Caught Mapping

Caught Mapping — I’ve always loved maps, so I was happy to run across this short educational film from 1940 on the Internet Archive. It’s about how road maps were kept updated. Information was gathered by pairs of men driving around the country in specially-equipped cars, making measurements and taking notes. Back at the office, cartographers used the notes to update the maps by drawing on clear overlays placed over the previous edition of the map. The overlay was photographed with a huge camera onto a glass plate, which was used to create a printing plate to print the overlay onto the map. Quite an ingenious process, actually.

As the narrator says, “Yes, it’s swell teamwork on the part of everyone that gets speedy, accurate information for modern roadmaps!”

This film was produced by the Jam Handy Organization, known for its stylish and imaginative training and promotional films produced for the armed forces, the automotive industry and other industrial clients. Caught Mapping was sponsored by Chevrolet, and not surprisingly there are lots of great shots of modern, reliable automobiles handling all sorts of road conditions, and running smoothly enough to allow the passenger to be taking legible notes. There are also a few shots near the beginning of the motoring public consulting road maps. I particularly like the two young women wearing their glamorous hats, one of which looks like a big feather was shot straight through it.

The film runs a little less than ten minutes and is an interesting and informative look at the ways street maps were maintained in the days before GIS, GPS, satellite imagery, Google Maps and Google Earth! I wonder if fifty years from now, people will be looking back at the primitive processes Google is using to gather the imagery for Streetview, which is not unlike the road warriors driving around to personally check every inch of road.

Caught Mapping — View the video on the Internet Archive site, with more information and different video formats to download.

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