The “Truthiness” of Vintage World Globes

Today, with Google Earth, gps and other modern technology we are enabled to view Earth and locate individual countries at any given time. To research countries and its inhabitants we have information at our fingertips; available online and at libraries.
However, it wasn’t always so.

Before these modern technologies, maps and globes were made based on information provided by explorers, influenced by Society, personal beliefs, politics, wars and human error.

One of the best known example are the 1507 Waldseemueller gores, the first map identifying the continent of “America”, based on the explorations of the Florentine Navigator Amerigo Vespucci and the 1300 year old works of Ptolemy, an Egyptian geographer.
Martin Waldseemueller created the map in conjunction with Matthias Ringmann, who was a huge fan of Vespucci and therefore named the new found land America.

In 1516 Waldseemueller created a Mariners map of the same size, though did not show America” as before. Instead South America is identified as Terra Nova (new land) and North America is identified as Terra de Cuba (land of Cuba) and connected to Asia.

Why would Waldseemueller change his mind so drastically about an entire continent? There are many speculations.

In 1494 Spain and Portugal divided the world between themselves, with Spain owning territory the Northern and Portugal the Southern Hemisphere. This is not shown on the 1507 Waldseemueller gores. The 1516 map however agrees much more with the Spanish-Portuguese agreement.
Again, these are speculations and once will never know the true facts.

Political pressure, using the globe as a propaganda tool, human error or cost effectiveness are just of the few reasons why some globes may display only “truthiness” when it comes to some of the political borders.
Here are some examples of the 19th and 20th Century:

Because it took time for the news to travel from one continent to the other, some of the European Globe makers may still show one Dakota and Indian Territory in Oklahoma (C 1907) but at the same time already identify the Belgian Congo, a name change which occurred in 1908. US Globe makers found it challenging to keep up with the accelerating changes of boundaries in Europe such as in the 1860’s and 70’s during the 7 year war.

As Hitler rose to power in Germany, his vision of the German Empire was reflected on German Globes.
German Colonies were shown in South East and South West Africa, even though Germany had lost them to the Allies after WW1 as part of the treaty of Versailles.

As WW2 ravaged, it was challenging for any globe manufacture to keep up with the constant change political borders. Replogle stopped in 1939 to update until after the war once the new borders had bee ratified by the peace treaty of 1945.
Instead, Replogle offered a coupon with every globe they sold. Once the war was over, you could send in the coupon in addition to 10 cents and receive gores with up-to-date borders to mount on your globe over the old war map.

Julius Heyman
Just about 50 years after the death of Napoleon Bonaparte, his exile, the island of Helena, is missing on some of the globes. It was human error.

Tin Toy Globes J Chain & Ohio Art.
At times you can locate every era on a tin toy. Keeping up with political boundaries was not a priority. You could find Central Australia, which existed from 1926-31 on the same showing Israel, which did not exist before 1948.
Knowing that Vintage World globes may not have all countries aligned perfectly as for the year represented is part of the intrigue of collecting them. So check out your globe collection and see how much “truthiness” is to be found on your piece!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.