I have collected road maps for many years because of my interest in how places change over time. My collection contains items from the early 1930s up to present day. This interest in maps is what lead me to pursue Geographic Information Systems as a minor field of study.
Their history from the Road Map Collectors Association www.roadmaps.org The advent of affordable automobiles spawned a new trend in American culture: the road trip. Motorists anxious to tour the country quickly tired of stopping every few miles to ask directions; out of their troubles came the first road maps, given away by gasoline companies hoping to increase business and customer loyalty. State and provincial governments soon began turning out maps of their own for tourists, using them to promote the scenic and cultural wonders of the state, and perhaps enticing the visitor to remain a few more days. Travelers soon came to expect free maps whenever they stopped for gas or tourist information, and companies such as Rand McNally, H. M. Gousha, and General Drafting turned out millions to meet demand.
Over time, maps became costlier and competition among oil companies became more fierce. The oil woes that gripped the world in the 1970s stripped free maps from gas station shelves as oil companies cut their expenses to the bare minimum. Motorists either turned to official tourism offices for free maps, paid to join automobile clubs for their trip routing services, or broke down and purchased maps from the same gasoline retailers who used to give them away.