Thursday, January 2, 2014

Five U.S. states as portrayed in 1932's "A Parade of the States"

The 1932 book A Parade of the States by Bruce Barton appears to have been created to encourage Americans to leave their home states and travel across the country. And this is not a travel tome that points out the pros and the cons of each region. It is a book with enthusiastic statements such as this one by the author:
"Alabama, we salute you! On your behalf, we extend an invitation to the people of the United States to visit you. They will share the thrill of your achievement; and always they will carry with them the memory of your charm."

In further support of the notion of getting Americans out of the house and onto the roads, the book's foreword was written by General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan Jr. Here's an excerpt:
"The United States has grown and become unified as means of travel have been enlarged. ... If this volume makes each one of us know our neighbors better and increases the desire to visit them more often, it will have contributed something to the more perfect uniting of our United States."

What I find most interesting about the book is that it provides a map, illustrated by Lester L. Baker III, for each of the states profiled. These are not traditional maps. They are a cartoony looks at the highlights of each state's industry, natural resources and tourist attractions. As such, they provide look at how these states were perceived eight decades ago.

Here, as a sampling, are the Parade of the States maps from the five states that I have lived in during my first 43 years — California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and South Carolina.

Hollywood and Mount Wilson Observatory were already on the map for California. Beyond that, that state's beauty was highlighted with references to the redwoods, Yosemite, and the Golden Gate.

How sad it is that my beloved state's primary purpose during its existence has been to serve as a vast reservoir of resources to to plundered and pulled from the earth. This 1932 map notes the state's gas, oil, coke, coal, slate, pig iron, steel, plate glass and mills. But none of its beauty or character.

(Up next: Continued fracking. Unless we can stop it. Read more at

New Jersey
In 1932, New Jersey's highlights included truck gardening, glass sand, fishing and silk mills. Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano had yet to be invented.

The Sunshine State would seem to have undergone the greatest series of changes between 1932 and now. Back then, the map portrays it as a vast untouched wilderness, with its pines, fruits, forest, beaches and orchards. If you were doing a version of this map in 2014, I think you'd just plop a huge set of mouse ears in the middle of the state.

South Carolina
Of South Carolina, Barton writes: "There are friendly faces amid the smiling flowers. Go, revel in the blossoms; bathe at the beaches; explore the mountains and the fragrant plains." The map focuses on South Carolina's cotton and cotton-related industries, its pine forests, it tobacco and its phosphate rock.

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