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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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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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[ Temperance Journal ] Map of Yale from The New York Voice. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, Jan. 6-Dec. 15, 1898. [with:] The New Voice. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, Dec. 22-29, 1898.

Full-year run of a leading Temperance journal … with maps!

A nearly-complete 1898 run of one of America’s “leading temperance journals” (Mott), including maps highlighting consumption in and around leading universities. Funk & Wagnalls published a weekly Temperance journal from 1884 to 1906, though under various titles and in a range of formats: For 1898 the first 50 issues were the eight-page broadsheet New York […]

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Compiled, engraved and printed by General Drafting Co., Inc., 9 Church St., New York, Industrial Map OF NEW ENGLAND. Boston: First National Bank of Boston, [1919].

Terrific 1919 Industrial Map of New England

A most interesting and very rare 1919 thematic industrial map of New England, produced by the First National Bank of Boston. The map depicts the si New England states, highlighting rivers and railroads, with symbols differentiating “principal industrial centers”, “industrial centers”, “important cities” and “cities of secondary importance”. At lower right is a large circular […]

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Pueblo Lith. Co., THE SILVER DOG WITH THE GOLDEN TAIL. Will the Tail Wag the Dog, or the Dog Wag the Tail? Pueblo: [Nuckolls Packing Co., 1896?]

William Jennings Bryan and the Silver Dog

An extremely rare cartographic cartoon supporting William Jennings Bryan’s candidacy in the 1896 presidential election. Bryan’s signature issue was “Free Silver,” a return to silver coinage. He and his supporters argued that the inflationary impact would act “… as a remedy for the Panic of 1893, a severe depression that had created high unemployment, falling […]

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1904 Russo Japanese War propaganda map

Unrecorded anthropomorphic map from the Russo Japanese War

A previously unrecorded Meiji 37 or 1904 anthropomorphic propaganda map celebrating Japan’s victory in the Russo Japanese War.  This map was issued in May 28 of 1904, immediately following Japan’s successful bombardment and siege of Russian-held Port Arthur (Dalian).  This is the second of four Japanese anthropomorphic maps associated with the Russo-Japanese war, predated only […]

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GREENHAM WOMEN AGAINST CRUISE [:] CRUISE THREATENS PEACE AND BREAKS THE LAW [:] 9th Nov ’83 take President Reagan to Court in the USA. NP, ND, but England, ca. Oct. 1983.

The Greenham Women protest the deployment of cruise missiles in England

A rare 1983 persuasive map by the English anti-nuclear group Greenham Women Against Cruise Missiles, highlighting the deployment of American ground-launched cruise missiles around Great Britain. In 1979 the Carter Administration agreed with its NATO allies to deploy several dozen ground-launched cruise missiles to the RAF air bases at Greenham Common and Molesworth, Great Britain, […]

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Eye-popping pictorial map of the South Pacific campaigns of WWII

A mammoth and colorful propaganda poster of the South Pacific issued by the U.S. Navy Department near the end of World War II.   This impressive, separately-published pictorial map highlights events across the South Pacific, beginning with the Japanese strikes of late 1941 and early 1942, identified by sweeping orange arrows. American counteroffensives are shown […]

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