The first bird’s eye view map of Erie was a panorama that included a detailed aerial view of the city after the Civil War. During this time, Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler had started to enter the world of panoramic mapping. Aside from the panoramic map of Erie, Fowler also created maps for cities and towns across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
According to John W. Reps, whose books examined urban planning in the United States, Fowler was the most prolific of all American city viewers. He described the style of Fowler as spare and mechanical but exceptionally accurate and detailed. Fowler focused on the creation of clear and accurate portraits of towns with minimal artistic frills.
In an essay, John R. Herbert and Patrick E. Dempsey wrote that Fowler was commissioned by citizens and civic groups to create panoramic maps of their community. Once a town has agreed on a map, Fowler would involve neighboring communities and include their pride, community spirit and sense of community.
Fowler travelled extensively which meant that he has likely seen them all. He travelled until 1918 when America was already involved in World War I. That year, Fowler who was already in his mid-70 was in Allenton, Pennsylvania surveying the city for a panoramic map with his old time collaborator Oakley Bailey.
The aero view included airplanes and a zeppelin that were circling the city. This gave an impression that some of the information was derived from aerial reconnaissance which of course was not the truth. Most of the citizens of Allenton noticed the view of planes in the manuscript map.
Fowler has always expressed an unadulterated joy when working on panoramic maps. His legacy lives on through the panoramic maps that are displayed today in museums, businesses and city halls in Pennsylvania. All the cities and towns that were captured in the panoramic maps were frozen in time.
Illustrated maps or sometimes called bird’s eye view map or panoramic maps shows a scene as it looks from above at an oblique view. Today, there are still illustrated maps that provide the depth and popularity that begun centuries ago. Illustrated maps deliver a realistic feeling of a region or area from a human point of view