I love a good pictorial map. When maps use pictures, rather than symbols or text, to show points of interest, it always adds a little something for me. Sometimes the “something” is humor, sometimes it’s a better sense of the map’s time and place. Below, a few examples from our collection.
The above map, for example, shows the village of Gravesend as it appeared in 1870. Seeing it for the first time, my eye was immediately drawn to the Prospect Park Fair Ground and Race Course in the map’s center.
The race course, complete with illustrated horse and rider, is actually nowhere near Prospect Park, but that didn’t stop it from getting some pretty good press. To quote a New York Times article from June 27, 1869:
“It is only a few weeks ago since we chronicled the opening of this beautifully-located course with a trotting meeting, which was confessedly the most brilliant and successful reunion of the kind ever held on Long Island, and we believe that as a race track it will attain in time an equal degree of popularity among the residents of Brooklyn and New-York.”
This map of Wallabout Bay includes illustrations of the infamous prison ships of the Revolutionary War, where the British kept thousands of American prisoners in horrendous conditions. A closer view shows ships such as the Whitby, the first prison ship to dock in the bay (No. 1), and the Jersey, infamous for its horrific conditions and appalling death rate (No. 4).
Finally, a map of Fort Hamilton and Bay Ridge as they appeared in 1870. My favorite illustration: a soldier shooting off a cannon into the Narrows. It’s unclear who he would be shooting at in 1870… let’s just assume he had his reasons.