Scroll Down the Mid-19th-Century Mississippi River Using This Super-Long Map

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
May 8 2014 2:30 PM

Scroll Down the Mid-19th-Century Mississippi River Using This Super-Long Map

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This 11-foot-long “ribbon map” of the Mississippi River, printed in 1866, was sold to people traveling on steamships along the “Father of Waters.”

By 1866, five decades after the first steamboat sailed down the Mississippi, the river’s banks were full of landmarks that people traveling north or south might want to identify. The map records state lines, settlements and cities, major tributaries and falls, and military forts. In the southern reaches, the cartographer notes names of individual plantation owners, including (right below Vicksburg) Jefferson Davis.

Advertisement

The ribbon map, patented by its inventors Myron Coloney and Sidney B. Fairchild of St. Louis, came in a cylindrical case. The paper was wound up inside the canister and pulled out by hand; the tourist wishing to return the map to the case used a metal crank.

The design, while appealingly gimmicky, had significant drawbacks in practice. “The lack of a take-up reel,” the Denver Public Library writes, “makes examination of longer lengths awkward.” Tourists could end up wrangling a fully-extended 11-foot map on the deck of a steamboat—not a pretty picture.

140508_VAULT_RibbonMap01
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap02
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap03
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap04
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap05
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap06
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap07
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap08
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap09
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap10
140508_VAULT_RibbonMap11

Courtesy Library of Congress

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Can Never Remember Anything

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 19 2014 1:56 PM Scotland’s Attack on the Status Quo Expect more political earthquakes across Europe.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Why Men Never Remember Anything
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 2:44 PM Where Do I Start With Mystery Science Theater 3000?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.