During the early years of the 20th century, Laura L. Whitlock, “the official mapmaker of Los Angeles County” was the first woman cartographer in the United States to publish her work for the mass market and the first person in the country to win a federal lawsuit establishing copyright protection for future mapmakers.
Laura was born in Iowa but migrated west with her mother, first to Nebraska and later to Los Angeles in 1895. She again taught music at 6th and Hill, but by 1901, she took a job at a florist who shared quarters with a tourist information bureau.
In 1907, she was selected president of the Pacific Coast Travel club and commenced her career making and selling maps.
During this time she studied all manner of railroad and engineering maps, including Pacific Electric Railway, Los Angeles Railway and Los Angeles Motor Coach Company, and put together six plates of an official map of the city while working out of her office in the Los Angeles Times building.
Her maps reveal not just pre-freeway Los Angeles, or long gone neighborhood names like “Tropico”, but also her own love of L.A.’s extensive transit system and rail infrastructure.
Unfortunately, all of the originals were destroyed in the infamous bombing of the Los Angeles Times building on October 1, 1910, forcing her to rebuild from scratch, while defending against pirated copies of her maps.
Her highly detailed and prized maps are held by museums, the Library of Congress, and our own Metro Transportation Research Library and Archive.
Metro is fortunate to have one of her final maps in its collection of art and history, a large 1927 Los Angeles transit map. It can be seen on the 15th floor just outside the Transportation Library and Archive’s front doors.
It was gifted to our predecessor, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1993) by the City of Los Angeles to commemorate the opening of the A (Blue) Line in 1990.
Much more info on Laura L Whitlock and her map making career can be found in this Huntington Library online exhibit from 2019 and this Los Angeles Magazine article.