Beginning in the 1930s, maps were screen-printed onto various types of textiles and sold in souvenir shops across the nation. Today, these tablecloths, hankies, and scarves make charming decorative elements.
Display them in a frame, as we did with the Alaska map in front of the fireplace.
Reimagined as artwork, bedspreads, and pillows, these textiles create a school's-out mood in the summer months. For the pillows, we backed handkerchiefs with linen to reinforce the thin fabric and show off the illustrated borders and scalloped edges; a rayon tablecloth made into a coverlet is draped over the bed.
Not all map textiles are created equal; some designs are extremely rare and therefore more highly coveted, while others are ubiquitous and affordable at flea markets.
Made of cotton or linen so finely woven that it's almost translucent, 12-inch hankies are an easy-to-find collectible. This design features a detailed streetscape of downtown Boston.
Meant to protect a coif during an open-air excursion, scarves are generally 3 feet square and usually made of silk or rayon. Because they were used so frequently, scarves in pristine condition are hard to come by now. But their designs are often the most interesting and colorful.
This rope-bordered map stars a collection of Western states.