Map of East Texas Oil Field

Pictorial — or illustrated — maps typically use artistic elements to add extra information and context to improve aesthetics, and to make an impact that a map has on its viewers.

Pictorial maps have an extensive history as part of the art of cartography, and map makers have long leaned on artistry to augment the purpose of a particular map. With modern cartography dominated by CAD and digital street maps, working pictorial maps are not nearly as prevalent as they once were, but they remain popular among collectors. The extensive map archive of the Texas General Land Office contains several pictorial maps.

E.D. Ray, Map of East Texas Oil Field, Tyler, TX, 1933, Map #93949, Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

This pictorial map of the East Texas oil field was drawn by E. D. Ray in 1933. Representing over 10,000 wells, the map was drawn to convey the incredible growth generated in the region after the discovery of oil by C. M. “Dad” Joiner in 1930.

East Texas’ first oil well, C.M. “Dad” Joiner’s Daisy Bradford #3, was located near Joinerville, formerly known as Cyril. The International & Great Northern, one of several railroads serving the developing region, passes through the field en route to Henderson.

Joiner drilled the Daisy Bradford #3 well on land that was long rejected for exploration near Turnertown and Cyril (renamed Joinerville in his honor) in Rusk County. After his strike, the biggest oil leasing campaign in history ensued, and the activity spread to include Kilgore, Longview, and a five-county region.

A disclaimer on the map indicates that cities and roads are not plotted to scale or with particular accuracy. Instead, the map features whimsical drawings of cars, people and buildings with many tongue-in-cheek labels such as “Bus loaded with suckers,” or “Load of Lawyers on way to Tyler to get injunctions.”

While acknowledging his map’s inaccuracy, the author takes note of some of the professionals drawn to the region due to the oil boom: a trainload of “lease hounds,” a carload of lawyers “on way to Tyler to get injunctions,” escrow agents, and royalty buyers. A “bus loaded with suckers” departs Tyler to head toward the oil fields, bypassing one of the many hitchhikers that dot the roadways.

To this day the East Texas oil field remains the largest oil field in the contiguous United States and has produced some 5.2 billion barrels of oil.

This map was donated by the Texana Foundation in October 2015.

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