Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Puzzle map of the US

Our object this week is a molded puzzle map of the United States from the 1940s.  APH Superintendent Benjamin Huntoon began making wooden relief maps in the basement of the Kentucky School for the Blind in the 1870s.  Little changed in their manufacture for fifty years.  In 1922, APH bought electric carving tools to speed the process, but the manufacture of the maps continued to require skill and tedious handwork.  In 1936, an article in the Courier Journal featured an interview with the foreman of the APH map shop, William J. Butler, who was working on a wooden model of a U.S. map to be used to "make a mold for experiments in compositions."  The copyright date on the mold of 1939 suggests the experiments were completed by that date.  Production of dissected maps almost doubled in the years between 1938 and 1944, reaching levels not seen again until the mid 1960s.  By 1945, the desk-sized hard rubber relief map of the U.S. appeared in the APH catalog.  A 1945 report on map work by Mrs. Hugh D. Johnson praised the APH dissected relief maps in general as the "ones most eagerly used by teachers and children alike," and in specific "the special delight of all my classes is the desk sized hard rubber relief map..."  Former employee Ron Gadson described the hard rubber process as the mixing of liquid rubber with a powdered binder, which resulted in a brown material.  The casting was cut apart on a band saw and hand painted.  In the mid 1960s, APH began molding  the map in plastic.  The plastic version last appeared in the APH catalog in 1986.  A U.S. puzzle map of different design was reintroduced in 2002

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