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Bootlegger’s Map of the United States, 1926

Kate Wiles on an illustrated map of the US responding to the Prohibition with puns.

David Rumsey Map Collection/David Rumsey.com

Following in the tradition of medieval maps, which were illustrated with people, places and animals  (‘here be monsters’), America saw what geographer Stephen J. Hornsby has called a ‘Golden Age’ of pictorial maps during the 1920s-70s, used for satire and advertisements. 

From the late 1920s, and particularly following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Prohibition became a rich source of satire and humour for mapmakers and cartoonists.

Edward Gerstell McCandlish (1887-1946) was a toy-maker, children’s author and newspaper cartoonist. In the early 1920s he was the principal cartoonist and children’s columnist at the Washington Post. While there, he produced a map, upon which this version is based, which was the largest cartoon to be published in a US newspaper to that date. It was later repurposed as a broadsheet and syndicated to anti-prohibition campaigns and breweries who adapted it, adding their own advertising slogans and making it one of the most circulated comic maps of the Prohibition era. 

Puns abound. The title is accompanied by a play on the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense, ‘shamed be he who thinks evil of it’. Other place-names are adapted: Scnec-Toddy for Schenectady, Albu-Corky for Albuquerque and Port-land and Vir-GIN-ia (self-explanatory).

The strings of barrels off each coast mark the limit of US domestic waters, beyond which sit ‘Relief Ships’, laden with drink. Similarly, smugglers carry barrels over the Canadian border. The birthplace of Wayne B. Wheeler, a leading prohibitionist and ‘the man who turned off the taps’, is also represented (as Bubbling Brook, not Brookfield, Ohio).

Kate Wiles

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