Friday, December 4, 2009

Silk Maps




Boys save the darndest things. I have always loved maps, and globes. The older the better. Heaven on earth for me was finding a very old map, with country names that will never exist again.

During the cold war that meant finding pre-war maps that included the Baltics, or colonial maps of Africa. I'm still searching garage sales in hopes of finding a British globe on a large library stand from about 1890.

One of the great map inventions of the 20th century was made by the Royal Air Force near the beginning of WWII. The silk map. It was little, light,did not disintegrate in water and contained a great deal of information useful to a downed pilot.



The U.S. Army Air Corps "borrowed" and expanded on the idea to include silk maps all the war theatres. The photos below are of my favorites, from my modest collection, covering the air routes from The Philippines to Japan.



During my Air Force days, warehouses of these maps existed, and they were there for the taking. Mostly war surplus, but new ones were still being printed. Many Air Corps veterans used them, after the war, as linings in old flight jackets, or odd their favorite hunting coat.

The military sold surplus tons of them to the likes of Banana Republic to provide an authentic military look to their clothing.

I have enough silk maps to make a lining, and have the coat I would want to try it on, but somehow it feels disrespectful. Kind of like wearing decorations you didn't earn.

Should you find any old maps in the attic,let me know. I'd be happy to take them off your hands.

Toad

14 comments:

Martha said...

Not silk but we have an old Atlas from the 1880's -- way before Oklahoma became a state (it's divided up into Indian territories) -- and we find it fascinating. The old roads then are highways today and all of the towns that were and are no longer . . . . I bet Mayberry is even on there!

I guess I didn't realize that the lining of those jackets were real maps -- very interesting!

Kathy said...

Air Force, eh? I knew there was something about you I liked. I've written my dad (retired Air Force officer) to ask if he has anything like these stashed away. Very cool!

Suburban Princess said...

How interesting! I didn't know they were real maps in the jackets - I will have to take a closer look the next time I see one!

laurelstreet said...

I never knew this, Toad. I'll be on the lookout to think about framing one. Great object with real history. Wonderful.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Did not know about these - will be on the look out. Fascinating - and so sensible.

Tom Buchanan said...

They were often called "escape maps" and the RAF often sewed them into jackets or other clothing in case the pilot was shot down.

By the way, it was considered the "duty" of pilots, once shot down, to evade capture, and if captured, to escape. The reason for this, in addition to the pilot trying to save himself, was that the enemy's searching for an escapee would be a general distraction from their war efforts.

M.Lane said...

What a great collection! I like maps too but I'll have to watch for the silk ones.

ML
mlanesepic.blogspot.com

LPC said...

Oh but that jacket is so beautiful...

David said...

I've heard of silk maps, but I didn't know they were used for linings. Maybe save your collection but look for some with a little bit of damage (on the edges of course) to have something lined. I'll keep an eye out for them.

Sir Fopling Flutter said...

I have a small collection of WWII and cold war era escape maps of central and eastern Europe. I've been wondering about the best way to display them. Any suggestions?

Toad said...

Sadly, I do not. Decorator's any suggestions?

Keith said...

I love maps. I never knew about silk maps. Great post.

Toad said...

The British have a name for it, Anorack, which I will self define as a knowing too much about something not worth knowing at all. For further info, check here.

http://www.escape-maps.com/

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