Latitudes Dec.2018

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Map Society


December 2018


It looks simple enough, doesn’t it? But the early air mail service was anything but simple.  Come hear the full story from Ralph Ehrenerg, whose lifelong interest has been aviation and the maps that supported it.




Thursday, December 6, 2018 – 5:00 PM – Madison Building, Geography and Map Reading Room, Library of Congress: Flying by the Seat of Your Pants:  Rand McNally, and Post Office (Belt Maps – The U. S. Post Office Airmail Service Air Navigation, 1918 – 1926), by Mr. Ralph Ehrenberg; Chief, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, Retired (WMS)


The United States Post Office’s Airmail Service played a pivotal role in developing the aeronautical chart in the United States from its establishment in 1918 through 1926 when airmail service was contracted out to private carriers. As the first organization in America to fly long distance scheduled flights on a daily basis, the Airmail Service worked closely with other Federal agencies, state and municipal governments, private industry, and civic groups to establish a national airways system analogous to the nation’s railroad and highway systems. The lack of adequate flying maps remained a major problem, however. As airmail pilot Ken McGregor remembered, “I got from place to place [by] the seat of my pants [and] the ability to recognize every town, river, railroad, farm, and, yes, outhouse along the route.” While a few pilots like McGregor relied strictly upon visual navigation, the majority resorted to using some form of published map. In an illustrated lecture, Mr. Ehrenberg will trace the history of map use by the Airmail Service and its own efforts in developing a basic aeronautical chart.




Thursday, January 24, 2019 – 5:00 PM – Madison Building, Geography and Map Reading Room, Library of Congress: The Map Collection of the G&M: New Directions, Dr. Paulette Hasier; Chief, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress


Dr. Hasier will discuss her personal interests in the history of cartography. She will also explain her mandate to take the Geography and Map Division in new directions more attuned to today’s cartographic technology. This does not mean abandoning the historic treasures of the Library, but rather using technical means to make them more readily available to researchers and aficionados alike.


This is a special event and an opportunity to understand major changes which lie ahead for the Geography and Map Division. We would like to have maximum participation for this program.




14 February 2019
Washington’s Mapmaker: Colonel Robert Erskine, First Surveyor General, by Kass Kassebaum, Department of the Geographer (WMS)

21 March 2019
The History of Cartography Project: Its Past, Future, and Lasting Importance, by Dr. Matthew Edney, University of Southern Maine; Osher Chair in the History of Cartography; Osher Map Library; Director, History of Cartography Project (WMS)

11 April 2019
In the Footsteps of the Crime (Recovering a Map Masterpiece stolen by E. Forbs Smiley), by Dr. Ronald Grim, Formerly Curator of Maps, Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library (WMS)

May 2019
Annual Dinner - Details yet to be determined




A heartfelt thank you to Robert & Libby Gensler for opening their lovely home to the WMS on Saturday, November 3. Around 25 members and guests attended and were encouraged to wander the various rooms of the house to discover all 100 framed maps. (And yes, there were maps in just about every room - including the bathrooms!) The impressive collection was beautifully framed and included maps from the Age of Discovery to early Colonial Americana. In addition to viewing the maps, guests enjoyed lively conversation and a delicious buffet of appetizers graciously provided by the Genslers. It was the perfect event to relax, catch up with fellow map aficionados, and enjoy a fascinating collection of maps.




Greenbrier Historical Society, North House Museum, 814 W Washington St., Lewisburg, WV. James Wilson, America's First Terrestrial and Celestial Globe Maker.


Wilson was a self-taught globe maker from New Hampshire. Wilson and three of his sons operated two manufacturing plants in Bradford, Vt., and Albany, N.Y. After just a few years of operation they were able to outsell the European globe makers who dominated the American market until then. It's a real American success story. The exhibit will include the historical society’s original, fully restored Wilson terrestrial globe. Another unusual exhibit item is the first map made and engraved in America. Printed in 1794, it is a map of Virginia by Samuel Lewis. The exhibit continues to March 2019 (NFI on close date).


Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBBM), St. Michaels, MD.  Exploring the Chesapeake–Mapping the Bay.
This exhibit examines the different ways the Chesapeake Bay has been portrayed over time through mapping and charting. The exhibition continues in CBMM’s Steamboat Building through March 17, 2019. The exhibit was recently visited by four WMS presidents (see WMS web page for details) who gave it high marks. For more information:



Johns Hopkins George Peabody Library, 17 East Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD.  Maryland, from the Willard Hackerman Map Collection.


From colonial impressions of the Chesapeake Bay to detailed city plans for guiding Baltimore's rapid expansion, this exhibition features over 30 of the most stunning and historically significant maps of early Maryland from the collection of the late Baltimore developer, philanthropist, and Johns Hopkins alumnus Willard Hackerman, Engr 1938. The maps are brought together with related rare books, objects, and digital "story maps" to reveal the passion of a collector, the early mapping of Maryland, and the potential of combining historical maps with modern data to re-examine the past.


S.T. Lee Gallery, Weston Library, Oxford University, UK.  Talking Maps.


The Bodleian Libraries’ summer 2019 exhibition is a celebration of maps and the stories they tell. Drawing on the Bodleian’s unparalleled map collection, Talking Maps brings together an extraordinary collection of ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps in a range of media as well as showcasing fascinating imaginary, fictional and war maps.


The exhibition will explore how maps are neither transparent objects of scientific communication, nor baleful tools of ideology, but rather proposals about the world that help people to understand who they are by describing where they are. July 2019 - February 2020.


More Opportunities:
Many more events are listed on the web site known simply as Cartography Calendars, operated for many years by WMS member John Docktor. Go to (note relatively new address) and select the page you wish to see, i.e., Calendar of Meetings and/or Calendar of Exhibitions.




The Washington Map Society follows the closing decisions of the Federal Government. If they are closed due to bad weather, our meeting will be canceled. If bad weather develops on the day of our event, and the Government authorizes early release, we will probably still be forced to cancel. (If the Madison Building is closed, there’s not much we can do.) We will attempt to send a blast e-mail in that case. Please check your email before coming to a meeting when bad weather is predicted. You can also check the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site at Finally, you can call the OPM status hotline at 202-606-1900.


A Word of Warning: Predicting snowfall in the DC area is an imperfect science at best.  Once in a great while we have cancelled meetings and then not a single flake of snow fell. That is always disappointing and irritating, but it doesn’t happen very often, and this is still the most workable system we have come up with.



Cartographic Quotes:

“This is a book about anxiety and the idea of cartography, and I make two arguments. The first is that there is a long shadow history of cartography. A history that stretches from the Renaissance’s cartographic revolution up into our present moment’s second, digital cartographic revolution. For centuries, maps, mapping, and related materials and practices have unsettled, disturbed, and angered people; Even the word “map” itself can post some terminological confusion – though for purposes of this volume I use J.B Harley and David Woodward’s helpfully capacious but clarifying definition of maps as “graphic representations that facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world.”  Looking at the period in which the modern map was born, I propose that the literature of this early modern period offers a uniquely valuable oeuvre for recovering this history of what I am calling cartographic anxiety. These cartographic anxieties are those provoked or sustained by cartography as a technology; or by the cartographic as a fluid, often impressionistic concept of visualization and representation; or by the cartographic as an epistemological orientation that intersects, complicates, and sometimes intensifies other cultural apparatuses.”

Chris Barrett
Early Modern English Literature and the Poetics of Cartographic Anxiety
Oxford University Press, 2018



(Note: For better or worse – probably the latter – most written content in Latitudes is the work and wording of editor Bert Johnson, Vice President and Program Chair of WMS. Bert can be reached at Lay-out, much of the graphics, and transmission is done by Eliane Dotson, President of WMS.)