Happy 25th Anniversary to McElfresh Map Company

On March 19, 1993 we started McElfresh Map Company on the 5th floor of the First National Bank Building in Olean, NY.  Our first map was the Battlefield of Pea Ridge and the Shiloh Battlefield was on the table.  We didn’t know what we were doing or getting ourselves in to–but it has been an incredibly rewarding and exciting experience–every minute of it.

Torn in Two Exhibit–Ford’s Theater Washington, DC 2012.

Some of the highlights:

    • We have printed and sold over a quarter of a million maps in different formats.
    • In the early days, as we were sweating out the future of the company, and in the same week that the bank nixed our loan application, History Book Club purchased 2,000 of our boxed sets of Gettysburg maps.  We were HBC members and we ordered one–to see how it was packaged.  Imagine our surprise when we received a post card that informed us that they had already sold out.
    • Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War was published by Harry N. Abrams and is out of print,selling over 35,000 copies. The book resulted in a  presentation at a Long Island bookstore that was taped by C-Span Book TV.  A family friend was visiting during the holidays and woke us up to watch the first telecast–there was no need to wake us up,  the broadcast was repeated many times and is still available on the C-Span website.
    • Our maps have been used by Library of America in their Civil War Series.
    • We have given presentations all over from London to Harvard, Milwaukee to Miami and beyond; our research travels have taken us across the country from Gettysburg to Montana, from Omaha to DC with many stops in between.  With a young family, the kids were usually in tow–these were our family vacations and they were a blast.
    • We have had great customers over the years, some of them are quite famous.
    • We have been kindly helped by many knowledgeable people.
    • We have been given breaks and introductions by so many in the publishing and mapping fields.
    • Letter from Shelby Foote

      Famous historians such as Shelby Foote, Stephen Sears, James McPherson and Sir John Keegan have written appreciative letters.

    • Our maps were on display at the Quick Center at St. Bonaventure University.
    • Our Underground Railroad Map travelled with the Torn in Two exhibit during the Civil War Sesquicentennial.
    • Throughout his Civil War years of study, Stephen Sears was Earl’s idol. And Earl got to work with Mr. Sears when he prepared the maps for Sears’ latest history, Lincoln’s Lieutenants.  It was a personal highlight–a real honor and a treat.

There were times when we struggled and dealt with an unsavory element–all small businesses do.  But would we trade those 25 years for anything else?  Never. Ever. It has been a great run.

Here’s to the next 25 years!

Quick Center Exhibit

Getting the Hang of It

With a book on hand, a name in mind, we became e-book publishers on that late November Day.  My first order of business was to figure out how to e-publish.  If I remember correctly the Wall Street Journal article gave some good direction to start, and being a relatively good researcher I was off and running.  But first I had to get my hands on an e-reader—now we have several.

Sidereal Days was well over one hundred thousand words—and I needed something with fewer words to fine-tune my skills.  Then I remembered—last summer Earl had given a Civil War talk at the library in Cuba, NY.  A very nice gentleman from Texas came to our office the next day looking for a copy of the talk.  I don’t know what Earl gave him, but I did notice that sitting next to his desk were copies of the talks he had given over the years—to local libraries and civil war groups, talks he gave in Washington, DC at the Smithsonian, National  Geographic, the Washington Map Society, in Boston at the Harvard Map Collection and even  a talk he gave on Long Island that was picked up by Book TV years ago.

My practice material was not only available but was interesting and ready to be published.  Or so I thought….

Bookshelves and Articles

If one would walk into our house or office, the obvious first thing one would notice: books, many, many, many books.  Predominately history books but there are shelves dedicated to Anthony Trollope, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Saul Bellow, Charles Dickens, Wright Morris, Evelyn Waugh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joyce Cary, James Joyce, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Rhys, Jane Austen, George Gissing, J .D. Salinger,  J.K. Rowling to name but a few and not even including my shelf.

When E.B. was writing Sidereal Days, as a traditionalist, he saw only one route to getting a book published.  The same route he used with Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War, published by Abrams in 1999.  Find an agent, who finds a publisher, who not only publishes the book, but has the means to distribute and find an interested audience for the book.

So he followed that route.  Finished the book and looked for an agent.  It was a tough sell—not because the book wasn’t good because it’s fabulous.  But because the industry changed!  And no one wants to take a chance on an unknown….

We didn’t realize the significant changes going on at the time.  After his first agent rejection, he tried again.  The second agent’s return e-mail suggested that things weren’t like they used to be.  He continued on the traditional route after her e-mail, but an article in the Wall Street Journal caught his eye—and captured both of our imaginations.  The article was about the new world of digital publishing.

It’s funny how things happen.  My traditionalist husband, who throughout the whole computer/information age has been buried in books, reads the article and sees the benefit of going digital.  I wasn’t skeptical, I just always thought the WSJ was only good for a few stock tips, interesting editorials and a quick peak at the news!


What’s in a Name

We came to work on the Monday after Thanksgiving realizing that we wanted to add a fiction imprint to McElfresh Map Company.  The name Tammy Norie Press didn’t have to be discussed.  The Tammy Norie was my father-in-law’s forty-foot sail boat.  She was beautiful—Honduran mahogany construction with teak decks culled from a British World War II cruiser.  She was majestic—dark blue topsides, a handsome bowsprit, brass portholes and brass ventilators.  Under full sail her distinctive beauty came alive with her ketch-rigged reddish sails.

My husband, a cartographer, prefers the land.  But the Tammy Norie loomed large in his life.  The boat was built in England and had to make its way to the US.  He, his sister, their parents and a crewman, who later became his brother-in-law sailed the boat from Wisstock’s Boatyard in Woodbridge, Suffolk, in England to Madeira crossing the Atlantic in the route of the trade winds (the same route as Columbus) to Bermuda and then up to Essex, Connecticut.  In the summer of Woodstock, as the rest of us were watching the first man walk on the moon they were watching the sun—his father relied entirely on celestial navigation.

The trip was successful, after fifty-five days at sea the stunning Tammy Norie, with her crew of five, gracefully sailed into Essex Harbor and remained part of the family for twenty some years.

The name Tammy Norie Press was a given….