"Recreational Map Central California" is a captivating pictorial map of Northern California, created by Rand McNally for the Union Oil Company. This piece served as a souvenir for the San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition of 1939, a key historical event of the time.
The map stands as a testament to the rich cultural and recreational history of Central California, produced during an era of increased leisure travel and exploration. The 1939 Golden Gate Exposition, also known as the World's Fair, was held on San Francisco's Treasure Island, a man-made island in the San Francisco Bay. The exposition celebrated the completion of two major city landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It also showcased the cultural diversity and technological innovations of the time, attracting millions of visitors from around the globe.
As a pictorial representation of Northern California, the map skillfully balances aesthetics and functionality. It highlights the region's diverse geographical features, landmarks, and recreational spots, making it not only a practical guide but also an artistic rendition of the landscape. As such, it offers a snapshot of the area's recreational potential in the late 1930s, from its mountains and coastlines to its cities and infrastructure.
On the reverse side of the map, two smaller maps provide detailed views of the exposition grounds and the City of San Francisco. These insets give further context to the main map, adding depth to the viewer's understanding of the region during this pivotal period. By juxtaposing these detailed maps with the wider perspective of Central California, the mapmaker effectively captures the breadth and richness of the region's cultural and geographical landscape at the time.
Rand McNally & Co. is a large American map and navigation company best known for its annual atlases. The company got its start in 1856, when William Rand opened a print shop in Chicago. He was joined in 1858 by a new employee, Andrew McNally. Together, the men established their namesake company in 1868. Originally, the company was intended to print the tickets and timetables for the trains running to and through Chicago; their first railway guide was published in 1869.
By 1870, they had shifted from just printing to publishing directories, travel guides, and newspapers. Their first map appeared in 1872 in a railway guide. The map was produced using a new wax engraving method, a cheaper process that gave the company an edge.
By 1880 Rand McNally had entered the education market with globes, wall maps, and geography texts for students. In 1923, Rand McNally published the first Goode’s World Atlas, named after its editor, Dr. J. Paul Goode. For generations afterward, this would be the standard classroom atlas.
In 1899, William Rand left the company, but McNally and his family remained, controlling the company for over a century. In 1904, they published their first road map intended for automobiles and by 1907 were publishing Photo-Auto Guides, which combined photography and mapping to help drivers. In 1924, they produced the Auto Chum, a precursor to their famous road atlases. Rand McNally would remain the leader in road maps and atlases throughout the twentieth century.
In 1937, Rand McNally opened its first store in New York City. Ever on the frontier of technology, Rand McNally pioneered the scribing process for printing tickets in 1958 and printed their first full-color road atlas in 1960. Arthur Robinson developed his now-famous projection of Rand McNally in 1969. By the 1980s, the company was exploring digital reproduction and digital databases of maps for truckers. In the 1990s, they lead the charge to develop trip-planning software and websites. Today, most of its products are available online or in a digital format, including maps for tablets and phones.