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Captain Charles Ruth

The above image shows an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers topographic engineer making a map during WWI.

In 1917, upon the United States’ entrance into World War, the U.S. Army saw a dire operational need to centralize mapping production, printing, and distribution. Under the direction of Captain Charles H. Ruth, the Central Map Reproduction Plant produced close to nine million maps during WWI.

Following the war, the Central Map Reproduction Plant, the Central Photographic Laboratory and Engineer School Press and all branches of the Engineer School, combined to form the Engineer Reproduction Plant, with Captain Ruth as its first commanding officer. Under the supervision of Captain Ruth, the ERP became one of the major military topographic organizations in the world.

In 1941, the ERP was absorbed into the Army Map Service under the of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – a predecessor organization to the Army Topographic Command, Defense Mapping Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.