It seems like the quintessentially contemporary phenomenon: the pedestrian, walking along, distracted from his surroundings by the glowing blue dot of the map in his smartphone.
But there have been some oblivious palm-gazers, it turns out, since long before Steve Jobs came along. In London, during the Great Exhibition of 1851, the merchant George Shove designed a ladylike accessory that would allow its wearer to navigate, discreetly and easily, the fair’s Hyde Park environs.
The proto-mobile map! Subtle and delightful! As Harvard’s John Overholt put it, the map-in-the-hand is basically “a 19th century PalmPilot.”