In the second era of maps that we are discovering, Portland developed to accommodate the growth seen in many American cities. We are going to look here at the maps produced from about 1920-1957. Infinite thanks of course to the Oregon Historical Society (

The Department of Public Works created some beautiful maps that have clearly broken from the era in which maps designate who owns what, and start to look at the larger considerations such as how the city is organized for all to use. The emphasis during this period clearly shifts from private ownership to public use and transportation. We start to see such immense growth in additions and even the first references to suburbs. The scale has to be adjusted for us to understand what Portland is becoming. We also have a seemingly important 1937 map from the ‘Committee on Fire Prevention and Engineering Standards.’

Of interest to some of these maps are the advertisements, which tell about who was using these maps and why. Serious businessmen had serious maps in the 1930s.

A major daily cultural element that is forgotten by some in Portland is our incredible early 20th century streetcar system. One can clearly see that throughout town today major car routes throughout town were originally built around streetcars. Our remaining streetcar loop today is a very small portion of the streetcar system that we had for most of Portland’s history, as the automobile rolls on as it does in so many American cities and suburbs.

The later maps in this period showcase the dominance of the auto. A healthy percentage of the maps in the collection featured brands of oil and gas companies. These were driving maps handed out at gas stations, and seemed to have a wide circulation. They tended to be super readable, and printed in glorious multicolor. No longer were maps things to be hung on the wall, these are clearly maps for on the go!

As the city grew, there became a need for more and more robust systems of directories. There were all kinds of interesting ideas to help people find what they were looking for on the maps. A novelty was this system with a paper arrow built in. There was a set of instructions on how to operate it to find any landmark in the directory.

We also find some suggestions for things to do that might be “Scenic,” and a few ideas for visitors on drives outside of the city. Many of which a local might still recommend today. Maps specifically for tourism are handy things indeed!

Next time we’ll explore when the city reaches it’s limit, and how Portland has found ways to accommodate even more people well beyond the city center.