Google Street View is a great idea, especially for traveling through towns you’ve never been to before. You can see every intersection in advance, giving you great visual cues.
It was a great idea a century ago, too. In 1907, Photo-Auto Maps were published, with enjoyable rides laid out for the new pasttime of motoring, turn-by-turn directions, and photographs of major intersections and landmarks. At that time, roads were rarely paved and more rarely marked in any way. Even city streets were usually indicated only with signs tacked to the sides of buildings at the corners. There were no stop signs or red lights, no railroad crossing gates, no numbered routes, no real way to know where you were going. And so guides like the Photo-Auto Maps were indispensable.
Roads being what they are, many of these routes have changed over time, but some of the routes are surprisingly traceable. I thought it would be interesting to see what these early Street Views look like today. In the cities, some of the buildings are still the same. in other places, the streets are unrecognizable.
Photo-Auto Maps are found at the David Rumsey Map Collection, www.davidrumsey.com
The routes were traced and Google Street Views collected by Carl Johnson, www.mynonurbanlife.com
Click on the image below for Street View, then and now.