Diagrams and information graphics arose in the nineteenth century from mapmaking, early scientific publishing and mass merchandising, and industrial-scale engineering and finance. In the hundred years from 1850 to 1950, mechanical reproduction and mass publishing created our current expectation that publishing media will present a mix of words, diagrams, data graphics, and photographs in a seamless multimedia narrative.
From: The World on Sunday
Although such venerable magazines as National Geographic rightly deserve recognition for raising the standard of diagrammatic communications, the credit for creating the genre of elaborate explanatory diagrams and complex story visualizations actually goes to such early twentieth-century popular publishers as Joseph Pulitzer. In an age when publishers had powerful new tools of mass print communication but the “masses” were still largely illiterate, elaborate graphics gave a preliterate public the means to understand the increasingly complex industrial age.