The American School Atlas: 1784 - 1900

Jeffrey C. Patton


At the end of the eighteenth century, American school atlases and geographies were created by individual authors who would search for a printer willing to publish their work. By the middle of the nineteenth century, millions of school atlases were being produced by large mapping corporations with sophisticated marketing strategies. This paper discusses the forces which influenced the evolution of the American school atlas and geography text between the years 1784 and 1900, including changes in printing technology and paper, the competitive commercial market, prevailing pedagogies of the American educational system, and the rise of thematic mapping. Elements of cartographic design which were typical of American school atlases are also examined. These include data symbolization, level of generalization, and choice of projection.

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