The map that helps patrons decipher London’s world-famous Underground transport system is one of the most iconic images in all of Britain. But the map, which has been copied by transport systems worldwide, has a fairly humble origin.

Prior to 1933, there were a number of maps that helped Londoners and visitors alike navigate the subterranean labyrinth affectionately known as the Tube. But London transport officials were in search of a unifying map that would codify the complex system.

Along came Transport for London electrical draftsman Harry Beck, who modeled his map after an electrical schematic, according to the Transport for London Web site.

“The result was an instantly clear and comprehensible chart that would become an essential guide to London,” states the Transport for London Web site. For his effort, Beck was paid 5 guineas, a pittance when considering how useful, not to mention marketable, the map has become.

Tourist shops across Britain and in the capital, in particular, hawk everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs and table placemats emblazed with the Tube map. Even for folks not using the Tube, it’s a way to roughly measure distance between London locations.

For more info on the London Underground that may score you a victory at the next pub quiz night, visit

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