Monthly Archives: April 2014

“No Surprises”

We ordered an automobile road map printed in 1900 of Cape Cod and the Martha’s Vineyard area. Given the age and the fact that older auto maps are often ruined along the folded edges, I called to get a clear description of the condition of the map. The map arrived beautifully packaged, on time, and in the exact condition described. I would definitely buy another map from Maps of Antiquity.

-William C., Bernardsville, NJ


Washington‘s beloved cherries trees were all Eliza Scidmore’s idea. The writer, photographer, & geographer from Iowa visited Japan in 1885 & was besotted by the beauty of those emphemeral blossoms. When she demanded that the U.S. Office of Public Buildings & Grounds plant cherry trees in D.C., she was roundly ignored. She proposed her idea to every new superintendent of the department for 24 years and, in 1906, botanist David Fairchild (of the prominent Connecticut clan) imported 1,000 cherry trees for his Maryland estate. The trees thrived, & Fairchild joined the cause. When Eliza decided to raise money for the trees herself, she wrote to First Lady Helen Taft. Mrs. Taft adored Japan & took matters into her own enthusiastic hands. Takamini, a Japanese chemist who happened to be in Washington, caught wind of the cherry tree crusade. He and the Japanese consul agreed that the trees should be given in the name of Tokyo, & asked Mrs. Taft if she’d accept another 2,000 cherry trees. To the tremendous delight of Scidmore, Fairchild, & all who afterward strolled the Potomac of an April morn, she graciously accepted. The rest, as they say, is history.


Sing this jaunty tune as you stroll across the oldest Seine-spanning bridge in Paris. Completed in 1607, Pont Neuf became a perpetual fair of jugglers, tumblers, clowns, & barking hawkers who inundated passers-by with handbills advertising everything from basic dentistry & beauty products to crystal eyes & cures for consumption. By the time this 1760 view was engraved, the pomp & spectacle of commerce & street performers had largely been replaced by slave traders & pickpockets. While Pont Neuf’s seedy reputation sent strolling sweethearts & curiosity seekers elsewhere, the so-called Bridge of Memories remains. In an April fog at midnight, some Parisians say, the delighted howls of that bygone era still sweep across the silent Seine

Wonderful people to do business with!

“I’M THRILLED!  The ‘piece’ arrived about 1/2 hour ago and is already hanging on the wall.  I couldn’t be more pleased – it’s magnificent!  Thank you all for everything. The only reason I stumbled on your website is because of the VISTAPRINT ad on television for business cards……just checking to see if the people in their ad are real….they are!  Then your business was of interest since I’ve always loved maps and geography.  On a whim, I clicked search for WHATELY and the rest is history. This entire experience has been awesome – you are wonderful people to do business with. Thanks again.”

-David from Smyrna, DE, 03/30/14

Have you ever heard of the Sea of the West? It’s just north of California & just south of the Northwest Passage, & it doesn’t actually exist. Neither does the Northwest Passage. So… what are they doing on this map? The foolishness began in 1534 when Verrazano, an Italian navigator, mistook part of North Carolina‘s Outer Banks for the Pacific Ocean. Yes, really. Then a book published in 1625 by Samuel Purchas made matters worse by including the “testimony” of a Greek captain called Juan De Fuca who claimed to have explored the Sea of the West during the late 1500’s. Finally, in 1708, a British magazine called Memoirs of the Curious published an account of the fantastical North Pacific voyage made 68 years prior by a Spanish admiral named Bartholemew de Fonte. There is no other record of this voyage. The intrepid explorer’s existence is not corroborated by public records. Alas, these pesky details did nothing to deter overzealous mapmakers who, for the next 50 years, published various maps showing non-existent waterways that had allegedly allowed a ship to sail clear across North America from Boston to meet our likely non-existent hero, the Admiral de Fonte, in his imaginary Sea of the West. Although the voyages of real-life explorers James Cook & George Vancouver had taken “La Mer de L’Ouest” decisively off the map by the 19th century, a 1796 General Map of North America from the best Authorities still shows the Entrance of Juan de Fuca & the River of the West. Here history proves, once again, that the popularity of an idea is no defense against it being downright foolish.