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.
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.
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!