Westways Magazine Cover
Westways Magazine Cover


In 1897 the first horseless carriage, a four-cylinder gasoline-powered vehicle was built in a shop on West Fifth Street in Los Angeles by Philip Erie and S. D. Sturgis. These vehicles and anything self-propelled were identified as automobiles in the late 1800s.  “Automobile Fever” began to spread and on December 13, 1900, a group of wealthy men and auto enthusiasts filed articles of incorporation to establish the Automobile Club of Southern California. They had two objectives – to promote laws and highway projects beneficial to automobile owners and to promote growth and tourism in Southern California. By 1905 there were around 6,500 cars, trucks, and motorcycles in California. In 1906 the Auto Club began to survey the best routes for travel and began their first important project – placing road signs around California identifying cities and towns and creating directional signs with mileage and road conditions. The Auto Club’s second major project was creating the now quintessential road maps for their members.  The third brilliant project was their iconic magazine, created in 1909 to focus on Auto Tourism, followed by “Strip Maps” in 1912, designed in segments covering the distances from town to town. The Auto Club started a program to identify the locations of services and lodging with the AAA seal of approval in 1912.

The Art of the Magazine – Touring Topics

The Automobile Club of Southern California was founded in 1900. It was one of the nation’s first automobile clubs. As early as 1906, the Club began charting California’s roads. The publishing of the Club members’ magazine began in 1909, focused on automotive tourism, and was known as Touring Topics. The Automobile Club of Southern California, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association (AAA), published Touring Topics, the first magazine focused on the automobile and tourism which was renamed and rebranded as Westways Magazine. Westways celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009.  These magazines were filled with not only all aspects of motoring in California, but memoirs, essays, and travelogues. The magazine became very popular, not only with the members of the auto club but with purchasing customers. It chronicled landscapes and destinations including extensive photographic coverage of the coastal regions and deserts of California, the national parks of the American West, and Hawaii. Today the magazine is known for its research, writing, artists covers, advertising, coverage of current and historical events as well as the valuable travel maps. The magazine was an artistic collaboration between the talented staff and local artists, graphic designers and cartographers in Southern California.

Westways Magazine Cover
Westways Magazine Cover

Travel Topics in Westways Magazine by Decade

I have included this description of the magazine to introduce you to its popularity during the first half of the twentieth century. Because of this adoration, the Automobile Club of Southern California kept reinventing itself and providing its subscribers with unique ephemera. A very popular addition included in the package sent out during the 1950s, were the fold up thematic pictorial maps; which are now collectibles. The Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County has obtained one from 1956 for our Collection.

Historical Topics in the Magazine

  • 1920s – The Art of Motoring, Growing up on a California Mission, Life as a Cowboy, Los Angeles County engineering notebook with photographs of roads under construction  ( including railroads, bridges, rivers, trees, civil engineering), diaries, and travelogues.
  • 1930s – California’s 25 largest cities, more Los Angeles County Engineering notebook with photographs, the topic of erosion, Red Rock Canyon, Lake Arrowhead, Joshua trees, fishing, collecting palm trees.
  • 1940s – The California geologic time table, Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara, steam ships, the California poppy, the city of Los Angeles, lakes in the high country, desert combat training, wildlife,  a map of the California Mother Lode, multilingual San Francisco,  vacation plans, and engineering notebooks with photographs of Los Angeles County roads.
  • 1950s – Vacation planning including mountain destinations, sightseeing, beaches, fishing, camping, and vacation clothes, cooking, the opening of Disneyland (July 1955), fiberglass sports cars, food and finally wine!
  • 1960s – Skiing, Santa Monica, ranches, exploring byways, camping trailers, tide pools, travel gear, books of the west, and finally we start seeing advertisements for wine tours. Among the first wineries to be featured is the San Antonio Winery founded in Los Angeles in 1919 by Steven Ribolli. It is one of the oldest California wineries in continuous operation for more than 100 years. The winery has a production facility, a tasting room and vineyards in San Luis Obispo County.

Free Winery Tours Daily

Automobile Travel Includes Wineries in the 1950s- San Antonio and Swiss Colony Wineries

Californians started exploring the state. They made trips to various regions that far too many residents had never visited. The magazine was known for the maps that were included within the pages; maps were both helpful for planning these excursions and interesting for residents to drive off and visit unique or historic places in the state.  A tiny community of Asti in Napa County was the home to many Swiss and Italian residents located between Healdsburg and Cloverdale. They were known as the home of the Italian Swiss Colony, who produced inexpensive table wines and had been making wine and growing grapes since 1881. Before and after WWII, they had many vacationing visitors to their community. People were wanting to learn about the art of winemaking and see the Asti townsite. In fact, it is said that this community competed with Disneyland as one of the biggest tourist attractions in the state of California. As a note, Gallo purchased the estate at the Italian Swiss Colony in 2015.

Cartoon, April 1954, Westways
April 1954, Westways

The Impact of Design – Editor Phil Townsend Hanna

Phil Townsend Hanna, the Automobile Club, and the Magazines – 1926-1957

Phil Townsend Hanna (1896-1957) was born in Los Angeles and was educated at the University of Southern California. He began his career in 1915-1916 as the automobile editor for the Los Angeles Tribune. In 1917 and 1918 he was an editorial employee of the Western Times and went to the Associated Press in 1919, ultimately being a highway builder for six years between 1920 and 1926. He was hired by the Automobile Club of Southern California to become the editor of the auto club magazine where he led both Touring Topics and the renamed magazine, Westways from 1926 until his death in 1957. These publications mirrored the lifestyle and the culture of Southern California and provided maps to its readers.

Title Maps and Ephemera  – A Bold Addition by Editor Hanna

Early in the publication of the magazine the maps were created by cartographers who were hired by the Automobile Club of Southern California. There were always various types of maps that were included within the pages of the magazines. The members of the club enjoyed both the articles and the maps so Hanna decided to take it one step further. He believed focusing on large maps which would display the history of California would be unique. By the 1950s, Hanna made the decision to include thematic maps. These were not the small page size maps, but as large as 32” x 46” folded maps to sixteen segments produced on paper using a colorful ink publishing method and included in the Westways magazine mailer.

Examples of map types are provided here.

A map that focuses on the location and names of features.

Shows the true size of places in relation to others.

A map that focuses on the spatial variability of a specific distribution or theme.

A map of a town or city, showing the positions and names of all the streets.

A political map shows the state and national boundaries of a place.

A strip map is a set of pages that follow a route; each page of the map shows a defined geographic area. It is a more convenient starting point for planning a journey than an ordinary map.

Any map that is not used today because it is out of date.

Spanish California

This is what appeared when the map was folded into its sixteen segments.

Spanish California Colorized

The same artwork as it appears colorized
on the inset of the map side of this printing.

1950s and the Inclusion of Thematic Pictorial California Maps

Three notable pictorial maps were included in Westways magazine during the 1950s. The Wine History Project is fortunate to have the Spanish California map, circa 1956, one of these three in our Collection. The three fold up maps published by Westways in the 1950s included:

  • A Map of the Marked Historical Sites of California, circa 1952;
  • Outdoor Play Places of California, circa 1954; and
  • Spanish California: A Map of the Missions, Presidios, Pueblos and Some of the More Interesting Ranchos, circa 1956.

Los Angeles California Map
Date:  1956
Origin:  Los Angeles, California
Materials: Paper
Size: 32” x 46”
Object ID: WHP-ADV138

The Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County Artifact – an Important Document in our Collection for the Roving Twentieth Century Tourist

California’s Spanish history is celebrated on this large folding map to promote motor tourism across the state of California. Routes are designated by bright colors which reflect the paths of various early explorers. The missions, presidios, pueblos, and various ranchos that were established under the authority of the crown of Spain are also notable. There are over 300 locations numbered within the image as well as the urban centers of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The map in the photo below was included in the Westways magazine published in 1956 and identified as Volume 48, No. 12. It was originally folded in sixteen segments and included a note of explanation from Phil Townsend Hanna describing the map to the Club’s members. In the final paragraph of the printed note, he summarizes the historic Spanish colonization of upper and lower Alta California with the following:

“This map has been produced by the Automobile Club of Southern California as a contribution to the story of California in the days of Spanish and Mexican rule, and in an effort to make the state’s background more understandable to roving Twentieth Century motorists.”

The Spanish Period in Alta California

The period which has such a prominent history in the state was from 1769 – 1823, just 54 years. As the map published by Westways details there were 21 missions, 4 presidios, and 4 pueblos established during these years. The 21 missions were approximately 30 miles apart, a day’s ride as many Californians refer to from the state’s history. The presidios, or military forts, were established at San Diego (1769), Monterey (1770), San Francisco (1776), and Santa Barbara (1782). These presidios existed to help lay the Spanish claim to Alta California and to defend it against foreign intrusion. The soldiers became a major part of the later Rancho elite. The pueblos were established at San Jose’ de Guadalupe (1777), Los Angeles (1781), Branciforte (1797), and Sonoma (1835) and were the towns that were important to the Spanish for establishment of merchants of goods, farming, and ranching.

The Staff Who Created the Celebrated 1950s Automobile Club’s Pictorial Maps

Phil Townsend Hanna, editor (1896-1957)
Hanna eventually became the general manager and appointed public relations counsel for the Automobile Club of Southern California. He also was author of several books dealing with Central America, Mexico, California, and Southwest United States history. Hanna was revered by his friends in the following organizations in which he participated: Sunset Club, Wine and Food Society, California Historical Society, Huntington Library, Southwest Museum, Zamorano Club of Los Angeles, Claremont College, and the Automobile Club of Southern California. Between 1928 and 1981, the Automobile Club of Southern California had a “Cover Art Program” which Hanna had initially created, where artists were recruited to paint covers for the first the Touring Topics issued 12 times per year, and then Westways issued eight times per year. Many of his fellow contemporaries would say that Hanna played a major role in keeping writers and artists fed during the depression.

William Wilcox (W.W.) Robinson, compiler (1891-1972)
Born in Trinidad, Colorado and moved to Riverside, California in 1899. Robinson attended USC and UC Berkeley before serving in World War I. In 1919 he moved permanently to Los Angeles and worked as a professional property title researcher for the Title Guarantee (Insurance) and Trust Company, later becoming Vice President of the company. He developed an extensive knowledge of local history and land development and wrote many pamphlets, articles and books on Southern California history. He also wrote children’s books, fiction, essays, and poetry. He served on a number of boards for numerous organizations including the California Historical Society, the Cultural Heritage Board, and the Friends of the UCLA Library.

William H. Newbro, Jr., compiler (1921-2004)
Graduate of the University of Southern California (USC) and served in WWII as a flight instructor. He worked for the Automobile Club of Southern California for 46 years and retired in 1987.

William Webb, contributor
Worked for the Automobile Club of Southern California for a number of years.
Little is known about him.

Lowell Butler, cartography
Served as the Westways magazine’s art director from the 1930s to the mid-1950s. In this capacity he created multiple pictorial maps.

Ken Sawyer, artist  (1896-1960)
During the 1920s-1930s Sawyer lived in San Francisco working as a commercial artist. He was the Art Manager in the Department of Promotion and Publicity for the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) on San Francisco’s Treasure Island in 1939. He moved to Los Angeles in 1939/1940 and continued work as a commercial artist, creating advertising art and illustration Mas for Sunset magazine and the Automobile Club of Southern California. In the 1950s he worked as an illustrator for film studios.

Harry O. Diamond, color (1913-2003)
A Los Angeles native and a graduate of the Chouinard Art Institute. Diamond created colorful illustrations as a professional artist. He was a brilliant artist and graphic illustrator, and much sought-after for his clever and insightful illustrations. He created advertising, countless magazine covers, and worked his magical art into many famous cookbooks. In the 1950s, he did a series of covers of Westways which rank among the magazine’s very best.


The Wine History Project is looking for donations of Westways magazines and maps. Please contact Cindy Lambert, the Collections Manager at cindy@winehistoryproject.org.


Huntington Library
Online Archive of California (OAC) www.oac.cdlib.org

University of Southern California (USC) Digital Library  
Automotive Club of Southern California Collection 1892-1963

KCET – Episode 1801 Visiting with Huell Howser

Headquarters of the Automobile Club of Southern California corner of Figueroa Street and Adams Boulevard, downtown Los Angeles (1923)

Archives, Automobile Club of Southern California, 2601 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 92007 213-741-3135, Hrs. M-F 9am-5pm