By Steve Kovacs (Introduction by Chuck Gibson)

LOVELAND, OH (April 15, 2024) – In this edition of Fun with Maps we celebrate road maps as a travel companion – (before GPS and Google of course).


Today is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Rand McNally’s first road atlas – the Rand McNally Auto Chum.  The company remained a leader in road atlases and auto maps until replaced by more accessible tools, like GPS and Google Maps.

The original atlas was printed in dark blue and red, called highways only by name (no road/route numbers for another three years), and did not contain an index for places.  If you wanted to travel to a certain city, you had to keep thumbing through the pages and figure out how to get there yourself.

The popularity of the automobile and the chance to travel made old atlases kept at home obsolete and smaller, handy maps that could be kept in the car filled a motorist’s need. 

Of course, gas/oil companies realized their chance to give customers a bonus as they began to give away folding maps for local areas.  Rand McNally published the maps for Gulf Oil.

An early folding city street map with a unique way of locating streets and key points of interest is shown here, the A-Z Company’s folding map of Los Angeles from the early 1920s.  To find a street or point of interest, the user looks up the street in the index and “dials-in” the location using the provided number/letter coordinates in the index: the rotating arrow moved to the desired number along the circle and then reading the letter along the shaft of the arrow will locate the desired street.

E-Z Map of Los Angeles circa 1925 (Credit Steve Kovacs)

Steve Kovacs and his wife Theresa reside in Loveland, Ohio where they raised their two children. He is a passionate collector of antique maps.

Visit his antique map boutique world-on-paper online. Watch for his daily feature Steve Kovacs: Fun with Maps here on Loveland Beacon.