A fantastic and unrecorded metaphor map of the United States
Author: A. F. McKay (mapmaker) / Land & River Improvement Co. (publisher?) / Rand, McNally & Co. (printer)
Title: THE MAN OF COMMERCE / A CHART SHOWING The resemblance between the arteries of commerce, as represented by railroads, and the arterial system of man; also, the resemblance between the great vital organs of man and the commercial system of the great lakes.
Published: Superior, WI, 1889
Description: Lithograph, 31.75”h x 50.25”w plus margins, full printed color. Backed with modern linen and mounted on original rollers.
Condition: Few minor areas of discoloration and some small cracks, else excellent
An amazing and extremely rare image equating the American transportation network with the form and functions of the human body.
The First Treaty of La Pointe (1847) between the U.S. Government and the Chippewa tribe opened up the region south and west of Lake Superior to development. Encouraged by the superb location at the intersection of the Great Lakes, the St. Louis River and the Northern Pacific Railway, the city of Superior, Wisconsin was established in 1854, with the intent of developing a national hub for manufacturing, shipping and transportation. This vision was interrupted by the Panic of 1857 and the Civil War, however, and the city languished until one General John Henry Hammond saw the area’s potential
Hammond purchased a large trace of land in the western end of Superior, WI in 1886; organized the Land & River Improvement Company; and established a rail line with its headquarters in the town. The Company set about creating what a “business-friendly environment,” giving rights-of-way to major rail roads and developing the infrastructure to support large industries and a major transportation hub. Hammond’s vision seems to have been realized: by 1900 the population of Superior reached 31,000, and in 1930 it was 46,000, though it has since declined. [Background adapted from Wikipedia and from J.H. Beers & Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Lakes Region (Chicago: 1905), pp. 4-5.]
The Man of Commerce
This mapappears to have been issued as part of a broader effort to promote the advantages of Superior as a manufacturing and transportation hub. The image consists of an outline map of North America, over which is superimposed a cutaway diagram of the human body. Major bones, muscles, organs and nerves are named, with many identified with specific regions: For example, the Lake Michigan region is equated with the liver; Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario the colon; New York the “umbilicus;” James Bay the spleen; the Gulf of St. Lawrence the rectum[!]; and “West Superior becomes the center of the cardiac or heart circulation.” In a nice touch, the sciatic nerve is identified with the trans-Atlantic cable. Completing the metaphor, the major arteries of the human circulatory system are laid out, with each equated to one of the nation’s major rail lines and many converging on the “heart” at Superior.
Use of the human body as a cartographic metaphor reaches back at least as far as the 16th century, to the anthropomorphic map of Europe as a queen in Sebastian Munster’s Cosmography (1570). However, this is by far the most detailed application of the metaphor encountered by this writer, and possibly the first time the metaphor was applied to North America.
The map is extraordinarily rare. We have located no other examples and no mention of it in the cartographic literature, and it does not appear to be present (or mentioned) in the archive of the Rand McNally Company at the Newberry Library.
Not in Antique Map Price Record, OCLC, Newberry Library Cartographic Catalog, Phillips, or Rumsey. A Google search yields no information. One example located in a private collection.
Currently held in The American Geographical Society Library, UW-Milwaukee Libraries, Milwaukee, WI