This brightly coloured and finely detailed map captures Buenos Aires near the midpoint of the city’s two generation-long boom period when it was one of the fastest growing and most dynamic cities on earth. It was made by Pablo Ludwig, who was then the leading Argentine commercial cartographer.
For most of the 19th century, Buenos Aires was an important, but rather staid, provincial city. However, that all suddenly changed beginning in the 1880s, when a protracted commodity boom led to explosive economic growth. This fuelled mass immigration to Argentina (mainly from Spain, Italy and Germany and Eastern Europe), while many rural Argentines flooded into their capital in search of good jobs. Buenos Aires soon became one of the wealthiest and most culturally vibrant places on earth, as its broad avenues, lined with grand edifices and cultural institutions, it being favourably compared to the most august European capitals. The boom lasted for about 50 years, until Argentina was laid very low by the Great Depression.
The map captures the entire federal city of Buenos Aires, with its neat geometrically rational urban plan, as well as part of the suburb of Avellaneda, to the south. The ‘Referencias’, lower left, identifies the symbols used for built-up urban blocks (shaded pink), partially built-up blocks (shaded grey) and blocks with no buildings (shaded blue); public buildings; churches; hospitals; markets; tramway stations; civil registry offices; parks and plazas; as well as railways, both in use and under construction.
The overall picture is one of metropolis in the midst of hyper growth, as the burgeoning new barrios under construction appear in all directions of the established city centre, with notable growth along the main artery of the Avenida Rivadavia, and to the north and south of the core, while many land reclamation projects are shown along the waterfront. As the note in the upper left reads: ‘La Cuidad de Buenos Aires tiene actualmente 1.200,000 habitants.’, revealing that in 1909-10 the city had 1.2 million inhabitants, its population having almost doubled from 1895, when it counted 663,854 residents.
The map was made by Pablo Ludwig, who founded what became known as the Oficina Cartográfica “Ludwig”, around 1892, and from that time until the 1960s, it was Argentina’s ‘gold standard’ commercial mapmaker. The map is part of a regularly updated sequence of maps of Buenos Aires in this format issued between 1904 and 1920; it was superseded in 1921 by the Plano de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires y Alrededores sequence that depicted the city on an easterly orientation.
The present example of the map is an ‘Edición extraordinaria’, which appears to an otherwise normal 1909 edition but altered in order to celebrate the 1910 ‘Exposición internacional de ferro-carriles’, a global railway expo that was major source of prestige for Buenos Aires. A map of the exhibition grounds it shown in the lower left-hand corner, while the site of the same is noted on the main map near the Parque de 3 Febrero, in the Palermo district. It is also worth nothing that in 1910, Buenos Aires hosted the Centenary Celebration of Argentina’s Independence, a major fete which was attended by dignitaries from all around the world.
This special edition is very rare – we can locate only a single institutional example, held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
References: Bibliothèque nationale de France: FRBNF40723450; OCLC: 494806279.