The History of Bird’s Eye View Maps
Between the 1840’s and 1920’s over 1,800 panoramic or “birds eye view” maps of cities and towns throughout the United States and Canada were produced. The Library of Congress has over 1,500 panoramic maps, the bulk of which were created by Albert Ruger, Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler, Lucien R. Burleigh, Henry Wellge, and Oakley H. Bailey. These five artists drew more than 55 percent of the panoramic maps that are in the Library of Congress collection. At least half of the maps created were of cities and towns in the Northeast part of the U.S.
The tradition of perspective mapping flowered in Europe in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and a few of these are featured in our collection. These early European town plans, most often portraying major political or marketing centers, were small in size and were generally incorporated in atlases or geographical books. The perspective was usually at a low angle, and streets were seldom identified by name. In some instances, the views were hypothetical, and one pattern might be used to represent various European cities.
A modified version of the Renaissance city view was employed in the United States before the Civil War. Like their European predecessors, these perspectives, usually of large cities, were drawn at low angles and at times even at ground level. Street patterns were often indistinct. Preparation of panoramic maps involved a vast amount of painstakingly detailed labor. For each project a frame or projection was developed, showing in perspective the pattern of streets. The artist gathered up any existing surveys and plat maps, and then walked in the streets, sketching buildings, trees, and other features to present a complete and accurate landscape. These sketches were then entered on the frame in his workroom.
These maps captured the imagination of the American people as air flight did not exist yet, and city views had only been available from hilltop locations. Also popular during this period were views of American cities drawn as though viewed from extremely great heights.
Victorian America’s panoramic maps differ dramatically from the Renaissance city perspectives. The post-Civil War town views are more accurate and are drawn from a higher angle. Small towns as well as major urban centers were portrayed. Panoramic mapping of urban centers was unique to North America in this era. Most panoramic maps were published independently, not as plates in an atlas or in a descriptive geographical book. Preparation and sale of nineteenth-century panoramas were motivated by civic pride and the desire of the city fathers to encourage commercial growth. Many views were prepared for and endorsed by chambers of commerce and other civic organizations and were used as advertisements of a city’s commercial and residential potential. In order to pay for the cost of making the maps, the artists would enlist subscribers including businesses, schools, churches, and private residences…and their buildings and homes would then be included as insets on the maps. Panoramic maps not only showed the existing city but sometimes also depicted areas planned for development. Real estate agents and chambers of commerce used the maps to promote sales to prospective buyers of homes and business properties.
There were very few maps made of the deep South – only 28 maps were done in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina combined. The South was economically unable to support views of their cities during Reconstruction, and northern artists probably would not have been welcome. More significantly, perhaps, the focal point of life in the South was the farm or plantation, not the village or town as in the Midwestern and the northeastern states.
Panoramic maps graphically depict the vibrant – and in some cases exaggerated – life of a city. Harbors are shown choked with ships, often to the extent of constituting hazards to navigation. Trains speed along railroad tracks, at times on the same roadbed with locomotives and cars headed in the opposite direction. People and horse-drawn carriages fill the streets, and smoke belches from the stacks of industrial plants. Urban and industrial development in post-Civil War America is vividly portrayed in the maps.
Quite a few cities have had multiple maps drawn by different artists, some just a few years apart and from different perspectives. Advances in lithography, photolithography, photoengraving, and chromolithography, which made possible inexpensive and multiple copies, along with prosperous communities willing to purchase prints, made panoramic maps popular wall hangings during America’s Victorian Age. As late as the 1920’s, panoramic maps were still in vogue commercially.
These maps give a pictorial record of America’s cities during the post-Civil War period and for many localities provide the sole nineteenth-century map. No other graphic form of this era so effectively captured the vitality of America’s urban centers.
Albert Ruger (1829-1899
Albert Ruger was the first to achieve success as a panoramic artist. The collections of the Library’s Geography and Map Division contain 213 city maps drawn or published by Ruger or by Ruger & Stoner. The majority came from Ruger’s personal collection, which the Library purchased in 1941 from John Ramsey of Canton, Ohio. Before this accession, there were only four Ruger city plans in the Geography and Map Division. Born in Prussia in 1829, Ruger emigrated to the United States and worked initially as a mason. While serving with the Ohio Volunteers during the Civil War, he drew views of Union campsites, among them Camp Chase in Ohio and Stephenson’s Depot in Virginia. He continued to draw after the war, and his prints include a famous lithograph of Lincoln’s funeral car passing the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.
By 1866, Ruger had settled in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he began his prolific panoramic mapping career by sketching Michigan cities. Urban communities in some twenty-two states and Canada, ranging from New Hampshire to Minnesota and south to Georgia and Alabama, were sketched by Ruger. He continued his activity into the 1890’s, moving his business to Chicago, Madison, and St. Louis as he sought new markets. In the late 1860’s, Ruger formed a partnership with J. J. Stoner of Madison, Wisconsin, and together they published numerous city panoramas. Ruger was particularly productive during the 1860’s; in 1869 alone, he produced more than sixty panoramic maps. In addition to city plans, he drew views of university campuses, among them Notre Dame, Shurtleff College, and the University of Michigan. Albert Ruger died in Akron, Ohio, on November 12, 1899.
Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842-1922)
The name which appears on the greatest number of panoramic maps in the collections of the Library of Congress is that of Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler. He was the most prolific of all the mapping artists and is responsible for 468 maps. He was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on December 21, 1842, and ran away from home at the age of fifteen. When the first call for military volunteers for the Civil War was issued by President Lincoln, Fowler was in Buffalo, New York. Although initially rejected because he was underage, after some maneuvering Fowler was sworn into the 21st Regiment of the New York Volunteers at Elmira, New York, in May 1861. He received an ankle wound at the Second Battle of Bull Run and was honorably discharged at Boston in February 1863, leaving the hospital on crutches after refusing amputation. He then visited army camps where he made tintypes of soldiers. In 1864, Fowler migrated to Madison, Wisconsin, where he worked with his uncle J. M. Fowler, a photographer. He established his own panoramic map firm and in 1870 produced a view of Omro, Wisconsin. This was followed the next year by panoramas of Peshtigo, Sheboygan Falls, and Waupaca, Wisconsin. During that decade, he was employed as an artist by J. J. Stoner. Fowler moved from Madison around 1880 to northern New Jersey, first to the Oranges and later to Asbury Park. Between 1881 and 1885, Fowler was located successively in Lewisburg and Shamokin, Pennsylvania, and in Trenton, New Jersey. On April 1, 1885, he moved with his family to Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where he maintained his headquarters for twenty-five years. One of the inconveniences of his profession was the recurring need to find new territory for his artistry.
Morrisville served as a convenient operating center as Fowler began to draw and publish views of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio cities. His production of Pennsylvania panoramas was greater than that of any other artist for a particular state. In the Library of Congress’s collections, there are 220 separate Fowler views of Pennsylvania, representing 199 different towns.
Throughout his career, which extended over fifty-four years, Thaddeus Fowler never ceased to find pleasure in drawing and publishing panoramic maps. He was in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1918, he recalled, preparing an aero view of the city, probably in association with Oakley H. Bailey. Airplanes and a dirigible circling the city were included in the trademark of the aero view to give the impression that some of the information was derived from aerial reconnaissance, which, of course, was not true. Some Allentown citizens noticed the view with the planes on the manuscript map.
An analysis of Fowler views of Pennsylvania towns suggests that the panoramic artist concentrated on a specific geographical area in a given year, very likely to minimize transportation problems. From 1889 to 1894, for example, he sketched cities in eastern Pennsylvania. In 1889, he focused on Schuykill County; from 1890 to 1892, he focused on the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre area; and in 1893, he mapped the area north of Philadelphia. He made views of cities between Morrisville and Chambersburg in 1894, and from 1895 to 1897, he worked in the western part of the state, especially around Pittsburgh and in the northwest sector of Pennsylvania. In 1898 and 1899, Fowler sketched West Virginia towns, and from 1900 to 1903, he was back in western Pennsylvania. Subsequently, he made trips to Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia to draw city plans and to investigate the possibility of expanding his trade into the South, which proved unsuccessful.
Fowler died in March 1922 in his eightieth year, following a fall on icy streets incurred while preparing a panorama of Middletown, New York. Fowler’s career spanned the entire period of panoramic map production, and only Oakley H. Bailey shares this distinction.
O. H. Bailey (1843-1947)
Oakley Hoopes Bailey, another outstanding panoramic map artist and publisher and a close friend of Thaddeus Fowler, was born of Quaker parents June 14, 1843, in Mahoning County, Ohio. He enrolled in Mount Union College, Alliance, Ohio, in 1862. His studies were disrupted temporarily in 1864, while he served with the 143d Ohio Volunteer Militia, Company F, but he returned to school after his service obligation and graduated from Mount Union in 1866. He taught briefly in the area school system, but in 1866 he left Ohio and entered business with his brother H. H. Bailey and edited a business directory of Ohio. His territory reached as far as Chicago, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis. In 1871, he turned to the profession of making panoramic maps. Bailey’s career began in Madison, Wisconsin, but by 1874, he had moved to Boston. From headquarters there and in New York City, Bailey published panoramic maps of American cities until the late 1920’s, first under the name “bird’s-eye views” and later as “aero views”. His brother H. H. Bailey, who also drew views, was Oakley’s partner for many years.
O.H. Bailey drew 374 maps. A Bailey drawing of Atlantic City, measuring over seven feet in length, shows five or six miles of the famous boardwalk, myriad hotels, other buildings, and the ocean front. His maps were issued under the imprints of Oakley H. Bailey, Oakley H. Bailey & Co., O. H. Bailey & J. C. Hazen, Bailey & Fowler, Bailey & Hughes, Bailey & Moyer, Fowler & Bailey, and Hughes & Bailey. In the 1920’s, the firm of Hughes & Cinquin produced panoramic maps under the sponsorship of Oakley H. Bailey, who had retired in 1927. Perhaps by that time Bailey’s eyesight had become too weak to permit him to continue the tedious, close work required of a panoramic artist. He died on August 13, 1947, in Alliance, Ohio, at the age of 104.
When asked in 1932 why he had gone into the panoramic map business instead of farming, Bailey replied that at an early age he had realized that pastoral pursuits were filled with too many uncertainties. He chose instead the career of panoramic map publishing and remained active in it for fifty-five years, drawing and publishing maps of cities in some twenty northern states and Canada. In a 1932 interview, he further noted: The business has been practically without competition as so few could give it the patience, care and skill essential to success. But now the airplane cameras are covering the territory and can put more towns on paper in a day than was possible in months by hand work formerly.
Lucien R. Burleigh (1853-1923)
Equally as prolific as Bailey in publishing maps of northeastern U.S. cities was Lucien R. Burleigh of Troy, New York who is responsible for 228 maps. During the 1880s, Burleigh’s views of New York and New England were particularly popular. The Library of Congress has 163 Burleigh panoramic city plans. State and local archives in New York may contain even more of Burleigh’s views. An 1883 Troy city directory listed Burleigh as a civil engineer. By 1886, he had become a lithographer and view publisher, publishing under the name Burleigh Lithographing Company. An advertisement in the 1886 city directory stated that the firm did fine work in all branches of engraving and printing, with “views of buildings and villages a specialty.” Burleigh published panoramic maps as late as 1892, but his most productive years were from 1885 to 1890.
Henry Wellge (1850-1917)
Henry Wellge originally hailed from Germany and served as a former captain in the Russian army engineer corps. After immigrating to the United States, he eventually
settled in Milwaukee to become one of the most prolific view artists of his time, producing over 150 view maps in his three-decade career that begin circa 1878. During this time, he criss-crossed Canada and the U.S. to 27 states and territories. His views of southern and Midwestern cities during the decade of 1880 are particularly interesting, as many artists ceased working at this time. During his career, he formed a business partnership with artist George Norris and later ran his own publishing company under the name Henry Wellge and Co., with an imprint called the American Publishing Company.
Eli S. Glover (1844-1920)
Eli Glover began his career in bird’s-eye view maps as a subscription agent for, and assistant to, Albert Ruger, a prolific mapmaker of over 250 prints. As a former employee of a printing firm with a follow-up stint as a teacher, he also pursued a commercial course in drawing and painting. Glover later became an apprentice to Ruger. In 1868, Glover established his own firm, the Merchants Lithographic Company in Chicago, which served as publisher and/or printer to many panoramic views, including those of Albert Ruger. Following the destruction of his printing business in the Chicago Fire of 1871, he began his own career as a traveling artist for maps. He produced 62 bird’s-eye maps, including many Michigan views. Upon moving to Salt Lake City in 1874, he traveled the western regions of the country, drawing bird’s-eye views for various cities in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Washington state, including Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Port Townsend, Walla Walla, and also Victoria and Vancouver, Canada.
Augustus Koch (1840 – ?)
Born in Birnbaum, Germany, he received a good education (whether in Germany or this country is not known) and served as a clerk and draughtsman in the Engineers Office of the Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War. Although his English was poor, he won an assignment as an engineering officer with an African-American regiment serving in the Lower Mississippi Valley. He began his bird’s-eye-view career with a few pictures of Iowa cities in 1868 and 1869. He traveled to several other states, from California to New York and Alabama, before arriving in Texas in 1873. He worked for years with Joseph J. Stoner of Madison, Wisconsin, the same person who served
as agent for both Camille Drie and Herman Brosius, who preceded him to Texas. Koch produced some twenty-four views of Texas cities that are known and dozens of views of cities in other states. Koch’s views are known for their detail and accuracy. He returned to Texas on at least two subsequent occasions, revisiting cities that he had already drawn and producing updates for cities such as Austin, Brenham, and San Antonio. His death date is not known.
Herman Brosius (1851-1917)
Known for his high-perspective birds-eye lithographs of town and city views, Herman Brosius was born in Milwaukee. He began
his career as a wood carver for Matthews Brothers Furniture Company, and by 1874 was listed in the city directory as a traveling agent. Shortly after that, he listed himself as an “artist”. His most productive years were between 1871 and 1895 when he authored at least fifty-seven birds-eye views. In 1875 he published 15 color lithographic views of which six were of Ontario, Canada where he spent much time between 1872-1876. Many of his works are of cities and towns in the upper Midwest, as well as New York State.
John Bachmann, Sr. (1814-1896)
His last known work, a view of Havana, is now in the collection of the Library of Congress. The one other known painting by Bachmann, a version of one of his views of Philadelphia, hangs in the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Other Panoramic Artists
Among other noteworthy panoramic map artists were Rene Cinquin, Albert E. Downs, George E. Norris, Camille Drie, and George H. Walker. The latter was also a successful publisher of atlases and maps.