After World War I the use of automobiles boomed all over Southern California and by the ‘20s cars were faster and more dependable—but getting anywhere depended entirely on good direction. The cartographers and staff of the Automobile Club of Southern California were early heroes of local travel in Los Angeles: they bravely studied the unmarked landscapes and gave direction to fledgling motorists. Long before they showed up to open your car because you locked your keys inside, the club experimented with mapping the city roads in several formats. Here is an example of a strip map created by the club to get you from one point to another in the sprawl of the still wild metropolitan area. Early strip maps like this one were created just for members and fit neatly into the glove compartments of cars so they could be retrieved easily and consulted for journeys all around the Southland.
This little beauty takes you from downtown Los Angeles to the toolies of the San Fernando Valley and back, with plenty local color and cartographic information along the way. On the reverse of this strip are the names and locations of eleven hotels and some 17 garages, where travelers might rest or get an oil change. Each establishment had “…contracted with the Automobile Club of Southern California to give the members prompt, courteous and efficient service at reasonable prices.”
Mileage is given in circles at many points along the way and landscapes and landmarks are shown in crisp and simple hand-inked drawings. Here, your trip to the Valley begins on Main Street downtown, heads up Macy Street across to Mission Road, past the Lincoln Park Zoo to Fair Oaks in South Pasadena, over on Atlanta, past Devil’s Gate dam on Michigan Avenue (later Foothill), and across the foothill communities of La Canada, La Crescenta, Tujunga, and Sunland before reaching Mulholland Avenue and, finally, Maclay.
The return trip would be much more straightforward, San Fernando Road would take you past Pacoima, Roscoe (later Sun Valley), Dundee, Burbank, Griffith Park and Hollywood—all the way down to North Broadway and home again in L.A.
Right: Automobile Road from Los Angeles to San Fernando, Automobile Club of Southern California, 1924
Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason will share a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.