The Importance of Place
Who better than the biggest name in printing today to lead the expedition into map printing than Rand McNally? Starting in railroad guides, the company eventually worked its way into maps in 1872, using a new wax engraving method that allowed it to print maps at a greatly reduced cost. This ensured the company’s ability to expand its publishing productions into maps and geography textbooks; in 1895, Rand McNally published a map of South Carolina detailing both major and minor cities, railways, businesses, and – the most enlightening of all of these – the locations of land owned by various families in the state. The map lists the various divisions of population, including a very clear distinction between natives and foreigners, as well as separations of race.
The fact that the map lists, among the minor cities, the different properties owned by families and businesses in the state is a sign of the era from which the publication comes. Only 30 years after the end of the Civil War, these people are still defined by their land and what they do. The importance of a person and the size of their land is shown by the size of their listing on the page; some families’ names are larger than others, while others nearly need a magnifying glass to be seen. However, these listings can give an insight into the post-Civil War South. The names crowd each other on the page, fighting to be seen; but without the labor to work them, what use are they? The population of blacks at this time greatly outnumbers whites – 688,934 blacks to 462,008 whites – but their emancipation means a living is harder to come by. Whites were reluctant to hire their former slaves for the prices these newly freed people believed they were worth, and that meant the land was not worked to its full extent.
The number of former slaves working as farmers and laborers is not listed, but it can be inferred that a great majority had to struggle to find work, despite the obvious need of white plantation owners for skilled workers. The Civil War may not have been a clash directly over slavery, but it is obvious that the end of the war crippled the South swiftly and severely. Families clung to their land as a memory of the “glory days”; it would be interesting to see how many names disappeared from the map in subsequent years as land was sold by bankrupt families in the South’s struggle to rebuild its fractured economy.
- Rand, McNally & Co., "Map of South Carolina," Map, 1895.
- Rand McNally, "Rand McNally Milestones", Rand McNally, http://www.randmcnally.com/rmc/company/cmpTimeLine.jsp (accessed April 12, 2010).