Some of our favorite maps are Bird’s-Eye-View Panoramas, popularized in the mid-1800s and early 1900s. These views are a hybrid of cartography and art. The artists captured the character of neighborhoods using original maps, blueprints, and plans in conjunction with skillful sketching of a city’s features and buildings.
The lithography process that was used to reproduce these views was relatively new, having only been introduced in the early 1800s. The idea of printing on paper from an image placed on stone was quickly embraced. Rapid advances with steam-powered mechanics made the process ever more efficient and economical. The early lithography equipment and supplies were produced in Europe, with American printers importing the presses and supplies from Germany, England, and France. Only three American patents related to lithography were issued prior to 1860. As the process became more mechanized, American printers began demanding more of the powerful new presses. The R. Hoe & Co. of New York began to manufacture steam-powered presses as early as 1870 in New York. Further advances rapidly followed, such as the use of zinc plates that were easier to use than stone, and the development of photographic processes. The Centennial Exposition of 1876 exhibited the earliest examples of prints made using the photozincographic process at the Photographic Hall in Philadelphia. Continue reading