Changing Geographies of Advertising in Early Automobile Route Guides

Authors: John Bauer*, University of Nebraska Kearney
Topics: Historical Geography, Cartography
Keywords: history of cartography, automobile route guides
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This research is an analysis of the changing geographic distribution of advertisements in automobile route guides. Automobile route guides were important precursors to the road maps that Americans are familiar with today. The most widely used and successful early route guide was the Official Automobile Blue Book. Published between 1901 and 1927 as an annual, multivolume series, it provided simple maps and turn-by-turn directions between towns in the United States and Canada. Blue Book publishers supported their commercial endeavor by selling hundreds of advertisements for hotels, restaurants, and other tourist services in its pages. By summarizing the advertisements by size, location, and frequency, I estimated the amount of revenue generated by the advertising, thus learning more about this early form of commercial cartography. Also, I mapped the locations of all advertisements in the five volumes for 1914 and six volumes for 1915. The maps reveal that advertising revenue was not gathered from places equally dispersed throughout the country, but rather clustered in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. Between 1914 and 1915, there was considerable expansion on the West Coast and in the interior of the West. Most advertisers who appeared in 1914 also purchased advertising space in the 1915 edition, too.

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