An Extremely Early Road Atlas of the California Bay Area and Monterey.
Auto Roads of San Francisco and Oakland to Monterey and Santa Cruz, compiled and published in Los Angeles in 1908 by C.J. Gray & Co., is a vital window into the nascent era of American automobile travel on the West Coast. Charting routes from major cities like San Francisco and Oakland to coastal destinations such as Monterey and Santa Cruz, this atlas gives a comprehensive view of the region's road networks at a time of burgeoning vehicular mobility. With eight detailed maps denoting optimal roads, landmarks, gradients, and intersecting routes, it serves as a guidebook to the early automobile adventurer.
At the dawn of the 20th century, California was in the throes of a transportation revolution. The streets of Los Angeles witnessed the debut of the first gasoline-powered vehicle in the West in 1897, leading to the establishment of the Automobile Club of Southern California by 1900. Yet, despite the growing popularity of motor vehicles, with a remarkable count of 6,500 cars, trucks, and motorcycles by 1905, intercity travel remained a challenge. Roads were often unmarked and in conditions not yet adapted for automobiles. Institutions like the Automobile Club stepped in, marking out routes and erecting signs, fostering an environment conducive for travel by motorcar.
By 1908, the democratization of car ownership was on the horizon, especially with Henry Ford introducing the Model T. This atlas, significantly predating the pivotal California Highway Act of 1910, captures a moment of transition. It offers a glimpse into a time when smaller car companies, prior to the monopolization by giants like Ford, were still significant players, as evidenced by the numerous advertisements interspersed with the maps.
As the infrastructure for automobile travel was in its embryonic stages, Auto Roads of San Francisco and Oakland to Monterey and Santa Cruz represents the commitment of early enthusiasts to map out and make accessible the beauty of California’s landscapes. Before the introduction of the celebrated strip maps by the Automobile Club of Southern California in 1912 and the legislative push for improved roads in 1910, this atlas stands as a testament to the pioneering spirit of early automotive adventurers and the changing face of American mobility.
Maps in the Atlas
Somewhat confusingly, the maps in this atlas are inconsistently numbered. However, the introduction, which calls for eight maps, confirms that the atlas is complete as issued. The map images were likely drawn from a larger corpus with its own internal numbering system, with some of these maps probably appearing in other C.J. Gray & Co.
- San Francisco to Redwood
- Redwood to San Jose
- Oakland to Alvardo or Decoto
- Alvarado or Decoto to San Jose
- Gilroy to San Jose
- San Juan to Monterey
- Santa Cruz to San Juan [Bautista]
- Watsonville to Salinas
Other Road Atlases by C.J. Gray & Co.
The introduction to this atlas includes mention of a further three road atlases by the publisher, seemingly all available in 1908:
- "Central California, showing roads in Marin, Sonoma, Lake, Mendecino, Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties, and the Coast Route to Los Angeles. Price $2.50"
- "Southern California, showing road from San Francisco to Los Angeles and all Southern California. Price $2.50."
- "Northern California, showing road to Red- ding and Yosemite Valley and through Fresno and Bakersfield to Los Angeles. Price $2.50"
It is interesting to note that these atlases are priced five times higher than the present atlas at time of publication.