The Wanamaker Vest Pocket Subway Guide. [New York 1904/1907] 5 x 5 ¼ inches. On folding card stock. Image entitled, The Wanamaker Station in the Subway at Astor Place. Below which are two tables each listing Express and Local stations with running times between Express Stations. Subway map titled, ROUTE OF THE SUBWAY. With red hand-stamped notation, “Direct Entrance from Subway to the Wanamaker Store Now Open”. Very slight edge wear, else excellent. Image courtesy of Martayan Lan

Before smartphones, Google and digital displays in subway stations, riders had to rely on old-fashioned paper maps to navigate the city’s subway system. One of the first subway maps distributed in 1904, the year that the Interborough Rapid Transit system (IRTopened to the public, is now on display at the Martayan Lan Gallery, a rare antique books and maps dealer in Midtown. This piece is part of the exhibit New Amsterdam To Metropolis: Historic Maps of New York City, which shows the transformation of New York City from a small European controlled colony to a sprawling city of skyscrapers through rare maps from the 16th to 20th centuries. If you are an Untapped Cities Insider, you can join us for a free guided tour of the exhibit on March 14th! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today to gain access to free behind-the-scenes tours and special New York City events all year long!

The portable “Vest Pocket Subway Guide” is one of the most unique pieces in the exhibit. It is one of only two that are known to exist and recently sold for thousands of dollars. The guide was created by Wanamaker’s department store and mailed to its customers. Subway riders had direct access to a Wanamaker’s location at the Astor Place subway station, as illustrated on the promotional map. You can see on the map that the line originated at Brooklyn Bridge City Hall Station, which was decommissioned in 1945, and traveled north to 145th Street. Wanamaker knew that the subway would grow, noting that their map showed the “portion at present completed.” Since opening day in 1904, the New York City has expanded to become the largest rapid transit system, by area, in the world.

Beyond the tiny subway map, the Martayan Lan exhibit boasts many other pieces that will excite lovers of New York City history. The oldest map in the Martayan Lan Gallery exhibit dates back to 1548 and is from Gastaldi’s edition of Ptolemy’s atlas. It depicts New York as seen and drawn by Gionvanni Verrazano during his exploration of the area in 1524. This piece is described as “the earliest acquirable map” to focus on the East Coast of North America. The most recent map is a color lithograph of Midtown Manhattan from 1964 which shows how the city grew upwards with towering skyscrapers. More fun finds in the gallery include a 1821 survey map created by John Randel, Jr., the man who designed Manhattan’s street grid, and a portable Globe!

The gallery provides a broad overview of New York’s transformation from colony to city with stunning examples of cartographic art and unique historic artifacts. The exhibit will be on view until May 31st, 2019.  If you are an Untapped Cities Insider, you can join us for a free guided tour of the exhibit on March 14th! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today to gain access to free behind-the-scenes tours and special New York City events all year long!

To learn more about the history of the subway system, and ride through the now abandoned City Hall Station, you can join an upcoming Untapped Cities’ Underground Tour of the NYC Subway!

Underground Tour of the NYC Subway

Next, check out The Top 10 Secrets of the NYC Subway and Remnants of Former City Hall Subway Station Are Still Visible in City Hall Park.

 antique, antiques, Fun Maps, IRT Line, maps, Martayan Lan Gallery, subway

One Response
  1. Of course Wanamaker’s Dept Store is long gone, but the entrance to the store from the IRT station at Astor Place is still there, only it’s a K-mart now:

    https://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?110305

    The original Wanamaker’s Building (built 1862) burned down in a spectacular 1956 fire that ended up flooding the Astor Place station, which was closed for a few days during the heroic cleanup effort:

    http://evtransitions.blogspot.com/2010/11/at-stewart-john-wanamaker-great-fire_16.html

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