This large gorgeous poster represents one of the most iconic maps of popular culture. A world map, on a Mercator Projection, it is of a most elegant 1950s design, employing splendid hues of turquoise and emerald (in line with Pan Am’s colours) with relief shown pictorially. Boldly depicting Pan Am to be a truly global force, the globe is traversed by the airline’s routes, in red lines with their respective mileages. Indeed, by 1963, Pan Am served a wide variety of glamorous and exotic destinations, including West Berlin, Istanbul, Tehran, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Delhi, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Sydney.
Pan American World Airways, popularly known simply as “Pan Am”, was perhaps the most iconic airline of the golden age of commercial air travel. Founded in 1927, it quickly grew into the world’s largest airline and pioneered many regularly scheduled long-haul routes and made many record-breaking flights.
Introducing the Boeing 707 in the late 1950s, Pan Am came to lead the way in jet travel. From 1960 to 1965, the company’s revenue doubled and billing itself as the “World’s Most Experienced Airline”, it carried 6.7 million passengers in 1966, and by 1968, its 150 jets flew to 86 countries on 5 continents over a scheduled route network of 81,410 unduplicated miles (131,000 km). During these golden days, Pan Am was exceedingly profitable and maintained cash reserves of over US$1 billion – an astounding sum for the time.
In the age of luxury jet travel, Pan Am’s service was considered to be the gold standard. The airline’s extremely well-trained stewardesses were popularly celebrated in and of themselves for their great style and welcoming demeanor.
In 1960, the company completed ‘Worldport’, its iconic terminal at New York’s Idlewyld (later JFK) Airport. In 1963, the Pan Am name dominated the view down New York’s Park Avenue, atop the Pam Am Building (now the Met Life Building), the largest commercial real estate space in America.
Pan Am was led from its founding to 1968 by its incomparable CEO, Juan Trippe (1899-1981), who combined a daring yet successful business acumen with a flair for great style. Trippe had an unusual appreciation for great marketing and under his watch Pan Am became one of the world’s most recognized brands, synonymous with glamour and modernity.
Pan Am’s marketing budget was perhaps the most coveted prize in the global advertising industry. A big part of Pan Am’s PR strategy rested on its promotional material, which was prominently placed in travel agencies around the world. Editions of the present map were one of the most popular and successful posters the company ever created and were immediately recognizable to millions of people.
In the age of Mad Men, the company spent millions on ensuring that its image appeared favourably in popular culture. Pan Am planes appeared prominently in the James Bond movies Dr. No and From Russia with Love and in 1964 The Beatles were photographed stepping off of a Pam Am plane, commencing their ‘British Invasion’ of America. Also from 1964 to 1968, the legendary con artist Frank Abignail, Jr. posed as Pan Am pilot, a story that later popularized by the movie Catch Me if You Can (2002).
Editions of the present poster map were first issued in 1956, based on cartography by John Philip and design and artwork by Paul John Brown. The poster was produced in two sizes; a manageable size (45.5 x 81 cm) and the present gargantuan format almost twice that size, being 82 x 148 cm. Various updated editions were produced until the late 1960s, with the present edition, issued in 1964, showing updates to routes as of January 1, 1963. They graced innumerable travel agency offices and airport lounges around the world, although posters in excellent condition (such as the present example) are today quite scarce.
References: Cf. David Rumsey Collection, no. 6832.000 (citing the 1956 large format version) and 8458.000.