Rufus Blanchard sold maps, prints, and books at his Chicago map store at 52 LaSalle Street, starting in 1854, and he went on to dominate Chicago’s map trade for much of the second half of the nineteenth century. While offering a specific view the city’s geography in 1857, this map synthesizes many of the conventions of nineteenth and twentieth century maps of Chicago. It illustrates the challenges to imposing the grid onto the expanding city: the curving stretches of the lakeshore, the Chicago River, and railroad routes; the irregular shapes of the “additions” to the city’s boundaries by real estate investors; and the diagonal Indian trails and pioneer paths which evolved into city streets.
Like many other Chicago maps it was promotional as well as a practical reference, including population statistics and the locations of omnibus lines, churches, and schools. The map also neatly illustrates the intimate connections between the businesses of mapping and selling real estate in Chicago. The blue stamp in the upper right names S. H. Kerfoot & Co., a real estate broker who probably distributed the map to clients.
More broadly, the map charts the patterns of the city’s development. The earliest areas to be developed are those that have already been divided into lots on the map, chiefly along the lakefront and the river. Large, undivided parcels frame the north, south, and western edges. Fullerton Avenue forms the northern boundary, reminding us that the city’s central area and South Side matured before the North Side, which would become more significant in the Twentieth Century. Some of the tidy individual lots on the map proved wishful thinking on the part of the real estate developers who owned the larger parcels. For example, the series of angled streets platted along the north and south shores of the canal, just west of Lisle Street (now Ashland Avenue) and south of South Street (now 22nd Street) were not realized in this form. Later maps show that the layout of the streets and lots in this section were regularized to fit in with the city’s larger grid.
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Dillon, Diane. "Mapping Enterprise: Cartography and Commodification at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.” In Nineteenth Century Geographies, edited by Helena Michie and Ronald Thomas. New Brunswick: Rutgers University, 2003
Holland, Robert. Chicago in Maps: 1612-2002. New York: Rizzoli, 2005.
Selmer, Marsha L.. “Rufus Blanchard: Early Chicago Map Publisher.” In Chicago Mapmakers: Essays on the Rise of the City's Map Trade, edited by Michael P. Conzen. Chicago: Chicago Map Society, 1984.
Rufus Blanchard, Map of Chicago (Chicago: Rufus Blanchard, 1857). The Newberry Library, map6F G4104.C6 1857 .B5a