Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pondering Alabama Maps (4): Early State Road Maps

In the first three installments of this series I looked at the city of Pelham on some old maps. Why Pelham, you ask? I live there, silly! Now let's look at some early statewide road maps. 

One of the earliest Alabama road maps is surely the 1914 one below, which can be found at UA's Alabama Historical Maps collection. Below the state map is a detailed look at roads in Shelby, Bibb, Chilton and Autauga counties. This map was drawn by civil engineer and draftsman H.E. Anschutz under the direction of W.S. Keller and R.P. Boyd, State Highway Engineer and his assistant respectively. 

UPDATE on 2 July 2015: Historian Martin Olliff recently pointed out to me that W.S. Keller was Helen Keller's half-brother.

Notice anything interesting in the detail from Mr. Anschutz's creation?? That's right--in all this spaghetti, none of the roads have names or number designations. You'll find the same thing on the 1924 map in the digital collection. 

Now let's take a look at the state's 1925 road map:

And here's a zoom of the Selma-Clanton-Montgomery area:

Now we see some numbers on these roads. At first they seem like mileage numbers, but that doesn't work out. These numbers are the early highway designations in Alabama. 

No draftsman is identified prominently on this 1925 map, although I suspect we find his name in the lower right corner: D.E. Shields and the year 1924. 

In the next installment I'd like to continue by looking at some more state road maps from the 1920's and into the 1930's.

A fascinating history of the early "good roads" movement in Alabama is Martin Olliff's "Getting on the Map: Alabama's Good Roads Pathfinding Campaigns, 1911-1912" in the Alabama Review 2015 January; 68(1): 3-30.


  1. WS Keller was Helen's half brother. Check out the pre-road map descriptions of routes in the AAA Blue Book like the 1912 edition online, and I have an article on the development of road maps to send you.

  2. Thanks for that info about Keller! I thought I had cited your article in one of these map posts, and will have to do it in a future one.

  3. I have used the UA's Alabama Historical Maps collection website for years. Great information.

    I found this Alabama Yesterdays page today, August 8th, 2019.Looks like you have enough info to keep me entertained for a while.

  4. Thanks and hope you like some of the content here! That UA map collection online is indeed wonderful....