top of page

Food & Lodging Maps

“Are we there yet?” and “I’m hungry” are two sentences that can grate on the frazzled nerves of any parent traveling in a car with an antsy kid.

America came out of the Depression with an increased mobility and a collective yen, at vacation time, to pack the family in the car and hit the road. This wanderlust spawned a number of roadside businesses to provide services for highway travelers, including gas stations, restaurants and motels, many of which published maps to help the motorist find his way.

Oil company maps will be the subject of a future log post, and here we’ll take a look at some interesting food and lodging maps.

Promotional maps are more than advertising gimmicks; they actually help direct the traveling motorist to the desired service. The earliest maps and guides to overnight accommodations located hotels in various cities along the way. Only those hotels that paid to be “on the map” were included, so a traveler using, say the Consolidated Tours Map of the Eastern States, published by the National Survey, might conclude that there were only six hotels in all of New York City.

But cities weren’t the only destination of vacationing motorists, and as day melted into night, it would be time to look for a place to sleep. In the pioneering days of auto travel, weary travelers unrolled canvas tents stowed in their gran touring cars and pitched camp along the road.

By the late 1930s, however, tourist cabins were making overnight stops a little more convenient. These cabins, over the years, evolved into motor courts and then into motels as we know them today. This evolution is graphically illustrated by a series of maps by the Northeastern Cabin Owners’ Association. The 1939 editions shows a rustic cabin in a woodsy setting; this artwork is progressively altered, as shown by the 1941 and 1949 editions; and by 1951 the style has changed completely – and the title has changed from Cabin Guide to Motor Court Guide.

Other associations also issued maps promoting their members’ lodging facilities.

The traveling motorist didn’t need only a place to rest his head, however, he also had to fill his tummy. So roadside restaurants began to pop up – and form those humble beginnings has evolved the multi-billion-dollar fast-food business we know today.

One of the first food purveyors to hit the road was the Howard Johnson chain, whose advertising claimed to be the “Landmark for Hungry Americans.” [The three maps shown here, with cartography by Rand McNally, located Howard Johnson’s ice cream shops and restaurants – and named those famous 28 flavors. Howard Johnson continued to publish maps into the 1970s, when a series of regional maps – and a separate one for the state of Florida – depicted the county as a whole.

Other restaurants followed Howard Johnson’s lead – and many of them issued their own maps to help motorists find their way: Stuckey’s, Dairy Queen, Shoney’s, Morrison’s Cafeteria, and many others, including McDonald’s, whose golden arches beckoned travelers with an extensive series of maps in the 1970s.

All of these maps are not only desirable collectibles, they are also a fascinating window into the evolving history of recreational highway travel in our country. I would make no claim that the examples I’ve included are even close to a complete list and I would be happy to hear from readers who have other examples. Please include the name of the restaurant or lodging association that published the map and the year(s) of publication, if known.

For lovers of maps in all their wonderful variety, I would recommend membership in the Road Map Collectors Association.

You are always welcome to contact me on any aspect of map collecting via our contact page.

To purchase your very own food and lodging maps, visit our top-rated eBay store.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page