Persuasive Mapping from Boston Rare Maps

- by Michael Stillman

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Persuasive Mapping from Boston Rare Maps

Boston Rare Maps has issued their Catalog 3. Reformers & Visionaries, Scoundrels & Incendiaries. 250 Years of Persuasive Mapping. That is an odd title for a map catalogue, but then again, so are the maps herein. Typically, maps are just maps, something designed to show you what the layout of a section of geography looks like as accurately as the mapmaker can. It may not be fully accurate – older maps of the world during the age of discovery rarely were – but that was for lack of information. These maps, “persuasive maps,” were less concerned with representative accuracy than with promoting a point of view. Some were designed to be funny, others serious, but most have a story to tell. An example of persuasive mapping recently in the news was Russia insisting that Google Maps when accessed in that country show Crimea as part of Russia, not Ukraine, where it legally belongs. Russia is more interested in selling its story than legal accuracy. This catalogue is filled with such stories, and it makes for a fascinating collection of maps. Here are a few samples.

 

We begin with a map from the time of the American Civil War. The map is accurate, and yet it has been highlighted to relay a message to its readers. The heading is The Progress of the Union Armies. What the Rebels Claimed in 1861. What They Hold in 1863. It also specifies “The Situation – August 1863.” Union states and territories are unshaded. Areas claimed by the Confederacy in 1861 are shaded in gray, while areas still controlled by the Confederacy are shown in black. The immediate impression is that the South has lost almost two-thirds of the territory it once claimed to control. Only South Carolina and Georgia remain fully in the hands of the Confederates. Coastal North Carolina and Virginia are under Union forces, while West Virginia has separated itself and joined the Union. The border and southwestern states are now totally under Union control, as is Florida, most of Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Even Alabama has lost a slice. The timing is unlikely a coincidence. It comes only a few weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the war. Nevertheless, northern Copperheads were still trying to pull the Union out of the war. The draft riots in New York were still just a few weeks old. Clearly, the unnamed mapmaker is seeking to buoy the spirits of Union supporters with a map that implies their side is handily winning the war and a favorable outcome is inevitable. Priced at $3,750.

 

Next we move to another war, another country. It comes from 1941 or 1942 and it was printed in occupied France, either by the Germans of Vichy regime. It displays Winston Churchill as a hideous green octopus, one with 12 tentacles instead of the usual eight. The heading is Confiance...Ses Amputations se Poursuivent Méthodiquement (trust...his amputations are proceeding methodically). Churchill's tentacles reach from England to other countries on the map. However, seven of the tentacles have had their ends chopped off, bleeding profusely for added effect. Four countries in northern Africa, Syria, Germany, and Norway have all had their tentacles severed. Like the Confederacy in the previous map, England is quite literally losing its grip on the world. One can only assume that it is just a matter of time before the remaining tentacles are methodically amputated. $2,250.

 

This next map is also from World War II, but rather than being frightful and ugly, it is amusing. This is true despite the scary heading – This is Ann...she drinks blood! As it explains, “Her full name is Anopheles Mosquito and she's dying to meet you! Her trade is dishing out MALARIA!” Published in 1943, it is a warning to American armed forces to protect themselves from malaria. The Japanese occupation of the Philippines and Indonesia cut off the West from anti-malarial quinine, so extra caution was necessary. The world map highlights in red those areas where there is danger, darker red for high risk, lighter for medium, lightly shaded for low. Along with the warning above the map is a depiction of “Ann” drinking a glass of blood. When you see it, you will immediately recognize the unnamed artist. The style can be none other than that of Theodore Geisel, better known to generations of children as Dr. Seuss. Geisel did many illustrations during the war for posters supporting the American cause. $1,500.

 

This has to be the ultimate in iconic American political maps. It gave rise to a word used to describe an election-fixing practice more widespread today than it was when this broadside was created two centuries ago. The heading is Natural and Political History or the Gerry-mander. For the 1812 election in Massachusetts, the Democratic-Republicans came up with a clever idea. They would redraw state senate districts in a way most favorable to their party. One such place was Essex County, north of Boston. To assure a victory by their party, a winding, twisting district was created which resembled the mythical salamander, a dragon-like creature. The bill creating the district was signed by the Democratic-Republican Governor, Elbridge Gerry. This cartoon first appeared in the Federalist newspaper the Boston Gazette, with the cartoonist giving the practice the name “Gerry-mander” in “honor” of the Governor. The broadside displays this creature, shaped like the “gerrymandered” senate district. The trick worked well. The Democratic-Republicans won the Senate by a wide margin. However, poor Gerry was defeated for reelection and the Federalists also captured the House. Still, he made out all right, being nominated by his party and elected Vice-President under James Madison later that year. He died in office in 1814. Elbridge Gerry was an important leader during Revolutionary times and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and yet this notable patriot is remember almost entirely today for the epithet using his name which describes one of the most corrupt of political practices. We seem unable to get rid of it even all these years later. This broadside was published sometime later than its original appearance in the Gazette, circa 1813-1822. $25,000.

 

This next map is a classic from the Prohibition era, specifically 1926. It is titled Bootlegger's Map of the United States. The creator was Edward McCandlish, who displays not only his cartographic skills but an imaginative sense of humor. It is filled with wordplay names for numerous places around the country, most being a play on booze-related words. Maine gives us Bar-Harbor and Port-Land. Illinois offers Free-Port. States include Vir-GIN-ia and Souse Ca'liny. New Mexico has Albu-Corky, Tennessee Mash-Ville. Boise, Idaho, becomes Booze, Denison, Texas, Den-A-Sin. Naturally, there is Lake Champagne. Not all of the jokes are alcohol related, such as Ark and Saw or Hell-In-Her, Montana. $2,250.

 

Boston Rare Maps can be reached at 413-527-4020 or info@bostonraremaps.com. Their website is found at www.bostonraremaps.com.