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Queensland's First Road Atlas?

25 Jun 2021 10:48 AM | Anonymous

Contributed by Peter Griggs, RGSQ member

When it comes to finding their way today, motorists can rely on GPS Navigators or GPS on smartphones. No such devices, however, existed when Queenslanders started acquiring automobiles in the 1900s.

Recently, as part of research I am undertaking on the environmental history of South-East Queensland, I looked at Yates & Jones’ roadatlas published in 1913. Yates & Jones were a Brisbane firm of surveyors anddraftsmen located in George Street. Unfortunately, the book did not have any information that would assist my research. However, I was intrigued by the book.After some additional research, I have concluded that this publication is probably the earliest road atlas for Queensland. I could find no other earlier road atlas for the state.

The front cover of the 1913 Yates & Jones’ road atlas.

The publication has 47 regional maps showing the main roads throughout different parts of Queensland. The maps identify the “good roads”,and details assess the status of river and creek crossings. Accompanying each map is one or two pages of information about the region’s main industries, the population of the main settlements, the nature of the country being traversed and tips and facilities for travellers. The publication, however, is not entirely like a modern road atlas.Unusually, the first part of the atlas reads like a handbook for settlers or new immigrants to Queensland, containing information on the State’s land legislation, timber regulations and income tax rates. In addition, there are first aid hints, mechanical hints for motorists and details on the cost of tram and cab fares in Brisbane. Clearly, part of the cost of the atlas was offset by advertisements by Brisbane firms.

The publication of the road atlas was considered worthy enough for at least one Brisbane newspaper to run an article about its release.The un-named journalist who wrote the article concluded that it was “a valuable publication” and that “the reliability of the information given cannot be doubted”. It took five years to prepare and was based upon the experience of the firm’s surveyors throughout the state. Interested members can check it out at the State Library of Queensland.

One of the regional road maps from the 1913 Yates & Jones’ Road atlas.

Sources: Yates & Jones, The roads of Queensland (Brisbane: Yates & Jones, 1913) Telegraph (Brisbane), July 25, 1913, p. 3. 

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