Branner Library Map Collections contain thousands of road maps and road atlases covering the United States from the 1920's to the present. The maps are primarily a part of two large donations from the AAA of Northern California, Nevada & Utah and the Robert C. Berlo Road and Street Map Collection.
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Road map references
Road maps were regularly produced from early days of the automobile by oil companies to encourage people to explore the country by car. These were often given away for free at gas stations. Maps were issued year after year showing the growth of the road network throughout the United States.
The Road Map Collectors Association has compiled a list of the Master Catalog of American Oil Companies that Issued Roadmaps.
Road maps often were issued without easy to read dates making it harder to tell when a map was out of date. Two resources are available to help one decipher the codes typically used by the mapmakers.
- Dating Rand McNally and Gousha Maps from the Road Map Collections Association.
- Date codes for maps from the Western Association of Map Libraries.
Robert C. Berlo has written numerous books based on his extensive road map collection. All may be found in Searchworks and notably include the following.
- Population history of California places
- California county boundary history maps
- Largest cities of the U.S.: historical population statistics
Relevant books about United States roads.
Robert C. Berlo Map Collection
Robert (Bob) C. Berlo started collecting road maps as a child. In Maps: What I Collect and Why, he writes:
"My interest in maps began after the Second World War, when the end of gas rationing allowed my father to take us on family jaunts from our San Francisco home nearly every weekend. I began my own collection with the maps and road atlases my father and uncle used for our trip to a 1952 family reunion in Boston. As a native Californian, I took paved and multi-lane roads for granted, so was fascinated to see unpaved major roads in the Plains. This sparked my interest in the history of highways and towns. I eventually collected a road map of every one of the seventeen Western states for every year from 1925 to the present."
Over time the collection grew to over 13,000 maps covering the whole United States. The collection was donated to Stanford University in 2012.
The Berlo Collection is in the process of being added to the Branner Library Map Collection. The collection is searchable through Searchworks.
News articles about the collection include:
- Stanford Report, March 21, 2012: From glovebox to archive: private collector gives huge trove of road maps to Stanford, by Cynthia Haven.
- InfoDocket, March 21, 2012: Private collector gives huge trove of road maps to Stanford Libraries, by Gary Price.
- High Country News, February 4, 2013: A map collection for time travelers, by Danielle Vernon.
- National Geographic, All Over the Map, November 2, 2016: He collected 12,000 road maps - now we're discovering their secrets, by Greg Miller.
AAA road maps
The American Automobile Association of Northern California, Nevada & Utah collection contains about 7,000 road maps donated to the university from the cartographic archives of the California State Automobile Association. In addition to the road maps, the donation includes topographic and county tract maps that show the growth of California from the 1950's to the present. The entire collection has been cataloged and is available to view at Branner Library. The collection records may be found in Searchworks.
More information about the collection itself may be found in Adam Gorlick's article published in the Stanford Report on March 17, 2009.