Travel the world without ever leaving Maine
There's a reason why all the world seems to be hiding within the borders of Maine.
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
One of Maine's nicknames is 'the Switzerland of America'. That's underselling the Pine Tree State: all the world seems to be hiding within its borders.
The poem on this postcard lists the many Maine localities named after foreign countries and cities.
- You could go on a tour of European capitals, past Vienna, Paris, Lisbon, Rome, Athens, Madrid and Stockholm.
- Or sample some of the British Isles' most famous places, i.e. York, Bristol, Cornish (after Cornwall) and Leeds (in England), Belfast and Limerick (in Ireland), and Argyle (in Scotland—spelled Argyll these days).
- Perhaps travel to illustrious places on (and near) the European continent: Calais (in France), Dresden (in Germany), Naples and Palermo (in Italy), Corinth (in Greece), Milo (presumably after the Greek island of Milos), Smyrna (now Izmir, in Turkey), Gilead (in Jordan) and Carthage (in Tunisia).
- Or yet visit entire countries: Norway, Denmark and Sweden; Poland and Wales; Mexico and Peru; Egypt, Corea (sic) and China.
All of which you could do, as the postcard affirms, without ever leaving the state of Maine.
The poem, A Maine Travelogue, by Walter L. Colburn, is undated, as is the postcard. However, the card has a definite vintage feel. Perhaps it dates from the 1930s when Maine's most famous signpost was erected.
The so-called 'World Traveller Signpost' in Lynchville points to a number of international-sounding destinations in the vicinity. Norway and Paris are both located within 15 miles; Denmark and Naples each just 23 miles to the right. China is a bit of a slog, though: almost 100 miles, double the distance to Peru.
“In the late 1700s and early 1800s, notoriously independent Maine residents sought to honor peoples across the world fighting for independence. Denmark, Maine was named in solidarity with a British naval attack on Copenhagen in 1807. Mexico and Peru, Maine both got their names in celebration of those countries' separations from Spain. An outlier is Norway, Maine, which was a clerical error: the town had been registered as either Norwich or Norage, but was mistakenly recorded by the provincial government of Massachusetts as Norway in 1797.”
Both the postcard and the signpost are incomplete. They miss out on at least two dozen Maine towns named after foreign cities and countries, including Belgrade, Bremen, Canton, Edinburg (sic), Lebanon, Moscow and Oxford.
And there's more—much more: you can even travel our entire solar system along Route 1 in Maine (see #528 for more).
Strange Maps #919
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.