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Early Civilian Aerial Map Making

Rare early "photomap" of Hollywood, published by the Photomap Company of Hollywood (although the given address is in Pasadena) California.

The present map was created in 1922, which is considered by historians as the first year in which aerial city maps were made.  

A fascinating combination of early aerial photography, photolithographic design and mapmaking. As noted on the verso, the image was constructed from "about two hundred photographs taken consecutively from an airplane and printed, matched and mounted together".

The promotional text continues with a description of methodology (images taken from 4,000 feet) and that images can be taken from up to 14,000 feet, noting that "aerial mapping is a new adjunct to modern engineering and was first put to practical use during the [first World] War."

The use of aerial photography rapidly matured during World War I, as reconnaissance aircraft were equipped with cameras to record enemy movements and defenses. Sherman Fairchild was one of the pioneers of the commercial use of aerial photography in the United States. By 1924, he would acquire the Photomap Company and it's competitor Pioneer Aerial Engineering Company, merging them into Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc.

The present map was published in 1922 by the Photomap Company. Leon Theodore Aliel (1895-1974), a former Air Force lieutenant who established the Sierra Flying Field at Pasadena in 1919, was  the founder and president of the  Photomap Company. The airport was used to conduct aerial surveys and also build airplanes. In 1922, the planes from the Sierra Airdrome successfully air-mapped Pasadena and Hollywood. L.T. Aliel was also engaged in making an aerial map of Hollywood. Later he became the vice president of the Fairchild Aerial Surveys.

The existence of this map of Hollywood and its creation for Security Bank is discussed on 4 occasions in the local newspaper Holly Leaves between July 1, 1922 and October 22, 1922. It discusses the transfer of the Bank's copyright in the image to a civic group which planned to use it for various reasons.


While the making of this map has been reported, we were not able to find an example in OCLC or otherwise.


Condition Description
Toning on two panels.