was a meatpacking pioneer, using refrigeration, assembly-line methods, canning and economies of scale to become the industry leader. For […]

$1,500
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S/Sgt. [Staff Sergeant] H. F. Brenner, The TRANSPORTATION CORPS IN THE European Theater of Operations. NP, ND, but ca. late 1945.

Spectacular poster celebrating the contribution of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps in WWII

A spectacular and unrecorded Second World War cartographic poster celebrating the essential contribution of the U.S. Army’s Transportation Corps to Allied success in the European Theater. The Transportation Corps was established in July 1942 through consolidation of several functions and units previously distributed between the Quartermaster and Engineer Corps. The new entity was responsible for the […]

$1,750
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Frederic M. Thrasher, CHICAGO’S GANGLAND PREPARED BY FREDERIC M. THRASHER 1923-26. [Chicago, 1927 or later.]

Mapping Chicago’s Gangland during the Roaring Twenties

A remarkable thematic map documenting the distribution of gang activity in Chicago, compiled by groundbreaking sociologist Frederic Thrasher. Chicago’s Gangland was originally issued to illustrate Frederic Thrasher’s seminal 1926 study The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago. Thrasher’s concern was not primarily with “The Mob” of Al Capone, but rather second-generation immigrant children who evolved from “play […]

$1,250
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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 […]

$7,500
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[ Red China ] Robert M. Chapin, Jr., RED CHINA. New York: TIME Inc., 1955

Striking TIME map of Red China by Robert M. Chapin

A striking map of Communist China by Robert M. Chapin, enlarged from a double-page spread in the April 18, 1955 issue of TIME. Chapin’s map uses an unusual projection, simulating an astronaut’s-eye view of China as seen from perhaps a few hundred miles over the Pacific. China is largely colored yellow—an implicit slur, perhaps?—with the […]

$750
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