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May 10, 2018

11-foot-long ribbon map of the Mississippi River

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Utterly sublime.

From Atlas Obscura:

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Steamboat Tourists of the Late 1860s Wrapped It Around a Spool

By the 1860s, a pair of St. Louis-based entrepreneurs had decided there was a market for a Mississippi River map that embraced its true length.

In 1866, Myron Coloney and Sidney B. Fairchild, a.k.a. Coloney and Fairchild, unfurled their first Ribbon Map, a long, blue-inked facsimile of the Mississippi.

A depiction of the entire Mississippi, from the Gulf of Mexico all the way up to its source in Northern Minnesota, the map stretched 11 feet long and was a little over two inches wide.

"Coloney and Fairchild's patented apparatus required that the single sheet be cut into strips, attached end-to-end, mounted on linen, and then rolled inside a wooden, metal, or paper spool," wrote art historian Nenette Luarca-Shoaf in an article in Common-place. ("This patent is for the 'IDEA,'" the pair specified when filing it.)

An advertisement for the map suggests that people needed an outlet for their awe: having your own chart to unroll, it promised, would stop you from "constant[ly] questioning… the officers of the boat," and causing "an immensity of annoyance" to them.

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Explore one of these maps in its entirety here.

May 10, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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