The 'Cartographic Golden Triangle'

Robert W. Karrow. Jr.

Map by James Cook, dated 1770. From the AGSC, through whose courtesy it is used.


hen asked by Bob Cotner to submit a “sidebar” to Michael Thompson’s finearticleon the riches of UW-Milwaukee’s American Geographical Society Collection, it occurred to me that Caxtonians might not be aware that we resident members are living at one apex of a “cartographic golden triangle.” That is the phrase coined by former Caxtonian David Woodward many years ago for the approximately right-triangle formed by the cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison. All three cities had, and have, important links to the history of cartography.

Chicago, as the home of Rand McNally & Company, Rufus Blanchard (1821-1904), George F. Cram (1841-1928), and Alfred T. Andreas (1839-1900), and other cartographic publishers, has long been a national center of map production.1 The city’s pedigree in cartographic education is equally impressive. John Paul Goode (1862-1932), whose school atlas was recently issued (by Rand McNally) in its 20th edition, almost 70 years after his death, has been called “the first genuine American academic cartographer.”2 Goode began teaching cartography at the University of Chicago in the 1920s, and one of his students, Edward Espenshade, now retired from the geography faculty at Northwestern, edited Goode’s atlas for many years. Chicago and Northwestern continue to teach cartography (and/or its 21st Century correlate, GIS, or Geographic Information Systems) as do the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as DePaul and Roosevelt Universities.

Chicago, Northwestern, and UIC all have important collections of primarily 20th Century maps, while the Newberry Library holds a world-class collection of earlier cartography.3 The University of Chicago Press, not coincidentally, probably has the strongest cartography list of any current publisher.4 The Chicago Map Society provides an informal gathering place for people interested in all aspects of maps and mapping.5

Milwaukee, which in the mid-19th Century challenged Chicago as the main western port of the Great Lakes, was also a rival center of cartographic activity. Increase A. Lapham (1811-1875), pioneer Wisconsin scholar in several fields, was an influential cartographer and map publisher, while the firm of Silas Chapman (1813-1899) played a role in Milwaukee and its hinterland (comparable to that played for Chicago by Rufus Blanchard). Milwaukee was also the home of the lithographic firm of Beck & Pauli, one of the most prolific printers of bird’s-eye views of cities. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee teaches cartography/GIS in its geography department (where the undersigned, as an undergraduate English major in the 1960s, took two semesters of pen-and-ink cartography from Prof. James J. Flannery). From 1986 until his untimely death, the great historian of cartography J. B. (Brian) Harley (1932-1991) was on the Milwaukee faculty, and he directed the doctoral dissertation of AGS Collection curator Christopher Baruth. The American Geographical Society Collection has been housed at UW-Milwaukee since 1978. The extraordinary map collection is only one of its treasures, but it alone makes the Golda Meir Library a world-class research collection.6 The AGS collection of pre-1800 cartography is large and important (witness the Cook charts, about which Michael writes in this issue) but perhaps its greatest strength lies in the next two centuries. Because it was founded in 1852 and has always had exchange agreements with foreign geographical societies, its collection of materials from the 19th Century forward is superb. The AGS is also home to the Map Society of Wisconsin.7

Seventy-five miles to the west, Madison was a hotbed of city-view production in the 19th Century. J. J. Stoner (1829-1917) and H. H. Bailey (1836-1878), two of the most prolific view-makers, lived in Wisconsin’s capital city.8 The University of Wisconsin-Madison had long been a leader in geographic education when Arthur Robinson, now professor emeritus, began teaching cartography there in 1945.9 His textbook Elements of Cartography, now in its 6th edition, became a vital force in a developing field. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of only a few institutions to offer degrees in cartography per se, and Robinson students have been in the forefront of academic cartography in this country.

One such was David Woodward, who became the Newberry’s first map curator and first director of the library’s Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography in 1969. In 1980, Woodward returned to UW-Madison to teach cartography and to edit, with Brian Harley, the acclaimed multi-volume History of Cartography.10 Madison is also home to two important map collections: the Arthur Robinson Map Library, with some half-million items,11 and some 30,000, primarily pre-1900 maps and atlases in the Archives of the State Historical Society.12

David Woodward always felt that the personal, institutional, and historical links between the study of maps and the three cities should lead to some sort of formal structures of cooperation. There have been various cooperative efforts over the years, but the most tangible current demonstration of the “cartographic golden triangle” has come about through the benefactions of Chicago map collector, Arthur Holzheimer. Art and his wife Jan currently support work in all three “corners,” with Holzheimer Fellowships in Cartography at the Newberry Library and the Institute for Research in the Humanities at UW-Madison, and the Holzheimer “Maps and America” Lecture Series at UW-Milwaukee.

1 Michael P. Conzen, ed., Chicago Mapmakers: Essays on the Rise of the City’s Map Trade (Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society for the Chicago Map Society, 1984).

2 Robert McMaster and Susanna McMaster, “A History of Twentieth-Century American Academic Cartography,” Cartography and Geographic Information Science 29 (2002): 307.






8 John W. Reps, Views and Viewmakers of Urban America: Lithographs of Towns and Cities in the United States and Canada, Notes on the Artists and Publishers, and a nion Catalog of their Works, 1825-1925. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984).

9 McMaster and McMaster, pp. 310-312.

10 David Woodward and J. B. Harley, eds., The History of Cartography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989- ). Two of a projected six volumes have been published to date.



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