Artefact Spotlight: 1928 travel guide

This article was written to showcase an item from the museum library’s collection. I took a series of photos of the artefact in question to accompany the article.

This year, AAA estimated that over thirty-five million people would travel more than fifty miles away from home over Labor Day weekend. If you were one of those people who did enjoy the holiday with a well-earned vacation, chances are you used a GPS to arrive at your destination quickly and safely. But what about before the advent of GPS, MapQuest, and similar? Many of you probably remember what it was like to try and work out your own best route on a map you’d never be able to refold without ripping.

Today, the library is spotlighting a travel guide of a type that was once ubiquitous and though still available, lacks the popularity of digital equivalents. This handy item included a wealth of information for a trip to North Carolina, everything from where to eat to advertisements for local businesses. In the back was a fold out map that could help you find all the places in the guide.

This guide is from 1928, and published by the Rand McNally Company. It could be purchased for thirty-five cents, or just under five dollars in today’s terms. This may seem very cheap at first glance, but the average annual wage in 1928 was only slightly above $6000, and of course only one year later many would not even be able to boast an income that high.

Despite the relatively steep cost, this sort of publication was a must-have for travellers, because it was impossible to otherwise find out such in depth information about new locations on the fly. And today it’s still invaluable for its ability to tell us what everyday slices of life were like in historic times. It enjoys a place in the museum’s collection as we work to represent as many diverse forms of transportation as possible, as well as educate the public on their rich histories.

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