This post is about research conducted by the author, in conjunction with Dr. Tana Villafana, Research Chemist and Spectroscopist, from the Preservation Research and Testing Division, and with Rosemary Ryan, Archaeological Research Fellow, at the Library of Congress. The research is part of a larger project to characterize and study all of the Mesoamerican jade and green stone objects that are part of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology and History of the Early Americas at the Library.
Several months ago the Library of Congress began an investigation of a small green stone bead that, along with may other jade and green stone objects, is part of the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology of the Early Americas. This small bead, made from a low quality jade or other green stone, was donated to the Library by Jim May, a long time member of the Institute of Maya Studies, who received the bead many decades ago from the late Lister Witherspoon IV, a one time director of the Institute. The bead itself is fairly common, and typical of beads found in the archaeological record throughout Mesoamerica.
What is unique about this particular bead, however, is what it contains. Still attached to the inside of the bead, after perhaps more than 2,000 years, was a small fragment of what appeared to be the cord or twine that was used to suspend it around the neck of an ancient Maya, Nahua, or Olmec noble. Organic material, like twine, is a rare find in Mesoamerican archaeology, where the damp and humid environments are not conducive to the survival of organic material such as cord, cloth, or wood.
Jade of any kind was revered by the Olmec, the Maya, and other Mesoamerican cultures and a significant variety of carved objects made from it and lesser green stones, like serpentine, have been found in archaeological context throughout Mexico and Central America. These include human figures, celts and axes, and personal ornaments like ear flares, necklaces, and beads, such as the one being investigated here.
Because of the rarity of the cord fragments found in this particular bead, the author, in conjunction with scientists from the Preservation Research and Testing Division at the Library of Congress, decided to undertake an investigation using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDX) to search for clues to the makeup of the cord fragments. These two techniques were selected because they can be performed on rare and fragile objects non-destructively, and in this case, without researchers disturbing the cord fragments or having to remove them from inside the bead.
The preliminary results of the investigations have found that the fiber within the bead seems to come from a species of Agave plant. Agave fibers like those shown in the SEM photograph below, have been used to make rope and twine in Southern Mexico for centuries, with most of the modern ropes and twines coming from the Agave sisalana species, which is sometimes referred to as “sisal hemp.” Looking closely at the SEM images of the cord fragment, magnified nearly two-thousand times, one can see both the cell walls of the plant and cross-sectional structure of the fibers themselves.
EDX is an analytical technique that allows for the determination of the elemental composition of anything on the surface of an object that is excited by a high-energy particle beam, like the electrons in a scanning electron microscope. Using the EDX technique, a map was made to determine the chemical elements on the surface of the bead and the cord fragments, to determine if it might reveal hints of the kinds of dirt and other detritus that can also be seen in the SEM images.
The map in the figure below is a scanning electron microscope image that is color-coded with the EDX results to show the chemical elements on the surface of the cord fragment. From the map, it is easy to see, in green, the carbon that makes up the plant fibers. The particles on the cord and bead seem to be lime (in the form of calcium oxide) and iron (most likely from red hemitate, a form of iron oxide). Both lime and iron are common in the kind of archaeological context one would expect this kind of bead to be found in.
Although none of the results discussed above are as of yet definitive, as research will continue through the coming months, they are presented here to give readers just a small taste of how science meets archaeology at the Library of Congress.
This is a guest post by Rosemary Ryan, an Archaeological Research Fellow at the Library of Congress. Rosemary is a student at Towson University specializing in Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology. Her research at the Library is in support of the Exploring the Early Americas exhibit and the Jay I. Kislak Collection, which comprises of more than 3,000 items related to early American history, dating back to the Pre-Columbian era.
I love it when an archaeologist decides to lay down their tools, ascend out of the trench, and venture into the public domain to talk about their current work, why they are doing it, and the kinds of dilemmas they’ve encountered along the way. Ordinarily, researchers save this chattering for presentations at their local archaeological association. The reality is that very little of this found information makes it to print; but having the opportunity to work alongside curator John Hessler in the Geography and Map Division at the Library of Congress, has not only been a happy accident, but allowed my curious voice to be heard.
There is quite an array of projects currently underway, but the most pertinent and challenging due to its sheer size is the most recently acquired collection, graciously donated by William and Inger Ginsberg, long time members of the Library of Congress’ Madison Council. As a whole, the collection is comprised of 28 individual Peruvian Pre-Columbian textiles which includes cocoa carrying bags called Chuspas to burial dolls. Not only are these artifacts rare due to their condition, but are exceptional examples that epitomize regional techniques and cultural importance of a bygone era. All of the items acquired have been remarkably preserved, a fact due to the accidental coincidence of two circumstances: dry, arid climate and worship of the dead. Universally practiced among ancient Peruvian cultures, the dead were buried with garments which reflected their social status, cultural identity, and/or religion. In cases where textiles are found in situ, particularly from civilizations that we know little about, garments and accessories can provide influential evidence for understanding different group identities and extensive social structure.
So here is the conundrum that we are faced with: we do not know the provenance of a single item, meaning we don’t know their specific region or culture, age, or context. My ongoing work at the Library of Congress has been to uncover as much as possible about these enigmatic items. In reality, we only possess two ambiguously broad pieces to this puzzle. Firstly, we know the items are Peruvian due to the exhibited designs, and secondly, we know that they are Pre-Columbian (from before 1492). Before the Library acquired the collection, each item had been designated with a speculative description in terms of age and relative culture. So, one must ask themselves, how do I proceed?
More often than not we are faced with the reality that there simply is not a lot of information to work with. Undertaking the daunting task of sifting through field notes, journals, and books is not exceptionally exciting, and one has to be prepared to discover nothing despite their vigilance. Finding a needle in a haystack couldn’t be more applicable, but postponed pleasures are always the sweetest. Not only does it satisfy and fuel all the work you’re putting forth, but it also gives a sense of accomplishment that you’re able to educate the public.
As a self-declared modern day sleuth and forensic anthropologist, I knew zilch about textiles. I understood that the only method of understanding these items was to start with the basics, instituting my motto: learning by repetition in variation. I started obsessively studying weaving techniques, reading any material I could lay my hands on, and networking with anyone knowledgeable of the craft. The next step was to get to know the artifacts on an intimate level. This meant spending hours unraveling the nuances of each unique weave, making note of the technique, design, and coloration utilized. My thought process began to change the more time I spent with the collection. The longer I looked at the handmade textiles, the initial façade of a pretty object faded and I started to put myself in the environment of its designer. Slowly, you see yourself preparing the fibers for the yarn, spending hours at the loom, and influencing the alchemy at the dye basins. You begin to appreciate the evolution that went into creating that object, and understand all the decisions where one path was chosen over another.
As an archaeologist, I am constantly trying to retrace those paths, to see and understand those moments when a decision had to be made and why. The whys, for an archaeologist, are how we learn about the culture in the obscure past. By looking at the past, we can see when and why spinning one kind of fiber was chosen over another, what changes occurred that lead to that judgement, and what the consequences of that decision were. Best of all, we can take what we learned from those ancient decisions and apply that knowledge to the same techniques that are utilized today. By understanding what has been accomplished in the past, we can apply our findings to the future.
The first post of this series explored the baseball stadiums of Chicago. In this post we can enjoy the maps of another city rich in baseball history: New York City!
Home to two iconic baseball teams, New York City today hosts the New York Yankees (American League) and the New York Mets ( National League). Both teams have the support of a very loyal fan base and play in ultra-modern stadiums. But over the years, New York has been home to multiple baseball teams that have played in various stadiums throughout the city and which can be found on historic maps!
Washington Park and Ebbets Field
Brooklyn, New York was home to numerous baseball clubs in the mid-1850s and was one of the first cities to create a professional enclosed baseball field. In 1883, succeeding numerous amateur Brooklyn teams, the Brooklyn Grays were formed as a professional team and a new park named Washington Park was built, so named due to its proximity to General George Washington’s headquarters during the Battle of Brooklyn. The Grays, originally a member of the American Association, joined the National League in 1884. Many nicknames were used for the team through the years, including the Atlantics, Bridegrooms or Grooms, Ward’s Wonders, the Superbas, the Robins, and the Trolley Dodgers. It was this last name that eventually stuck and the team became known as the Brooklyn Dodgers. The field, as shown on the 1888 map below prepared by the Sanborn Map Company, was constructed entirely out of wood. In 1898, the Dodgers moved to a larger space, which was also called Washington Park.
As game attendance continued to grow, the Brooklyn Dodgers built an even larger ballpark in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, which was known as Ebbets Field, where they played from 1913 to 1957. The manuscript map below came from the Papers of Arthur Mann in the Library’s Manuscript Division. Mann was a prominent New York sports writer and Assistant to the Brooklyn Dodgers President, Branch Rickey. The map was prepared sometime between 1920 and 1930.
Interestingly, as can be seen in the map, the park favored left-handed sluggers over right-handed batters. The short right-field fence that provided that advantage was merely a reflection of the irregularly shaped block in which Ebbets Field was built. Had home plate been placed at any of the other three corners, it would have been difficult to configure as large a playing field while providing as many good seats.
At the end of the 1957 baseball season, the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, CA, and became the Los Angeles Dodgers. In that same year, their cross-town rival, the New York Giants, moved to San Francisco, California. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, once cross-town rivals in New York, became cross-state rivals in California.
The Polo Grounds
Three different stadiums in upper Manhattan were named the Polo Grounds, mainly used for professional baseball and American football from 1880 until 1963. As the name suggests, the field was first used for polo when the original stadium was built in 1876 but was converted into a baseball field in 1880 for use by the New York Metropolitans. This first Polo Grounds was used by the Metropolitans until 1885 and also by the New York Giants until 1888. The second Polo Grounds was only used for a couple of years before the third stadium was built.
The third Polo Grounds, built in 1890 and renovated after a fire in 1911, saw a lot of baseball action over the years! Noted for its bathtub shape, the field had very short distances to the left and right field walls and a very deep center field. This stadium was used mainly by both the New York Giants until the team moved to San Francisco in 1957, but also for about a decade by the New York Yankees (1913-1922). It was also used in 1962 and 1963 for the first two seasons of the newly minted New York Mets until Shea Stadium was completed.
Interestingly, the Polo Grounds can be seen on the 1921 Aerial Survey of Manhattan published by the Fairchild Aerial Camera Company (detail of map below). Made from 100 aerial photographs taken at an altitude of 1000 feet, the map is a fascinating look at Manhattan and the Bronx and shows many historic structures. Paired with the 1939 Sanborn fire insurance map, which shows that the stadium was constructed out of steel supports, had concrete floors, and contained “iron chairs with wooden slats”, we can get a truly unique perspective of the Polo Grounds.
The New York Yankees, known first as the New York Highlanders from 1901 to 1912, officially adopted the moniker Yankees in 1913 when they also first started played at the Polo Grounds. In 1923 the team moved to their own stadium, named Yankee Stadium, at the intersection of East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx, the first stadium in the United States to have three tiers of seating. This stadium, home to the Yankees until 2008, hosted 6,581 Yankees regular season home games.
The stadium went through many alterations over the years with a major renovation that closed the park from 1974-1975 park which significantly changed the layout and appearance of the stadium. The layout of the stadium from the 1950s, before the major renovations, can be seen in the 1951 Sanborn map below which identifies the structure as the “American League Base Ball Park” and is spread across two pages. By 1951, the park had a seating capacity of 70,000 and was built with a steel skeleton and concrete flooring, both of which were likely used for their strength and “fire proof” features.While only three New York stadiums were discussed here, there are various others throughout New York’s history. For those interested in searching, many historic maps, especially the large scale fire insurance maps published by the Sanborn Map Company, show unique construction and design features of baseball stadiums. When coupled with historic photographs, help both serious researchers and casual fans relive early baseball history!
The following post is by Ryan Moore, a cartographic specialist in the Geography and Map Division.
The Geography and Map Division has processed the map collection of an American vice admiral who served in both Europe and the Pacific during World War II. The Morton L. Deyo World War II map collection consists of maps related to Deyo’s role as a naval task force commander, and these once secret materials show tactical details and strategic concerns.
In August of 1944, Deyo’s ships supported the Allied landings in southern France. The attack had the dual goal of opening a second front against the Germans and gaining control of port cities to increase the flow of supplies to northern France, where Allied forces had attacked German-held beaches on June 6 in Normandy.
Six maps from the collection illustrate amphibious landing intelligence in southern France along the Mediterranean coast. The maps, produced in 1944 by the American Seventh Army, depict coastal areas near the cities of Cannes and Nice. These were areas outside the immediate Allied landing zones but which were subjected to a feinted amphibious assault and later liberated by the Allied forces. The maps are highly detailed; scaled at 1:25,000, they contain information about the beaches, the depth of water, and defenses. Although the Allies did not land at Nice, the U.S. Navy bombarded German positions within the city to support the French Resistance. This once secret map depicts the German defenses in and around Nice.
In 1945, Deyo was transferred to the Pacific. He commanded the bombardment of the Japanese island of Okinawa and his task force provided protection for the landing ships. The Battle of Okinawa was the last major battle of the war. The now declassified map titled Annex B, Movement Plan, ComFIRSTCar TaskForPAC, OP-Order 2-45 plots the movement of Allied naval forces, including several way points and information on times of attack and resupply.
Differing from the tactical maps previously mentioned is a strategic map titled Flow of Essential War Materials to Industrial Heart of Japan. Created by the Allied Air Forces South West Pacific Area command, the map highlights the Japanese industrial heartland in red and shows how incredibly reliant the Japanese were on imported fuel, raw materials, and food. American submarines and air forces actively sought out and destroyed Japanese shipping in order to disrupt the supply chain.
Deyo’s maps complement the admiral’s papers, which are held in the Library’s Manuscript Division. Finding aids for the maps and collections are available online by following the highlighted links above.
Matthew Fontaine Maury has been hailed as, among other names, the “Scientist of the Seas” for his contributions to understanding ocean navigation in the mid-19th century. His expertise is evident in his large body of work, and particularly in his maps. But while Maury left an indelible mark on the fields of oceanography and geography at large, his legacy is not without controversy.
Matthew Fontaine Maury was born in 1806 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Joining the U.S. Navy at the age of 19, Maury would sail around the world and rise through the ranks, but a stagecoach accident in 1839 left him unfit to continue on the high seas. His next assignment was to helm the Depot of Charts and Instruments, the precursor to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Here, Maury studied meteorology, compiled data from ships’ logs, promoted enhanced record-keeping among captains at sea, and produced charts that would communicate his findings. In harnessing and analyzing thousands of scientific observations from around the world, the results of his work revolutionized our understanding of oceanography, meteorology, and marine navigation.
Over the course of his career, Maury would produce maps, charts, and inventive diagrams that conveyed his new insights on ocean sciences. Among his most striking charts are his depictions of oceanic wind patterns. His 1851 “Trade wind chart of the Atlantic Ocean” is a striking visualization of Atlantic Ocean trade winds across time and space, with recordings made specific to calendar month and location (by latitude and longitude). This highly detailed chart is colored to show regions of trade winds and doldrums. Knowledge of seasonal and geographic changes aided captains in their cross-Atlantic journeys.
In 1859, Maury produced a similar chart, documenting monsoon and trade winds of the Indian Ocean, including a map of seasonal wind patterns in February and August. As the detailed “Explanation” text notes, the overall chart “expresses the results of 16,915 separate observations.”
Maury’s series of “Pilot Charts” show recorded prevailing wind patterns by compass direction and month for every 5° square of the ocean. While they may not look like much at first, a close examination shows the incredible distillation of data and painstaking precision that went into producing these charts, which greatly helped captains at sea use wind patterns to their advantage.
Through the 1840s and ’50s, driven by his strong work ethic, Maury contributed to a wide range of scientific and academic endeavors, including publishing perhaps the first modern textbook on oceanography (The Physical Geography of the Sea in 1855), tracking whale migrations, promoting greater international scientific cooperation, and even proposing routes for a cross-continental railroad.
Maury also showed prowess in land-based cartography, as seen in The Washington map of the United States, a large wall map produced in 1860 that measures over five feet wide and five feet high. Besides his detailed geographic depiction of the landscape, Maury included a wealth of thematic information, including predominant church denominations, geological regions, zoological distributions, and, of course, prevailing wind patterns across the country.
With the 1861 outbreak of the Civil War, however, Maury’s legacy becomes murkier. Maury was neither a slave-owner nor a proponent of slavery. In the early 1850s, he had studied an idea to resettle slaves from the U.S. to the Brazilian Amazon as a way to gradually phase-out slavery in the U.S., but the project ultimately went nowhere. Nevertheless, in declining to fight against his native Virginia, Maury resigned his post and joined the Confederate Navy, initially to direct coastal and river defenses and develop naval mine technologies to use against the Union. He would spend much of the war abroad, hoping to persuade Europeans to support the Confederate cause and bring the war to a quick end. Following the end of the war, Maury remained abroad for several years before taking a professorship at the Virginia Military Institute where he would teach until his death in 1873.
The Matthew Fontaine Maury Papers, a collection at the Library of Congress, contains over 14,000 items that document his career, including correspondence, notebooks, written speeches, and more. His papers and maps together are a testament to the hard work he devoted to his study. While Maury’s siding with the Confederacy has been a source of controversy in evaluating his legacy today, the scientific value of his contributions to marine navigation, oceanography, and geography is clear.
The following post is by Anna Balaguer, a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
This summer, I have the opportunity to participate in the Library of Congress Junior Fellows program, working in the Geography and Map Division. I am working with cartographic specialist Ryan Moore to process the Hauslab-Liechtenstein Map Collection, which contains some 10,000 printed map sheets from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, assembled by the Austrian cartographer and general Franz Ritter von Hauslab and later acquired by Prince Jordan II of Liechtenstein. While going through these maps, I came upon two pictorial maps (maps which display a territory artistically, rather than solely technically) that I found particularly interesting, and decided to examine the pieces in greater detail. Pictorial maps have existed since ancient times; however, in the medieval and Renaissance eras, zoomorphic (animals as maps) and anthropomorphic (people as maps) maps became increasingly popular in Europe. Both of the maps displayed below are thought to have been created around 1581 by Heinrich Bünting.
The first map, in the shape of the flying horse Pegasus, is titled Asia Seunda Pars Terrae in Forma Pegasi. The inscription on the front of the map draws on mythology and provides what appears to be an incantation to Bellerophon, the Hellenic hero famed for slaying monsters while riding on Pegasus. The map shows the landmass of the present-day Middle East and Southeast Asia but leaves out Japan, Korea, and much of modern-day China. This omission may have been a result of a lack of knowledge on the part of the cartographer; however, as the exploration of these lands by Europeans occurred well before the map was thought to have been made, it seems intentional. The text on the reverse of the map also contains interesting commentary on Quinsai (modern-day Hangzhou, China), the single Chinese city on the map, which the cartographer put on the tail of Pegasus. The key describes Quinsai in seemingly mythological terms, stating that it is “the biggest city in the entire world /and one finds in it twelve hundred bridges.”
According to former Geography and Map Division Chief Walter Ristow’s 1978 article on the collection, the anthropomorphic map, shown above, depicts Europe in the shape of Queen Elizabeth I of England. It is titled Europa Prima Pars Terrae in Forma Virginis. The choice to show Europe as a queen, and decisions of how to incorporate specific areas into the thematic image, may lend insight into the political orientation of the mapmaker. Spain is portrayed as the crown, head, and neck of the queen. The left arm represents Italy, with the royal orb in the queen’s hand symbolizing Sicily. The right arm shows Denmark. Modern-day Germany and France make up the torso, while the lower half of the queen’s dress depicts the landmass of what is today Eastern Europe, the Balkan states, and Greece. The queen’s jewelry and the decorative components of her dress depict the various mountain ranges, rivers, and other geographic features of Europe. The narrative key describes these elements in great detail, inserting commentary and using metaphor to describe aspects of the image to the observer.
Both maps possess a short Latin inscription on the illustrated side, which is supplemented by a narrative key in German, printed in an older typeface known as Fraktur, on the reverse.
These maps represent a small portion of the diverse and expansive Hauslab-Liechtenstein map collection. I have greatly enjoyed working with the collection and am eager to explore its contents further while also making the collection more accessible for researchers.
The following post is by Kim Edwin, a library technician in the Geography and Map Division.
Since coming to the Washington, D.C. area and joining the Geography and Map Division, I have enjoyed learning about the early history of our nation’s capital through maps and place names. In studying maps from the city’s early years up to the present, it’s clear that the city has seen a complicated array of toponyms and political geography over its history.
The Residence Act of 1790 created a national capital, known as the Federal District, from portions of Maryland and Virginia, centered on the convergence of the Potomac and the Anacostia rivers, which are names derived from the Algonquian Native American language. In 1791, President George Washington appointed Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant to develop a plan for the new city. This resulted in a map, now famously known as the L’Enfant Plan, an enhanced version of which can be seen below. L’Enfant does not name the new city in his map, but within his layout of streets, marked by circles and diagonals, he shows locations for the “President’s House” as well as the “Congress House.” It even has a “Grand Avenue” on the site of today’s National Mall.Despite all his hard work, friction between the mercurial L’Enfant and the commissioners supervising the creation of the Federal District plan ultimately forced President Washington to fire L’Enfant. Surveyor Andrew Ellicott, who had been working on surveying the boundaries of the Federal District, was tasked with carrying on with planning. Using much of Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 design, Ellicott’s 1792 map, as seen below, is labeled as the “City of Washington” in the “Territory of Columbia.” As the feminine of Christopher Columbus’s last name, “Columbia” was a poetic name for America with origins in the early 18th century. Of course, we all know that “Washington” is named after President George Washington.
The District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 formally organized the “District of Columbia” as under the control of Congress and consisted of five political entities, including three cities and two counties. The three cities were the long before established cities of Georgetown and Alexandria, as well as Washington City, which had been delineated in the L’Enfant Plan. The eastern and western sides of the Potomac River within the district became Washington County and Alexandria County, respectively.
Due to the turnover of city planners, the War of 1812, flooding, and other losses of support, there were significant delays in implementing the designs of the city over the next few decades. In 1846, portions of the District of Columbia on the western side of the Potomac River (Alexandria County and Alexandria City), were retroceded to Virginia. In 1851, President Millard Fillmore hired the landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing to redesign the National Mall. Shortly after being hired, Downing tragically died in a steamship explosion, leading to still more delays.
Nevertheless, the city did grow throughout the 19th century. Albert Boschke’s 1857 map of Washington City shows the significant urban development occurring at the time. Boschke’s map also shows that the area that is now at the western end of the National Mall was still part of the Potomac River. In the following years, dredging of the Potomac and the use of collected fill to build up the lower marshy areas of the city significantly controlled flooding, helped prevent the spread of malaria from mosquitoes, and made the surrounding waterways more navigable. Politically, the District of Columbia (now consisting of Georgetown, Washington City, and Washington County) became unified as one territorial government under the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871.
John Trout’s beautiful watercolor panorama captures the city as it was at the turn of the 20th century. In 1902, the year following Trout’s painting, the Senate Park Commission made new developmental recommendations for the central core and surrounding park system of the city. These recommendations were contained in what became known as the McMillan Plan, named after Senator James McMillan. The McMillan Plan essentially updated L’Enfant’s plan with the “City Beautiful” style reminiscent of many European capitals. The improvements later resulted in the Lincoln Memorial with a reflecting pool and the Jefferson Memorial with its aesthetically balancing tidal basin.Today, Washington, D.C. is the thriving capital city envisioned by its early founders. With thousands more maps of Washington, D.C. available in the Geography and Map collections, there is always more learn about the history and geography of the nation’s capital.
The following post is by Ed Redmond, a cartographic reference specialist in the Geography & Map Division.
As part of the Library’s newly opened, yearlong exhibit Baseball Americana, the Geography and Map Division will be featuring several blog posts describing the depiction and history of baseball stadiums on maps in major American cities. As the only city that has had more than one Major League Baseball franchise every year since the establishment of the American league in 1901, Chicago is a great place to start!
Historical baseball stadiums can be found mainly on two types of maps in the Geography and Map Division’s collections: panoramic maps and fire insurance maps. In the mid to late 19th century, local baseball diamonds in large cities were typically located near factories or industrial sites. The panoramic map, below, of Chicago published in 1892 shows a baseball diamond and grandstands near the railroad tracks and docks. One can only imagine that the proximity to the factory is associated with workers playing baseball at lunch or after work.
A more prevalent source for baseball stadiums on maps are large-scale fire insurance or real estate atlases of major American cities published in the late 19th century through the 1950s, which show the stadiums of many professional teams throughout the years. Fire insurance maps are highly detailed, large-scale maps of American towns and cities created for the purposes of helping fire insurance companies assess fire risk and insurance offerings for individual buildings. Today, these maps, especially those of the prolific Sanborn Map Company, provide a record of the built environment and changes over time.
Chicago is currently home to the White Sox of the American League, who play on the south side of the city, and the Cubs of the National League, who play on the north side. The history of both teams’ stadiums can be seen in the fire insurance maps.
The Chicago White Sox briefly played at South Side Park before moving to Comiskey Park in 1910. From 1911 until 1940, the Chicago American Giants, one of the most successful National Negro League baseball teams of all time, took over the park, seen on the Sanborn map below, and called it their home.
The first game at Comiskey Park was held on July 1, 1910. The baseball park served as home to the White Sox for 80 years until the team moved to a new and improved stadium in 1990. Comiskey Park can be seen in both the 1912 map and the 1950 map below, and the changes it went through are evident. In the 1950, the base line grandstands were made out of brick with iron pillars supporting a wooden roof, while in 1912, the outfield bleachers were entirely composed of wooden construction and the bleachers along the baselines had no roof.
Meanwhile, on the north side of the city, the Chicago Cubs played at West Side Park from 1893 until 1915. Although the map shown below dates from 1917 when professional baseball was no longer played in the stadium, this first park was used for other spectator sports until it was torn down in 1920.
The Cubs moved to a new stadium in 1916. From 1916 to the present day, the Cubs have played at what was first known as Weeghman Field, then Cubs Park, and lastly renamed Wrigley Field in 1927 in honor of the team’s owner and chewing gum magnate, William Wrigley. The park is the second-oldest in the majors after Fenway Park in Boston and the only remaining Federal League park.
An interesting fact about Wrigley Field is that it was the last major league stadium to play all its home games during daylight hours, as there were no lights to illuminate night time games. Lights were not installed until 1988! With such a rich baseball past, it isn’t hard to trace the history of the sport in Chicago through maps.
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