Becoming a Geographer: Gas Station Maps

May 3, 2016

Like most geographers I like maps. I remember collecting them as a kid. Not the ones that fell out of my father’s National Geographic magazines but the ones I’d find inside gas stations. Each company would print their own series and it would be fun to try to get as many states as possible. In the early 1970’s they were free; usually arranged in a wire rack near the counter. I grew up in Milwaukee near a busy three-way intersection (Capitol Drive, Fond Du Lac Avenue, 51st Street) with several gas stations in the area. My brothers and I would walk around the neighborhood collecting the latest maps. The Standard Oil maps were my favorite; the red, white and blue banner on the cover with a stamp showing the season and year. I learned about cartography as some maps were easier to read and about scale as I tried to fit adjacent state maps together. And the multi-state regional maps came in handy when I started traveling to frisbee tournaments like the annual “Throw for the Roses” tournament in Iroquois Park, Louisville.