20 November 2015

Automobile Blue Book and its Earliest Route Symbols

Want to travel from point A to B?  Nowadays many of us just put the destination address in the mapping program in our cell phone, ask for directions, and we are off on our merry way!

Not so long ago, we had to pull out a map book (if you lived in a metro area) or a map (for a more rural area) and “plot” how we would get from point A to B.

The Slate did a piece on tour books published by the Automobile Club of America when it was in its infancy, The Complex Series of Symbols Early Motorists Used for Wayfinding.

If you want an up close and personal view of a route, these tour books are wonderful since they are from the perspective of driving the road.  This is different than us looking at a satellite view and though something like Google’s street view option might come a bit closer, it’s still not quite the same.

The New York Public Library Digital Collection has digitized a volume (referenced in The Slate article).

You can read more about these fascinating books via The Official Automobile Blue Book, 1901–1929: Precursor to the American Road Map (PDF format)

I learned that in 1910 the club revised its symbols by eliminating and simplifying those in use.

The Internet Archives has a 1917 edition of the “Official Automobile Blue Book 1917 – Volume Two New England, Eastern Canada and Maritime Provinces” online. This volumes doesn’t use symbols like the earlier edition and it does give detailed turn by turn rout information mentioning mileage, landmarks and other details.  An early version of Google Maps, Waze or whatever direction providing software/service you use.

Have you seen these books before? What is your favorite route description or symbol?

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