Commercial Culture

Portolan Chart of the Mediterranean and Black Seas
Petrus Roselli, Portolan Chart of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, 1456.

Commercial culture includes a rich mix of visual and textual sources—letters, maps, illustrations, and statistics, to name just a few—created to sell, measure, market, and represent land, goods, and services. Examples featured here include maps commissioned by trading companies and governments to attract investors or settlers, a tobacco company that traded on the popularity (and scandalous notoriety) of baseball players, and a sixteenth-century French printer who distributed an early direct mail appeal to secure customer loyalty.


Portolan charts were practical navigational tools with a mathematical basis; they helped sailors find their way, from port to port, around the Mediterranean. This is an example of more than 100 similar maps in the collection. [Essay 78]

Petrus Roselli
Portolan Chart of the Mediterranean and Black Seas
Majorca, 1456
Gift of Edward E. Ayer, 1911
VAULT oversize Ayer MS map 3

<em>Il Disegno della geografia moderna de tutta la parte dell&rsquo; Africa</em>
Giacomo Gastaldi, Il Disegno della geografia moderna ..., 1564.

When this map appeared it was the largest map of Africa that had ever been published in Europe. The mapmaker revised ancient ideas about African geography and relied on contemporary observations from travelers and navigators. [Essay 80]

Giacomo Gastaldi
Il Disegno della geografia moderna de tutta la parte dell’ Africa
[A map of the modern geography of the whole of Africa]
Venice: Fabius Licinius, 1564
Franco Novacco Collection, 1967
Novacco Map Collection Photocopies, Novacco Map 8F 13

<em>Epistola qua ad multas multorum amicorum respondet de suae typographiae statu</em>
Henri Estienne, Epistola qua ad multas multorum amicorum respondet de suae typographiae statu, 1569.

This booklet, although written in Latin, advertises the Estienne family’s printing business. It is the sixteenth-century version of a direct-mail appeal. [Essay 60]

Henri Estienne
Epistola qua ad multas multorum amicorum respondet de suae typographiae statu
[Letter to his many friends in which he replies about the state of his printing house]
Geneva: H. Estienne, 1569

VAULT Wing ZP 538 .E82 no. 1

<em>De par le roi...</em>
De par le roi..., 1789. Essay 103.

As this rare broadside shows, on the eve of the French Revolution, the royal government tried to limit the sale of pamphlets. But the nation was already flooded with them. Tens of thousands ended up at the Newberry. [Essay 103]

Prévôté de France [Claude-Joseph Clos]
De Par le Roi . . . Ordonnance de Police, Concernant les Colporteurs & Distributeurs d’Imprimés & d’
Écrits [On behalf of the King . . . Police ordinance about hawkers and distributors of printed materials]
Versailles: Imprimerie royale, 1789
Wing Fund, 1977
Case Wing folio Z144 .A1 v. 10 no. 87

<em>Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant</em>
Adriaen van der Donck, Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant, 1656.

By the middle of the seventeenth century the small settlement of New Amsterdam (now New York City) was badly neglected. This map presented a more prosperous image, to promote emigration. [Essay 1]

Adriaen van der Donck
Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant
[Description of New Netherland]
Amsterdam: Evert Nieuwenhof, 1656
Gift of Rudy L. Ruggles, 1985
VAULT Ruggles 430 no. 1

<em>Le Cours de Missisipi, ou de St. Louis</em>
Nicolas de Fer, Le Cours de Missisipi,..., 1718.

An example of the detailed cartography favored by French officials in the early eighteenth century, this map displays the interior of North America, and a detailed view of New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico—in the top third of the map. [Essay 82]

Nicolas de Fer
Le cours du Missisipi, ou de St. Louis, fameuse riviere de l’Amerique . . .
[The course of the Mississippi, or St. Louis, famous river of America]
Paris: J. F. Benard, 1718
Gift of Hermon Dunlap Smith, 1964
Map5F G4042 .M5 1718 F4 (PrCt)

<em>The United States at One View</em>
Humphrey Phelps,The United States at One View, 1847.

This lithograph broadside presents the United States as a commercial republic, where instruments of exchange—transportation, markets, money, and information—are central. It is an example of the library’s collection of broadsides, cartographic materials, and guides. [Essay 12]

The United States at One View
New York: H. Phelps, 1847
Strauss Memorial Fund, 2007
Case oversize E166 .U557 1847

Map of the Mouth Chicago River in 1824
Frederick Harrison, Jr., Map of the Mouth Chicago River in 1824, ca. 1855 after 1830 original.

Most probably a traced sketch of an 1830 original, this map was used in an 1858 lawsuit as evidence of how the Chicago River appeared in the 1820s. [Essay 31]

Frederick Harrison, Jr.
Map of the mouth Chicago River Illinois with the plan of the proposed piers for improving the Harbour

Chicago, c. 1855 (after 1830 original)
Bequest of Everett D. Graffc
VAULT map Graff 1800

<em>Prairie Farmer: Devoted to Western Agriculture, Horticulture, Mechanics and Education</em>
John Stephen Wright, Prairie Farmer: ..., 1852.

A bold advertisement for the Prairie Farmer, a growing regional magazine published in Chicago, this broadside trumpets its editor’s search for reader participation—an early version of crowd sourcing. [Essay 32]

John S. Wright
Farmers! Write for Your Paper!

Chicago: Jas. J. Langdon, 1852
Gift of Harold Byron Smith, Sr., 1996
Case Broadside 69

T206 Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox Cigarette Baseball Cards
American Tobacco Company, T206 Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox Cigarette Baseball Cards, 1909-1911.

Realist writer and avid baseball fan James T. Farrell collected these cards, which were enclosed in cigarette and loose tobacco packages and bear lithographic portraits of famous Chicago players. [Essay 37]

American Tobacco Company
T206 Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox Cigarette Baseball Cards
Gift of Cleo Paturis, 2007
Midwest MS Farrell-Paturis, Box 4, Folder 71