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A Snapshot of History

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Did you grow up in the 1950's, 1960's or early 1970's and take road trips with your family?  Remember stopping for gasoline?  A candy machine (maybe), a soft drink machine (probably), clean restrooms (hopefully) and a whole rack full of road maps free for the taking.  It's hard to believe now, but back in the day, gasoline service stations were palaces.  Pennants were flying.  Attendants waited not only to gas up your car or truck, but eagerly washed and wiped your windows, checked your oil, the water in your battery and air in your tires!  And at Phillips 66 gas stations, they even vacuumed out your car. 

All of these services were offered free, doing everything they could to make you a repeat customer.  It's all gone now, but those free road maps they distributed are treasured collectibles.  Where else can you find a record of highways, cities and towns before the Interstate System was built?  Where else can you see the communities swallowed up by urban expansion, dam construction and even airport development?  And what else but a road map can capture what America was like the year you were born?

These maps were drawn and published by some of the oldest and most respected names in cartography, such as  Rand McNally, H.M. Gousha and the General Drafting Company.  And they were distributed by well-established, well-heeled oil companies, with names like Richfield, Sunray DX, Sohio, Cities Service, Tydol, Sinclair, Gulf, Shamrock, Esso, Skelly, Atlantic, Standard Oil and Flying A. 

All names either long gone, or severely diminished from their nearly nationwide name identification that took decades to build.  These maps were much more than just lines and dots.  They showed state and national parks, campgrounds, airports, ferries, bridges (both toll and free) and in later years, where the newly built Interstate highway segments began and ended.  These maps ushered in a new age of highs-speed personal transportation that we all take for granted today.

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