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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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H[enr]y Mayer, THE AWAKENING [in:] Puck[:] WOMAN SUFFRAGE NUMBER [:] WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 20, 1915 PRICE TEN CENTS. New York: Puck Publishing Co., February 1915.

The Awakening … an iconic map of the women’s suffrage movement

The Awakening, a great rarity of persuasive mapping and “the most striking of the “suffrage maps,” which played a major role in the successful fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S.” (PJ Mode) 1915 saw the decades-long battle for women’s suffrage move to New York State: In January the legislature forwarded to voters a referendum […]

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THE EAGLE’S NEST. “THE UNION! IT MUST AND SHALL BE PRESERVED.” Hartford: E. B. & E. C. Kellogg, 245 Main St. and New York: Geo. Whiting, 87 Fulton St., 1861.

Terrific patriotic Civil War lithograph by the Kelloggs

A rare pro-Union political cartoon, published by the Hartford-based firm of Kellogg during the Secession Crisis of 1861. “This 1861 hand-colored political print by E.B. and E.C. Kellogg is one of a series of nine Civil War cartoons published by the Kellogg family that feature animals. It is filled with recognizable anti-secession symbolism and would […]

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Annie G. Lyle and Archive Rice, Political Sentiment Map Of United States [:] WHAT POLITICIANS DON’T KNOW. San Francisco and Washington, D. C., 1931.

Crunching electoral data to re-elect Herbert Hoover

An extremely rare broadside by two fans of Herbert Hoover, analyzing the results of the 1928 presidential election and revealing some of the less appealing elements of the politics of Prohibition. The 1928 election was fought between Democrat Al Smith, Governor of New York, and Republican Herbert Hoover, an engineer, businessman and Secretary of Commerce […]

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Emma Bourne, AMERICA – A NATION OF ONE PEOPLE FROM MANY COUNTRIES. New York: The Council Against Intolerance in America, 1940.

Emma Bourne’s America — A Nation of One People From Many Countries

A large, scarce, and eminently-displayable 1940 persuasive map by Emma Bourne with a refreshingly tolerant—and for its time rather novel–message aiming to combat prejudice and unite a nation. Though praised by Hornsby as “one of the most striking maps of the era”, to my mind the map’s noble theme and brilliant execution make it one […]

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