Monday, February 01, 2010

Place Depictions in the American Passport

Passports are a prized position of the world traveler. Wanderers of the world, and those who mentally travel as well, love looking at the stamped pages with names of far-off exotic lands. Many people get a feel of the world just reading those place names.

The somewhat new American passport offers a way to travel throughout the United States. Instead of pages with blank backgrounds or state seals, the latest edition features picturesque drawings of America. Check out some examples.

Looking at the various pages I wondered if there were any spatial patterns to what was depicted. Was there a bias towards one region of the country? Where others ignored? First, I needed to figure out where each place shown was. I determined the following:

Inside Front Cover: Specific place, Fort McHenry being attacked during the War of 1812
1: Secretary of State statement
2-3: Personal Information
4-5: Sonoran Desert, only place where the shown saguaro catci grow
6-7: Cascade Range
8-9: Specific place, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
10-11: New England seascape
12-13: Eastern-side of the Rocky Mountains due to plains buffalo being present
14-15: Specific place, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
16-17: Mississippi River, southern portion
18-19: Upper Interior famland, lack of trees in a more arid land
20-21: Lower Colorado/Upper New Mexico ranch country
22-23: I honestly do not know. A train moving through rolling hills. Could be Appalachia but also could be in the northwest or even in Wisconsin/Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
24-25: Southeast portion of Alaska, only place with Totem poles and brown bears
26-27: Specific Place, Statue of Liberty in New York's enclave
28: Hawaii
Inside Back Cover: The Moon and Earth in the distance

In the map below I used the 100th Meridian as the boundary between East and West.

There is no significant difference between east and west. However, the industrial "Rust Belt" is completely overlooked and the South only has one clear depiction. The South could have been shown with either a romantic plantation (though the bad history associated with these probably prevented the plantation landscape's inclusion into the passport) or an Everglade/Louisiana Bayou-type swamp. Meanwhile, the Rust Belt-sublocation of the Midwest has long been accused of having no identifying marks or landscapes. The somewhat new American passport seems to agree with that argument.

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