“You went where?”: Souvenir Maps

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"Hysterical Map of the Yellowstone Park with Apologies to the Park." Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

With the growth of passenger railroads and the development of the national highway system, the twentieth century saw a large increase in personal leisure travel. Events such as World's Fairs and the rise of national sports leagues, as well as the creation of ambitious entertainment destinations like Disneyland and other amusement parks, brought about new types of maps designed for the American tourist.

While most travel maps provided accurate information about a given area to help plan transit routes, souvenir maps, created for regions or specific destinations, were designed to be both fun and functional. Cartoon imagery, photographs, and other art depicted popular tourist sites, local flora and fauna, and geographic highlights. Instead of purchasing these prior to a trip, travelers received them at their destination. Souvenir maps served the dual purpose of being a visually appealing keepsake as well a promotional tool to recruit more visitors.  

Crafted by park owners, town tourism boards, and industry-specific stakeholders, souvenir maps were widely available starting in the 1930s and continue to be prominent today.