A Standard Oil Pictorial Map of the American Continent
This is an attractive vintage pictorial map of the American content, stretching from Fairbanks, Alaska to Cape Horn. The map shows major roads in North America, the Pan-American Highway in South and America as well as hundreds of pictorial images. These images depict the wildlife of Patagonia, the gaucho culture of the Pampas, the trees of the Amazon, liquors of the Caribbean, the scenery of the American West, and industries of northern Canada. This map was produced by Standard Oil in a bid to increase motor travel.
The verso includes descriptions of twenty-nine countries and regions throughout the continent, alongside their flags. Descriptions are very detailed, including historical, geographical, economical, and political information. In addition, statistics regarding the area, population, and road mileages of American countries are available. Interesting factoids shown describe the indigenous peoples, mountains, and oil refineries of the continent. A note on the cartography used in the map states that it uses a "bipolar oblique conic conformal" projection.
While the Pan-American Highway represents more a mythical idea than a specific road it was one of the great symbols of American unity during the 20th century. Regarding the creation of the highway, the map states that:
"The Pan American Highway was officially started at the Fifth International Conference of the American Republics at Santiago, Chile, in 1923. In 1925 the First Pan American Highway Congress . . . organized the Pan American Highway Confederation to plan the new route in cooperation with the governments of the various countries it links. El Salvador became the first country to complete its section of the highway.
Construction of the road has been a long series of dramatic victories over nature. Jungles have been pierced, great rivers bridged, the Andes scaled. . ."
The road would be completed during the 1950s. The original route ran from the Mexican-American border to Buenos Ares, via cities such as Monterrey, Mexico City, Quito, Lima, and Santiago. Modern extensions reach Prudhoe Bay in Alaska and Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. The only portion of the road left uncompleted is the seventy mile Darien Gap in Panama, which has been left due to cost of building, indigenous opposition, and environmental concerns
The modernization of the roads system of Central and South America influenced a generation of travelers, perhaps best exemplified by Che Guvera's The Motorcycle Diaries. Travelers along the Pan-American Highway would have had the opportunity to fill up with Standard Oil gas depending on where they were in the journey and whether the local government had nationalized petroleum production.