March 29, 2012
- Featured Maps
- March 29, 2012
Mapping time has long been an interest of cartographers. Visualizing historical events in a timeline or chart or diagram is an effective way to show the rise and fall of empires and states, religious history, and important human and natural occurrences. We have over 100 examples in the Rumsey Map Collection, ranging in date from 1770 to 1967. We highlight a few below.
Sebastian Adams' 1881 Synchronological Chart of Universal History is 23 feet long and shows 5,885 years of history, from 4004 B.C. to 1881 A.D. It is the longest timeline we have seen. The recently published Cartographies of Time calls it "nineteenth-century America's surpassing achievement in complexity and synthetic power." In the key to the map, Adams states that timeline maps enable learning and comprehension "through the eye to the mind."
Below is a close up detail of a very small part of the chart: (click on the title or the image to open up the full chart)
Another detail covering a larger area with the chart turned sideways:
Eugene Pick published the Tableau de L'Histoire Universelle in 1858 in two sheets, one for the Eastern Hemisphere (shown here) and one for the Western Hemisphere. The chart shows history from 4004 B.C. to 1856. Like many timelines in this style, it is based on the 1804 Strom der Zeiten (Stream of Time) by Friedrich Strass of Austria. Part of Pick's chart is shown below:
Close up detail of Pick's chart:
Another timeline chart based on the Strass chart was Joseph Colton's 1842 Chart of Universal History. This is one of the earliest examples we have seen of the complete Strass model published in the United States (though earlier partial versions or derivations of the form appeared in the U.S.) The explanation at the bottom of the chart states "Each Nation is represented by a stream which is broken in upon or flows on undisturbed as it is influenced by the accession of Territory or the remaining at Peace."
Detail of Colton's chart:
Emma Willard's 1836 "Picture of nations or perspective sketch of the course of empire" uses innovative perspective to add a time dimension to her chart which is otherwise similar to the Strass-Colton-Pick models. It appears in her "Atlas to Accompany a System of Universal History."
Willard timeline detail:
Emma Willard uses another form of timeline in her 1824 "Progress Of The Roman Empire, Illustrated By The course Of The River Amazon." Here she shows the actual course of the Amazon as a timeline showing the history of the Roman Empire. The chart appeared in her 1824 "Ancient Geography, As Connected With Chronology, And Preparatory to the Study of Ancient History."
Rand McNally published amateur historian John B. Spark's "The Histomap. Four Thousand Years Of World History" in 1931. This popular chart went through many editions. On the cover, Sparks states: "Clear, vivid and shorn of elaboration, Histomap holds you enthralled as you follow the curves of power down time's endless course. Here is the actual picture of the march of civilization from the mud huts of the ancients thru the monarchistic glamour of the middle ages to the living panorama of life in present day America."
Francis Walker's 1874 "Statistical Atlas of the United States" contains many maps and diagrams that show data from the 1870 U.S. Census arrayed in timelines. The chart below, with the title "Fiscal chart of the United States showing the course of the public debt by years 1789 to 1870 together with the proportion of the total receipts from each principal source of revenue and the proportion of total expenditures for each principal department of the public service," shows 80 years of financial data arranged by time:
In 1878 O.W. Gray published "Chart Exhibiting the Relative Rank of the States for Nine Decades (1790-1870)." This is another kind of timeline that shows changing rank relationships between the U.S. states over time:
The chart below appeared in Henry Gannett's "Statistical atlas of the United States, based upon results of the Eleventh Census (1890)." Titled "Growth of the elements of the population: 1790 to 1890. (with) Proportion of aliens to foreign born males 21 years of age and over 1890," it is based on the Eleventh Census (1890) of the United States. It combines perspective, three dimensional views, map and timeline together.
The "Chronological Chart of North American History" appeared in Colton and Fisher's "Illustrated Cabinet Atlas and Descriptive Geography" of 1859. The chart uses color coding to arrange important historical events by time and geography.
Edward Quin published "An Historical Atlas; In a Series of Maps of the World as Known at Different Periods" in 1830. Rather than a strict timeline, Quin creates an entirely unique kind of time map series by using 21 maps that show progressively receding cloud borders to indicate the expansion of geographical knowledge over time. Below are 4 of the 21 maps.
The first map in the series is B.C. 2348. The Deluge:
The third is B.C. 753. The Foundation Of Rome:
The eighth is A.D. 1. The Roman Empire In The Augustan Age:
And the sixteenth is A.D. 1498. The Discovery Of America:
These two time diagrams show time in several locations relative to the time of noon at Washington, D.C. A.J. Johnson published the diagram below with the title "A Diagram Exhibiting the difference of time between the places shown & Washington." It appeared as the last page in his "New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas" of 1860.
Mitchell's "A time table indicating the difference in time between the principal cities of the World and also showing their air-line distance from Washington" is similar with a slight change in style.
Finally, Herbert Bayer's amazing chart below, the "Succession of Life and Geological Time Table" extends the timeline from the birth of the earth to the appearance of man - tying geologic history and the evolution of life together in one chart. It appeared in his "World Geo-Graphic Atlas" of 1953.