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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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Map of New York City from Henry William Blair's Henry William Blair, THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT: OR, THE CONFLICT BETWEEN MAN AND ALCOHOL. Boston: William E. Smythe Company, 1888.

A nation adrift “in the maelstrom of alcohol”

A jeremiad against the evils of alcohol, with an interesting thematic map demonstrating its prevalence in New York City. Born on a New Hampshire farm and orphaned at 12, Henry William Blair (1834-1920) never attended college but rose to become a lawyer, state representative, and U.S. congressman, then represented his home state in the Senate […]

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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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PRESENT SUFFRAGE STATUS. Richmond, VA: Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, [1914-15?]

Persuasive map issued by the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia

An unrecorded handbill issued by the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia during the nationwide campaign for the 19th Amendment. With a simple-but-effective persuasive map of the status of women’s voting rights across the country, making effective use of color to suggest that states denying women the vote are mired in darkness and ignorance. By 1900 […]

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[Title on cover:] GUIDE MAP OF NEW YORK CITY Showing present and proposed transit lines and pictures of properties owned by the New York Real Estate Security Company. These properties are the security for the Company’s 6% Mortgage Bonds. [Title on map:] SOME OF THE PROPERTIES OWNED BY THE NEW YORK REAL ESTATE SECURITY CO. MAIN OFFICE 42 BROADWAY, NEW YORK CITY, U. S. A. [New York, 1912-1913.]

Boom and bust in New York real estate

An unrecorded ca. 1912 persuasive map of New York City touting bonds offered by the New York Real Estate Security Company. Everything about the map is designed to convey the safety of the Company’s offerings, and yet in 1913 it was forced into bankruptcy and its holdings liquidated.   The New York Real Estate Security Company […]

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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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Greg Moore (cover art) et al., MAY FLOWERS. NP: [May Day Collective, 1971].

With a large map detailing plans to shut down Washington in 1971

An extremely rare tabloid issued in advance of the May 1971 anti-war protests in Washington, whose ultimate objective was to demonstrate the Peace Movement’s ability to shut down the Federal Government. With a large map indicating locations to be targeted in and around the city. “On May 3, 1971, after nearly two weeks of intense […]

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MAP OF TEXAS AND LOYAL COLONIES SOMETIMES REFERRED TO AS THE UNITED STATES. San Antonio: Nowotny-Burrel Co., 1956.

Map of Texas and Loyal Colonies

A comic 1956 pictorial map printed on rayon and depicting Texas and its “Loyal Colonies”. In this alternative universe the other 47 states of the continental U.S. are shunted aside, compressed, and given absurd punning names, while a hypertrophied Texas sprawls from the Canadian to the Mexican borders. The Texas interior is crammed with pictorial […]

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