2015 – 2016 Meetings

Date: September 17, 2015
Title: The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps
Speaker: Benjamin B. Olshin
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

In the thirteenth century, Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo traveled from Venice to the far reaches of Asia, a journey he chronicled in a narrative titled Il Milione, later known as The Travels of Marco Polo. In 1933, the Library of Congress obtained some copies of maps said to have belonged to the family of Marco Polo himself. No less a figure than Leo Bagrow, the great historian of cartography and founder of the journal Imago Mundi, published an article about them in that journal in 1948, an article that only deepened the mystery. But now, more than eighty years since they first surfaced, historian of cartography Benjamin Olshin has produced the first credible book-length analysis of these artifacts, charting their course from obscure origins in the private collection of Italian-American immigrant Marcian Rossi in the 1930s; to investigations of their authenticity by the Library of Congress, J. Edgar Hoover, and the FBI; to the work of cartographic scholar Leo Bagrow; to Olshin’s own efforts to track down and study the Rossi maps, all but one of which are in the possession of Rossi’s great-grandson Jeffrey Pendergraft. Are the maps forgeries, facsimiles, or modernized copies? Did Marco Polo’s daughters—whose names appear on several of the artifacts—preserve in them geographic information about Asia first recorded by their father? Or did they inherit maps created by him? Did Marco Polo entrust the maps to Admiral Ruggero Sanseverino, who has links to Rossi’s family line? Or, if the maps have no connection to Marco Polo, who made them, when, and why?

Copies of Prof. Olshin’s book (published by the University of Chicago Press) will be available at the meeting.

Date: October 15, 2015
Speaker: Rebecca Lowery
Title: They’re Not Just Pirate Maps!
Location: Special Collections at the Richard J. Daley Library, University of Illinois at Chicago

When Lt. Jack Aubrey was master of the Sophie in 1800 (you remember, in Master and Commander?), one of his fellow officers was the young Lt. William Beauchamp-Proctor. While Aubrey went on to star in many more books, Beauchamp-Proctor went on to become an Admiral, was knighted, and was also a Baronet. Beauchamp-Proctor was, unlike Jack, a real person (14 October 1781 – 14 March 1861) and (wouldn’t you know it?) a map collector! The Special Collections at UIC’s Richard J. Daley Library will be exhibiting a selection of 18th century maps from his collection and they have invited us to join them for refreshments and a private viewing of the exhibition. Dr. Lowery, UIC Maps Librarian, will give a talk about the maps and some of the history behind the collection. Although we will have missed the special events planned for the exhibit a month earlier (around “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” Sept. 19th), Dr. Lowery assures me that we will still have a good time. She especially asked that I not conclude this invitation with “Aarr! Come on, ye lubbers, and join us fer a gander at maps o’ pirate fun! ”

Date: November 19, 2015
Title: Beck & Beyond: How the World Found Its Way with Good Transit Map Design
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

This profusely illustrated talk will focus on how good design of wayfinding maps can make journeys by public transit easier, and will highlight the most attractive current and vintage transit maps and signage from the first printed transit maps to those on the handheld devices we use today.

Mark Ovenden F.R.G.S. is a broadcaster and author who specializes in the subjects of graphic design, cartography and architecture in public transport, with an emphasis on underground rapid transit systems. Among his books are Transit Maps of the World (2007), Metro Maps of the World (2003), Paris Metro Style in map and station design (2008), Paris Underground: The Maps, Stations, and Design of the Metro (2009), Railway Maps of the World (2011), and London Underground by Design (2013).

Join us for what promises to be a lively, colorful, educational, and amusing talk.

Date: December 17, 2015
Title: Annual Holiday Gala and Members Show-and-Tell
Speaker: Members of the Chicago Map Society
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Continuing our tradition of a December “Member’s Night,” you are invited to bring and speak about an item in your personal collection. In the past, we’ve enjoyed hearing about maps, atlases, globes, and cartifacts old, new, borrowed, and blue (yes, we have seen blueprints). You will be given five minutes to talk about your item, will be able to display it on an easel or table, and can use our projector if that will help. We’ll also have an especially full smorgasbord of holiday treats for your dining and drinking pleasure.

Date: January 21, 2016
Title: How Close was Captain Cook to Discovering the Northwest Passage?
Speaker: Harry L. Stern
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

On March 7, 1778, Captain James Cook arrived on the coast of “New Albion” in search of a Northwest Passage, guided by the infamously misleading map of Jacob von Staehlin, about which Cook would later rail, “What could induce him to publish so erroneous a Map?. . . that the most illiterate of his illiterate Sea-faring men would have been ashamed to put his name to.” Sailing along the coast of Alaska, Cook explored promising inlets, finally reaching Bering Strait on August 11. A week later his quest was halted by “ice which was as compact as a Wall and seemed to be ten or twelve feet high at least.” A new museum exhibit and accompanying book, Arctic Ambitions: Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage, examine the legacy of this northern voyage, which was thwarted in the end by sea ice, not faulty cartography. Prof. Stern will focus on historical sea-ice conditions in the Chukchi Sea, as depicted in maps from 1778 to 2015, to ask whether Cook was simply unlucky in his bid to discover the Northwest Passage.

Date: February 18, 2016
Title: A Chinese Map of the World (Wanguo yutu) in the Newberry Library Collection
Speaker: Richard A.
Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

When the Newberry Library acquired the Franco Novacco map collection in the 1960s, it got the finest collection of 16th century Italian maps ever to come on the market. It also got, as a sort of bonus, a few maps that were neither Italian nor 16th century. Two of these outliers were Chinese maps which no one at the Newberry could read or catalog. But research libraries like the Newberry take the long view and assume that in good time, every book or map or manuscript will find its reader. One of these Chinese maps found its reader a few years ago when Richard Pegg, the Asian art curator of the MacLean Collection, and an expert on East Asian maps, examined it and pronounced it to be 萬國與圖, or Wanguo yutu, a map of the world dated 1858. It turns out the MacLean Collection owned a manuscript scroll map from 1800 which is very likely the source of the printed Newberry map. The MacLean Collection subsequently managed to obtain another copy of the 1858 map. Dr. Pegg will examine the significance and history of the Maclean map of 1800 and its use as the source for an 1834 set of maps in Korea as well the 1858 maps. Both the MacLean and Newberry copies will be on display (providing, incidentally, a fine demonstration of the “before” and “after” states in paper conservation).

Date:March 17, 2016
Title: In-car Navigation Systems: A 20-year Retrospective
Speaker: Michael Quane
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

In February 1996, the Chicago Map Society had a presentation about the new-fangled “in-car navigation system.” We were introduced to this cutting-edge technology by a young fellow named Michael Quane, who worked for Navigation Technologies in Rosemont. A lot has changed in the intervening twenty years, but Michael is still working in the field as a Customer Product Manager at NNG LLC, an international leader in the navigation and “infotainment” industry, in Detroit. Michael has agreed to come back to help us understand how much has changed in the world of in-care navigation and to give us some notion of where the field might be in five (or even twenty) years hence.

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll enjoy some special Irish-themed refreshments.

Date: April 21, 2016
Title:The Life of H. M. (Harry) Gousha, the Single Most Important Person in the Free Road Map Era
Speaker: Curtis Carroll
Location: Ruggles Hall, The Newberry

Harry Mathias Gousha was one of the most influential and visionary men in the early evolution of Chicago’s road map industry yet relatively little has been revealed about him. He began his career at Rand McNally, where he ascended quickly through the ranks and then courageously started his own firm that would become one of the most successful map companies of the 20th century. Curtis Carroll will trace the highlights of his career from 1918 to 1940 and, in doing so, reveal a lot about the maturing of commercial map publishing and Chicago’s role in it.

Curtis has had a long, and quite personal interest in Gousha and his company: he talked to Mr. Gousha by phone when he was 17, a year before Gousha’s passing in 1970, and was, for two years, Western Regional Sales Manager for HM Gousha Company, prior to the company’s sale to Rand McNally in 1996.

Date: Saturday April 23 and Sunday April 24, 2016
Title: Road Rally from Chicago to Lake Geneva: Retracing the Route of H. Sargent Michaels’ 1905 Photographic Guide for Motorists

Whether your car is an antique or not, please join us as we motor to Lake Geneva with the Fox Valley chapter of the Antique Automobile Club of America. We will follow the route set out in H. Sargent Michaels’ 1905 Photographic Guide for Motorists. Michaels produced this book to help guide motorists along what were poorly marked rural roads of the time by taking photographs of every major intersection or turning point along a given route. Participants will receive a copy of the book Chicago to Lake Geneva: A 100-Year Road Trip (authored by the Chicago Map Society), which reproduces Michaels’ guide along with present-day photographs of the same locations.

There are three departure options: Chicago, Evanston and Fox Lake. A special overnight rate at a Lake Geneva area hotel is available to participants, who may continue Michaels’ route on Sunday from Lake Geneva to Delavan and on to Beloit. The return route will take us through Fox Lake country and Antioch. Other activities include a brunch in Lake Geneva, and visits to the Historic Auto Attractions Museum and the Baha’i Temple.

Please join us for what we are certain will be an exceptional event. There are a limited number of hotel rooms available at our special rate, and this event is limited to 100 registrations—so please register as soon as possible. The deadline for registration is March 7, 2016.

Date: June 16, 2016
Title: Surveys of the Upper Peninsula
Speaker: Jack Deo
Location: MacLean Collection, Green Oaks, Ill.

For 150 years the name Brotherton was associated with the best surveyors, engineers, timber cruisers and land agents in the Great Lakes area. One family, the Brothertons of Escanaba, had three generations of surveyors, two of whom, R.A. Brotherton and R.J. Brotherton, were employed by the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company. These men walked and mapped the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan, from the earliest days of government land surveys in the area through the rise and decline of the area’s lumbering and mining industries. Ray A. Brotherton became one of the U.P.’s great historians, giving illustrated lectures on many different topics from 1905 until his death in 1960. In the 1970s Ray’s photographic collection was acquired by Jack Deo of Superior View Photography, the largest private photo collection in Michigan. In 2015 the MacLean Collection acquired a century of the Brothertons’ hand-drawn survey maps of Michigan and Wisconsin, many sketched in plat books from the 1840s to the 1940s. Jack’s presentation will give a brief look at his massive collection of historic photographs and a 3-D look at early copper and iron mines, lumber camps, and scenery of Lake Superior. He will then tell the Brotherton story, which includes the MacLean Collection’s recent acquisition of the Brothertons’ maps, several of which will be on display before and after the talk. Directions to the MacLean Collection Map Library are available by contacting the Map Society.