Platting the Past

Maps are fascinating glimpses into the past—but not always for the obvious reasons.

Take this 1940s era plat book for example, which shows us what a modern and attractive home looked like at the time:


This set of plat maps is undated, inside or out, which means the publication date needed to be approximated.  We could compare the development of the city to out date maps, or check the city directories to see when the First Federal Savings and Loan Association was in operation, but that gives us a wider range than we’d like.

Luckily, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover!

If you look to the left of the stylish house, you’ll see the words, “G.I. Loans: Home Purchase, Construction, and Repair.”  The term G.I., which refers to the military, came into common usage during WWII, so we can be safe in assuming that this item was printed in the 1940s, once soldiers started to come home.


The back cover confirms our assumption—the Centennial Bridge opened July 12, 1940.

Plat maps are used for many purposes—this one, produced by the First Federal Savings and Loan in Davenport, was most likely used to determine available properties for purchase or development in Davenport . . . and also, naturally, to encourage returning soldiers and others to take out loans for the purpose.

The advertisements scattered throughout the book, from wholesale building supplier to realtors, home insurance companies to civil engineers bear this out—in fact, maps of all kinds can often be read as historical business listings:

PlatMap024--ads  PlatMap018--ads

PlatMap019--ads  PlatMap017--ads    PlatMap012--ads

PlatMap007--ads PlatMap006--ads

But of course, plat maps also document the development of a place, and this set does so beautifully, supplying the names of neighborhoods, additions, lot boundaries, cemeteries, parks, schools, and everything else that might have interested a prospective resident or businessman then—and a curious researcher now:


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