"Ontario Explanation" (1890)

In contrast to the previous map, this 1890 map of Ontario offered a comprehensive view of all  the railroads in the province without apparent bias. Investors and businesses that depended on railroads in some aspect of their operations—and this was a large proportion of North American enterprise—relied on the accuracy and clarity of such maps for logistical planning. Cram’s Chicago-based competitor, Rand McNally, published a similar annual Business Atlas and Shipper’s Guide that displayed none of the rhetorical flourishes of its advertising cartography. Bright color-coding helped readers distinguish among individual lines (note legend at upper left). The maps note in exquisite and painstaking detail the locations and names of as many towns served by the railroads that could fit on the space of the map. This crowding did not make for elegant cartography, but it most certainly was functional. Accompanying indexes provided the population and map location of each city, town, and village, enhancing the atlas’s value as a reference. George F. Cram began his career in the mapmaking business as a partner with his uncle Rufus Blanchard—the premier map publisher in Chicago in the 1850s and 1860s. In 1869, he founded his own firm, but he continued to work in occasional partnership with his uncle and other publishers. Cram’s atlases were his most successful product, for they were made cheaply and widely produced for the mass market. During the nineteenth-century, most of Chicago publishers widely used the wax-engraving technique for map production. This method supported the incorporation of a large amount of text, and it allowed maps to be cheaply printed in multiple colors and easily revised.



Danzer, Gerald A. “George F. Cram and the American Perception of Space.” In Chicago Mapmakers: Essays on the Rise of the City’s Map Trade. Edited by Michael P. Conzen. . Chicago: Chicago Historical Society for the Chicago Map Society, 1984.

Musich, Jerry. “Mapping a Transcontinental Nation: Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century American Rail Travel Cartography.” In Cartographies of Travel and Navigation. Edited by James Akerman. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Woodward, David. The All-American Map. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

“Ontario Explanation,” from Cram’s Bankers’ and Brokers’ Railroad Atlas (Chicago: George F. Cram Company, 1890), pp. 252-253. The Newberry Library, oversize G10.19