Wednesday, May 25, 2011

1896 Cyclist Road Map - Portland

There are a fair number of cyclists working at the Map and Data library, so cycling themed maps are a common interest. In our collection is a beautiful 1896 "Cyclists' Road Map of Portland District", republished in 1973 by the Oregon Historical Society.

Used with permission from the Oregon Historical Society

The Portland Tribune also wrote about this map and states it was "made for the Multnomah Wheelmen, an upper-class set of bicycling enthusiasts". Though the map is priced at ¢50, it advertises bikes for sale at $100 - well out of price range for the majority of citizens.

The map is filled with fascinating features. "Information for wheelmen" explains that road quality is determined by riding speeds, with good road allowing travel at 10-12mph. Though "allowance will have to be made, of course, for mud and dust". Advertisements on the map hawk Dr. Baker's and the still operational White House Bed & Breakfast, which offers special rates to bicycle parties. And to ensure riders are not left thirsty, taverns are marked on the map along with road conditions.

One of the most eye catching elements of this bike map is the concentric mile wide rings showing distance. Without knowing Portland and its history, we at the Map Library were unsure why this location was chosen. Scott Daniels, a Reference Librarian at the Oregon Historical Society offers his knowledge and points out this was Washington & 3rd, the ticket office for the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. Inside the neat line on the lower left side is an ad for the O.R & N, bearing that same address.

A similar bike road map of Toronto can be found in
Derek Hayes's Historical Atlas of Toronto. Visible on the Toronto Public Library's Virtual Exhibits. The "Cyclists' Road Map for the County of York" was also published in 1896 but is considerably more formal, with no riding instructions or advertisements like the Portland map.

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