Geography departments began to develop in American universities during the first half of the 20th century. Prior to this time, textbooks about geography were prepared by people who were often clergy or teachers. But, gradually, some people trained to be geographers and they were able to greatly influence the quality of geography text content.
Photographic illustrations and printing techniques improved the quality of 20th century geography books.
Interestingly, geography continued to be taught as a separate subject in both elementary and high schools during this period.
In this map of Kansas, you may immediately notice that several lakes are missing. By comparison to a modern map of the state, several of the towns and railroad lines represented here are now gone. Historic maps are a wealth of information for historians, genealogists, archaeologists, and others who must piece together the past.
First published in 1907 and reprinted four additional times before 1914. This edition was printed shortly after the beginning of World War I and includes information about some of the early battles.
This scarce, complete teacher's aid is an excellent example of state-of-the-art geography education curriculum materials available in the early 20th century. Individual pages could be removed from the book and copied for many students utilizing the new technology of the mimeograph.
Who says a map has to be accurate? In this example, stylistic representations of mountain ranges, rivers, and coast lines have been used to illustrate the general features of Italy.
This copy has many German towns and cities marked as if it were used by a serviceman or his family to locate U.S. troop movements during World War II.
Published soon after the end of World War II, this text is one of the earliest post-war works on the Pacific Theater for children. Although the peoples of the Pacific Islands are treated with respect in her work, Quinn wrote disparagingly of the Japanese:
"Early on December 7, 1941, Japan declared war on the United States, and before word of it could possibly reach Washington by air or cable, she attacked Pearl Harbor. It was a treacherous attack, as Japan meant it to be, for had America known of the war declaration, Hawaii would have been searching the air and seas for the enemy."
Today we know that Japan did have ambassadors in Washington, DC, waiting to tell Secretary of State Cordell Hull of the coming attack. The ambassadors were delayed by their encoded message from Japan and their superiors failed to account for the time difference between Japan, Hawaii, and Washington.
Near the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, social studies (as an education subject) came into existence to include geography within its content. Though infused with primary and middle grade social studies textbooks, it was the center of grade 4s Regions and often taught in high schools as world regional geography
During the last years of the 20th century, the National Geographic Society created the Geographic Alliances across the United States. These organizations have been instrumental in bringing geography back to a position of prominence within school curriculum.
First published in 1929, this book underwent numerous printings and revisions throughout the next 20 years. Hillyer was Headmaster of the Calvert School in Baltimore. This is a fine example of a text which was written by a teacher at a time when many professional geographers were being trained in universities.
A straight line on old sailors' charts did not take the earth's curvature into account. Gerhard Kremer (or Gerard Mercator as he is better known) solved this problem after being in the map-making business for thirty years. To make navigation in the temperate zones easier, he pulled and stretched the earth's surface a great deal compare the size of Greenland to North America.
Mercator's new projection chart was first published in 1569. It continued to be one of the most popular views of the earth until 1974 when Dr. Arno Peter's projection was published in Germany. Peter's projection map was published in English in 1983 and is still very controversial because it reduces geographic and historical biases.
How many old geopolitical boundaries in this map of Europe can you identify? Would you believe that the European map of 1900 more closely resembles today's map of Europe than this one of only 41 years ago?
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society continues to have an influential role in geography education. Its monthly journal reaches millions of households in the world and its maps are prized by collectors and scholars for their accuracy. The Society prepares curriculum materials such as this volume for use throughout U.S. schools.
This miniature atlas, useful perhaps only as a pocket reference guide, still utilizes the Mercator projection for the world.
As we enter the 21st century, information technology is having an impact on geography education. Teachers in the 21st century are beginning to receive training with the use of remote sensing and geographic information systems. With the availability of the Internet, email, and CD-ROM/ DVD technology, geography textbooks may become things of the past.
GIS (an acronym for Geographic Information Systems) is a radically different method of geography education from that which was taught by the first generation of American geographers. GIS students learn to electronically input and manipulate raw data to create a variety of maps, charts, 3-d diagrams, and information models.