Yo! History and geography teachers: Free state maps!

August 23, 2008

In the summer of my 8th year, after my uncle, Roland Christian*, sent me his collection of “official” state maps from his latest cross-country drive, several of us kids tried to collect maps of all 50 states. Considering we were in Burley, Idaho, it’s amazing that we could accumulate 36 different states, just by our badgering local gasoline stations for the free ones. We got on our bicycles and visited the stations, one after the other.

Free educational materials: A memory from a distant past.

I haven’t seen a free map from a gas station in years, maybe two decades. My love of geography, my love of chasing odd city names, strange routes, great sights, and history, was spurred by that map collection, I’m sure.

Today, though oil companies have gotten out of the tourism and driving promotion business, state tourism offices, or state road departments typically issue free maps. How to find them all?

To the rescue comes Less Than a Shoestring, with a list of the places to ask in each state, to get a free road map of the state. These maps are great helps for students doing a “project” on a different state. For the history class on your own state, if your school offers such a course, I think such maps are indispensable.

We teach Texas state history and geography in 7th grade. When I taught that course, one of the best classroom aids I had was a collection of the official map of Texas — a year old, but I got a couple dozen copies from the state’s tourism promotion group. They were anxious to get rid of the old maps, and I was very happy to have them.

Here’s something curious: The site, Less Than a Shoestring,  doesn’t list a place to get a map from the District of Columbia — Washington, D.C. You’d think that a town that depends so much on tourism would have an office to promote tourism that would pass out maps to make tourists’ trips easier. Is this just an indication of the great dysfunction of the D.C. government, or did we miss finding the site? Let me know in comments.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the Business Blog @ Capital Active.


* Uncle Roland was a minister for the 7th-Day Adventists, and he traveled to preach around the country. Stuck in a small Idaho town for my first nine years, I thought Roland was a great world traveler. He always stopped to spend a night when he was within a state or two — he was a minister trying to travel on a shoestring, after all — and with his wonderful, deep, preacher’s voice, he had wonderful stories to tell. I miss him still, more than two decades after his death. Which of your nieces and nephews can you influence as Roland did?

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