Map use in Berlin dailies before 1914

Wolfgang Scharfe

The German research on map use in newspapers almost totally focused on facts and figures concerning the 80s and 90s of our century in order to analyze, to comprehend and - moreover - perhaps to predict the quantative and qualitative development of map infographics for a huge audience. Meanwhile most of the parameters and motives of this development seem to be known and only the readers' reactions and the social impact might be the subject of really general research of German newspapers in the "old Länder". In the same way we should pay attention to what has happened since 1989 in the territories of the former German Democratic Republic which still today show a different way of life also with regard to reading newspapers and perceiving space.

The general suggestion which the German research gives is to see the 80s and 90s as a period of strong take off of map use in different parts of the newspapers:
Until now the take off mentioned above in Germany seems to be based on a foggy past of a prewar century without any research and without any ideas what happened in map use in dailies and other printed mass media apart from propaganda maps. The most important approach to the history of mass media maps had been made by Mark Monmonier examining the map use in elite newspapers in England, Canada and the United States since 1870. The idea to throw a first light on the map use of Berlin dailies before 1914 had been born about 10 years ago, however, the project had to wait in favour of a lot of respective current work until last year when the first step was made to prepare a paper approaching the weather maps. The surprising result of the weather map analysis obviously was quite stimulating to move foreward.

The first plan comprised the comparative examination of three Berlin dailies belonging to the bourgeois social class and representing the three most important journalistic editors in Berlin at that period and - as a social contrast - the "Vorwärts", the daily of the social democratic party.
Berliner TageblatBerliner ZeitungBerliner Lokal-AnzeigerVorwärts
daily editorRudolf MosseLeopold UllsteinAugust ScherlSPD
circulation (1895)55000?16700050000
editions per week136126
price per edition0,45 M0,25 M0,25 M0,28 M

FIGURES 1 + 2 + 3

This initial plan had to be changed because in the Berlin microfilm archives the copies of the "Berliner Zeitung" do not exist for this period and the available original copies show severe gaps and are not allowed to be copied. The reduction of the number of copies concerning bourgeois dailies which had to be examined was a very positive chance for the realization of the project. Because the two bourgeois dailies remaining in the race considerably increased the number of pages per edition and, moreover, the number of editions per day from two to three at the end of the 19th century. By this reason the project could be completed in time.
According to the experiences of the research on modern mass media maps the dailies were analyzed completely through 3 months in five years periods starting in 1912 and going back to the year of the respective foundation. To consider the changes between peace time and war time the period between June and August 1914 were added.

The lack of information and even of suggestions about facts and figures did not allow to put foreward any hypothesis, but to ask questions only.

1. Which are the quantative characteristics of map use before 1914?

In total the "Berliner Tageblatt" (1872-1912+1914) comprised 41, the "Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger" (1887-1912+1914) 39 map infographics, and the "Vorwärts" (1884-1912+1914) 10 cartographic images. If one considers the peace time only the figures are reduced to 30 - 27 - 1. These figures reflect the number of maps in the news and in advertising; weather maps had been excluded.
Chronologically there is a quantitave break concerning maps in Berlin bourgeois dailies between 1902 and 1907. The three months periods do not exceed 3 maps in 1902 and earlier, however, increased to 7 and even 12 maps in 1907 and 1912. In 1914 between 10 and 13 maps were published, most of them in August 1914 when the First World War began. Contrary to the peace time the social democratic daily "Vorwärts" joined the national morale in war time map use and published as many battle field maps as the bourgeois dailies.

If we look at the use of infographics in general at that time in the bourgeois newspapers the number of portraits, landscape and settlement representations increased in the same proportion as maps and maplike images.
Contrary to this development the map and the infographic use is very different in the "Vorwärts" as far as the news are concerned. Infographics can merely not be recorded before 1912; afterwards we find chess problems, pattern charts and in 1914 regularly very professional political caricatures in the news. From the very beginning the advertising parts of the "Vorwärts" more and more got similar to the bourgeois newspapers in containing graphic elements although the advertising parts of the "Vorwärts" could not really compete with the respective sizes of the "Berliner Tageblatt" and the "Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger".

2. In which parts of the newspapers the maps had been published?

If we follow the issues mentioned above also in the Berlin dailies of that period we find maps in
There is only one rather strange case in 1877: the first map recorded in the "Tageblatt" is a very detailed plan of Berlin just on an advertising page, however, without any connection to any advertising or any news in this edition.


Most of the maps had been elements of the news and of advertising, and it should be stressed that before 1914 the informative value of advertising was not lower estimated than of the news. Between 1907 and 1912 the number of maps in the "Tageblatt" increased only because the number of advertising pages with its maps had considerably grown. In the sunday editions advertising and private announcements mostly comprised more than 80% of the pages.

Contrary to this result for the "Tageblatt" and the "Lokal-Anzeiger" the "Vorwärts" did not contain any map or maplike image in advertising. This matter of fact is caused, however partly, by the high price features which are linked with maps in the bourgeois dailies: for example sale of estates and properties, sale of cars, holiday cruises in the Mediterranean or luxurious furniture. On the other hand we have to consider that the percentage of advertising in the "Vorwärts" is much lower compared to the respective figures in the "Tageblatt" and the "Lokal-Anzeiger".


3. Which were the events leading to map use in dailies?

There are two approaches to answwer this question: a regional one and an approach with regard to subject matter. Obviously, the regions of preferential treatment had been Berlin and its surroundings, the German Empire and the regions of the world where German politic or economic interests were concerned, first of all Russia and the German colonies in Africa and Asia. As most frequent subjects we find traffic (planning, problems), elections, minority problems, and diseases, but in the same way sensational events like murder and fire. In all cases the maps matched with the news.

FIGURES 10 + 11 + 12 + 13 + 14 + 15 + 16

In the same way the maps matched with their corresponding advertising. The globe and the shape of the German Empire were used as metaphores for widespread distribution areas of chocolate and cigarettes.

FIGURES 17 + 18

Along with these general tools for advertising special contemporary events became the base for the map use in advertising like the rapid growing of the big cities (sale of estates) and the increase of holidays on comfortable ships cruising in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. These vents caused a lot of rather detailed maps which can be considered as real decision assistance.


While the bourgeois dailies are very similar with this regard they are opposite in the weather presentation. In November 1881 the "Tageblatt" published the first Berlin newspaper weather map based on data from the Imperial Marine Observation Service and by this means replacing the mapless weather reports.


The "Lokal-Anzeiger" took the same way not until 30 years later. In the same years, however, the "Tageblatt" did without the weather map in favour of incoming important news.


During the war time no weather map was published at all.

During the 28 years of peace the "Vorwärts" contained two maps only: a detailed plan of a court yard where a judgement against some party members took place and a general map showing the region of the St. Lawrence mouth where a sinking ship killed more than 700 people. The weather reports in this daily did not comprise any map.

4. Which types of maps had been used?

We can clearly distinguish between maps of the topographic type and thematic maps.
The maps of the topographic type reach from big scale ground-plan drawings of rooms and apartments via town plans to general maps partly with hachures for relief representation.

FIGURES 6 + 7 + Sarajewo

The thematic maps first of all show traffic lines and nets, the quantitative distribution of disease and minorities and the results of elections.
There is no predominance of a map type with regard to the news or to advertising.

5. Do the maps contain indications of the sources, the authors or the designers?

The sources of the maps of the topographic type never are mentioned whereas thematic maps, for instance those presenting elections' results, record the respective statistic data.

It is an exceptional case if a surname appears on a map and, moreover, this name is completed with the function of the bearer with regard to the map.

Nevertheless, there are some very interesting traces on certain maps.
Between 1906 and 1914 the maps printed in the "Lokal-Anzeiger" mostly showed in one of the lower corners the combined letters A and S - very similar to the way in which designers and infographicians after 1945 used to sign their maps. Until now the question who is behind the A and S cannot be answered. But this AS-person must have been cartographically specialised because we cannot find his sign on any other infographic of that period.
On the other hand between June and August 1914 the "Vorwärts" contained a total of 10 maps which either the legendary "Wolffsches Telegraphen Bureau" originated (abbrevation "W.T.B." and an ordinal number) or a similar anonymous institute with a bangle as its graphic mark (and an ordinal number, too). By combining the dates of publication and the ordinal numbers on the maps we can conclude that both infographic centers produced between 10 and more than 20 infographics per week. These figures exceed considerably the respective figures of the weekly production of infographics in comparable German centers in the 80s of the 20th century.

Of course, these results may be estimated as first indications only and have to be completed by research with a more comprehensive quantitative data base. This could be done in a certain way after the completion of this paper which was made for presentation on a conference on the history of cartography last September in Rostock. After this conference Dr. GŸnter Kosche sent me about 50 German newspaper maps dating between the late 90s and 1914. Almost all maps had been produced by professional infographic centers which sent their products to newspapers published all over Germany. These infographic centers were situated in Berlin, and by these maps now we can prove that not only the Wolff Telegraph Bureau and the bangle center have existed but 6 more infographic centers were very active before 1914. This fact is an extremely important contribution to the quantitative aspect of map use in newspapers at that time.

6. Did the contemporary reproduction technique affect the map use in dailies?

The contemporary reproduction technique to print maps other infographics as line drawings was the chemical transformation of drawings to the printing plate. This process started with the transmission of a line drawing or print to a zinc plate by drawing directly on the zinc plate or by chemical print or by a photographic procedure. Mostly the chemical printing was used to transfer the line content of a paper sheet to the zinc plate. The next step was the line etching using nitric acid to etch away all areas without lines which led to the plate for relief printing.
This plate was combined with the text plates to the final plate for the printing machine.
Copper plates and xylographic originals were transformed to printing plates by galvanoplasty .
Later on photography and copperplate etching completed the traditionall reproduction techniques.

The earliest use of these techniques had been in advertising and only later on in representing graphics for the news. Obviously for the preparation of advertising graphics more time was available than for the preparation of infographics. We have to consider that not the technical process of transformation was the real time problem but the manual process of bringing an idea upon a sheet of paper or to select the appropriate printed original which matched the respective text.

Contrary to the text parts of the dailies the graphic components required more time consuming work and by this reason a lot of specialized institutions was founded to facilitate these processes by outsourcing. Although the factor "time" did not considerably affect the map use, the factor "expenses" certainly has to be regarded as an obstacle.

7. Conclusion

If we sum up the results of the questionnaire we find a lot of basic similarities between the map use characteristics at the beginning and at the end of our century. This finding must be seen as a real surprise because until now indirectly the research in this field was dominated by the suggestion that before the Mac and the colour in newspapers there had been an infographic Stone Age. In my opinion it will be absolutely necessary to take this finding as a new general question and challenge with regard to mass media communication in a period without film, radio, television and computer technique. A lot of innovative research is waiting for us.