This is a Section of A Map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan
- Author: FARROW, C Vernon (artist & designer)
- Publisher: Fuessle & Colman, New York
- Date: 1926
- Dimensions: 32.5 x 26 cms
Front cover & map artwork from envelope in which C Vernon Farrow’s superb 1926 map of Manhattan was offered for sale
About this piece:
This is a Section of A Map of the Wondrous Isle of MANHATTAN To be found inside – about 40″ by 25″ AND FOR SALE EVERYWHERE – 50 CENTS – Published by FUESSLE & COLMAN, 6 E.8TH ST. New York
The front printed section of envelope only, preserving the original engraved title and sectional map detail & artwork. Some old damage to peripheries and upper edges of sheet, most noticeably at upper left corner, with minor paper losses to outer decorative border, the missing areas reinstated with matching new paper and missing printed details replicated in complimentary manuscript ink and colour wash.
A nice example of the front section & map artwork that comprised the original presentation envelope in which Charles Vernon Farrow’s spectacular 1926 map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan was initially marketed and sold. Due to the ephemeral nature of these items and their propensity for damage, very few complete examples of these original presentation envelopes survive.
Moreover, very soon after its first printing, the publication rights to Farrow’s map appear to have been acquired from Fuessle & Colman by the Washington Square Bookshop in New York’s Greenwich Village. Most if not all editions of both the map and the envelope that were distributed & sold thereafter invariably appear with the large & unsightly yellow-orange labels of the Washington Square Bookshop separately pasted over the original title pieces on envelope and map, so completely obscuring the fine original artwork that appears underneath. Such is the case with the example preserved in the David Rumsey Map Collection
The detail depicted shows the southernmost tip of Manhattan from Battery Park to about 14th Street. The buildings of Wall Street are shown in profile, as also the City Hall, Trinity Church and the towering cluster of skyscrapers formed by the Equitable, Singer, Woolworth & New York Telephone Buildings. China Town, the Italian Quarter and “The Ghetto” are also shown, with South Street and the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges in the foreground and the piers of the Hudson River and West Street in the background.
The term “Wondrous” in the title may perhaps have been a deliberate echo of MacDonald Gill’s earlier Wonderground Map of London Town, first published just ten or eleven years earlier. Equally it may have been an echo of Arts & Crafts founder William Morris’ exotic late Victorian fantasy novel, the Water of the Wondrous Isles . Another distinct echo that it might also have been calling to mind were the lyrics of Lorenz Hart’s recent hit song Manhattan, set to music by Richard Rogers, which had premiered just the previous year at the Garrick Gaieties on Broadway when sung in duet by Stirling Holloway and June Cochrane (it would also later be covered by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Mickey Rooney, Tony Martin & even Rod Stewart). The song concluded : The City’s glamour can never spoil / the dreams of a boy and goil / We’ll turn Manhattan into an Isle of Joy / The Great big City’s a wondrous Toy / just made for a Girl and Boy / We’ll turn Manhattan into a Isle of Joy. The song provided a vocal geographical tour of Manhattan and highlighted the wondrous charms and delights (perhaps some of them unduly cheap e.g Mott Street) for young lovers during the quieter summer months. As Richard Rogers himself noted, “its easygoing strolling melody & ingeniously rhymed lyric related all of the everyday pleasures to be found in New York” (Richard Rogers, Many Stages. An Autobiography, Di Capo Press 2002, p.65). In a sense that was the also Farrow’s aim, whilst also conveying that prevailing sense of wonderment and energetic modernity that Manhattan still today exudes.
In the map itself, the main Island of Manhattan is laid out before the viewer from the Columbia University Campus and the Northern fringes of Central Park at W. 110 Ave right down to the southernmost tip at Wall Street, Battery Park and the Southern Ferry terminal. A smaller inset in the upper left shows the Harlem River & Washington Heights area of Northern Manhattan. All of the buildings and skyscrapers of the City skyline are depicted in oblique three dimensional profile, a pictorial projection that enables the compacted grid layout of the City streets to be displayed more effectively. Whilst all of the principal sites and buildings are labelled and identified, Farrow’s map lacks the literary humour and clever double-entendre and amusing wordplay that mark out Gill’s London Wonderground map and, to a lesser extent, Clark and Olsen’s witty maps of Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC. The map does, however, incorporate some comic elements, including a number of caricature figures, amongst them a spread-eagled figure, sunbathing under a newspaper, and another looking through a telescope in Battery Park; a comic bull and bear standing upright opposite each other, as if in conflict, close to the Fraunces Tavern on Wall Street; a pair of speeding traffic policemen racing northward along South Street in their open-topped police car; and in Central Park, a country shepherd grazing his flock of sheep on its well-manicured green expanses. Other figures include a flying green witch astride a broomstick circling above Greenwich Village; an artistic George Washington, palette in hand, in the midst of Washington Square; groups of playing children in Tompkins Square; and the figure of medieval Herald complete with trumpet above the modern downtown Herald Square. An even more bizarre vignette (an explanation of which may perhaps come to light in due course) can be found at West 23rd Street where the eagle-eyed observer can spot a small white flag-waving figure astride a horse, riding ahead of a small three-carriage steam tram, proceeding along the main thoroughfare adjacent to the piers of the Hudson River.
Within the main title cartouche lower right, Farrow reiterates the theme to the fast-moving pace of New York life, conveyed through depictions of the New York overground and underground transit systems – a blur of rapidly moving carriages pass before the viewer’s eyes in vignettes located above and below the main titles. Farrow also draws attention to the sights and sounds of the side walks, embellishing the cartouche design with two contrasting pairs of New York couples – the first a well-heeled high society pair, the man with monacle, top hat, coat & spats and his partner in tight fitting evening dress and voluminous furs standing beside a luxury saloon car (on the left) with their opposites, the second couple, a clearly more “street-wise” pair (on the right), the man in cap, loud checked suit and bright waistcoat & tie, with his partner, a typical short-skirted “flapper” standing beside a local hot dog vendor’s handcart.
The theme of speed – of New York’s motor traffic – is further conveyed in the wonderful border design, which depicts an array of exasperated New Yorkers taking their lives in their own hands as they try to cross one of the metropolis’ busy streets, dodging in and out of a fast-moving stream of taxi cabs that fill Manhattan’s increasingly gridlocked thoroughfares.
Symbolically, at three of the corners of this traffic-filled border frieze, Farrow had also included representations of the unusual 23-foot high neo-classical bronze traffic control towers that by the mid-1920’s had become a singular feature of Fifth Avenue in downtown Manhattan. Seven of these ornate edifices had been introduced along the length of Fifth Avenue in April 1923 under the auspices of the influential Fifth Avenue Association. Each was topped by a small glazed control room where an on-duty traffic policeman sat ensconced (as seen here), equipped with telephone and push button signals that operated a series of exterior traffic lights to (hopefully) assist in the better direction of Fifth Avenue’s increasingly chaotic traffic flows. The idea was that each of the seven towers operated simultaneously, so that motorized traffic could cross the streets dissecting Fifth Avenue at two minute intervals, whilst traffic travelling on Fifth Avenue itself could move forward along the Avenue, and through each set of lights, at regular five minute intervals. The towers were also equipped with an illuminated clock and a bell which chimed on the hour to alert the pedestrians below and city workers in adjacent shops and offices. By 1929 it had become abundantly clear to the New York authorities that these unusual structures actually proved more of a hindrance than a help to Fifth Avenue’s traffic gridlock and they were all removed, to be replaced by far simpler, less intrusive traffic light posts.
Charles Vernon or C. Vernon Farrow [1896-1936] as he appears to have been more commonly known, was originally a native of Baltimore. His paternal grandfather was Senator Joseph Henry Farrow [1831-1906], a prominent Maryland State politician, twice mayor of the town of Williamsport and a well-known local druggist and pharmacist. He was followed in this profession by two of his sons, Joseph Harry Farrow [1868-1908] and Charles Kershner Stake Farrow [1866-1928]. Joseph Harry became a well-established pharmacist in the Walbrook district of Baltimore, whilst Charles would later become a Postmaster in the City. Charles married Sidney Harriet West in Baltimore in about 1895 and son Charles Vernon was born on January 4th 1896. The family are listed in the 1900 US Census at a residence on North Avenue in Baltimore’s 15th Ward, where Charles is listed as a druggist. Along with wife Harriet and young son Vernon (aged 4), brother (Joseph) Harry, also a druggist, aged 35, and the two brothers’ mother, Mary Farrow (née Nitzel) aged 65 (who had divorced from their father, Senator Joseph, in 1885) are also listed. By the time of the 1910 US Census, Charles, Harriet and Charles Vernon (aged 14) had moved to 9th Avenue in Baltimore, where Charles senior was now established as the local Postmaster.
Charles Vernon is known to have studied at Baltimore City College and graduated in 1913. In his US Army Draft registration form, completed in June 1917, Charles Vernon lists himself as being resident at 1806 Rosedale St, Baltimore, and to be working as a professional commercial artist on his own account. He is described as being short and stout with light blue eyes and light brown hair. He notes on the form that he has already enlisted with the Officers’ Reserve Training Corps. Indeed later records show that he served with the US Army from July 1917 until discharged in January 1919, during this period attaining the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the 29th Field Artillery. The 29th Field Artillery formed part of the US Tenth Division and was initially constituted into the US Army in July 1918 and organized at Camp Funston, Kansas in August 1918. Some advance units of the 10th Division were mobilised and sent to France, arriving just prior to the final Armistice in November 1918. It seems unlikely Farrow saw active service as the 29th Field Artillery, with most other units of the 10th Division, were eventually demobilized at Camp Funston, Kansas in early 1919. Certainly by the time of the 1920 US Census, Charles Vernon is listed back at the residence of his parents at 1806 Rosedale St, Baltimore.
In about 1921, Charles Vernon marries Ethel Oursler [1896-1981] of Baltimore. Shortly afterwards they move to New York, initially settling in the Hillcrest District of Queens, where they had two daughters, Diana (b.1922) and Helene (b.1925). All but Helene are listed as residing here in the 1925 New York Census. By at least 1927 the family moved to a new home at 211-17 34th Avenue in Bayside, Queens, where they are listed as residing in the 1930 US Census. In both instances Charles Verrnon is recorded respectively as an illustrator and artist, working on his own account.
The Map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan appears to be one of Charles Vernon Farrow’s very few large cartographic works in a career that would be sadly curtailed by his untimely, premature death at the early age of just 40 in July 1936.
Given the original map’s large size and decorative qualities, one might have expected some significant local press coverage, reviews and publishers’ advertising & promotion, following its initial publication in 1926, but there is a remarkable paucity of any such information, which is all the more strange.
The only published notice or review of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan map that we have been able to locate in the North American media at this time, appears on page 6 of the Canadian Winnipeg Free Press of Monday September 6th 1926. The reviewer describes it as “the most delightful map that we have seen in years. It is an idealized picture map of New York City, printed in bold, clean colours – blue and yellow and red and green – with the buildings and houses standing up straight out of the map like white cubes and cones and spires and towers. The really cunning way in which the artist has drawn it enables you to move about from place to place, to go along Broadway and up Fifth avenue, past the Library and out to the Metropolitan Museum. Or to wander through downtown New York in Wall street and Nassau street and round by the Bowling Green down to the Battery. Greenwich Village, the Ghetto, the Gas House district, Washington Square, the Italian quarter, Madison Square and Gramercy Park, and the Little Church Around the Corner are all here for the finding out; and Gimbel’s and Sac’s and other famous stores, and Grand Central and Pennsylvania railway stations, and the great hotels – the whole amazing place. A really wonderful production.”
Details relating to the publishers of the map, Fuessle and Colman, also appear equally elusive, however after further research and additional assistance, we can confirm that the firm of Fuessle and Colman comprised literary agent Kenneth Fuessle and Morris Colman.
It is interesting to note that Kenneth Fuessle advertises his services in the Saturday Review of Literature in January 1925, where he offers :
MANUSCRIPT ADVICE. Professional criticism, corrections suggested, sales arranged by publisher’s advisor, former member of Munsey staff, contributor to Literary Review, International Book Review, New Republic, etc. Short stories $5.00. Novels : $10.00. Inclose remittance. KENNETH FUESSLE, 6 East 8th Street, New York.
It is equally interesting that in the 1925 he is listed at this address in the NYC Census (actually “Washington Mews” (which backs on to East 8th St) per the Census) & which are in fact literally a stone’s throw from Washington Square in Greenwich Village.
Fuessle married Ruth A Tuttle in Manhattan in 1925.
Charles Albert Kenneth Fuessle was the son a Winsconsin Pastor and Missionary, and had been born in Milwaukee in 1895. As a child, his father (& mother) spent time in China on missionary duties in the early 1900’s, but his father appears to have died shortly after his return to the US, in 1903. The family then moved to Pasadena California where Kenneth completed his academic studies. Kenneth subsequently served for a short period as an officer with the US Ambulance Corps in WW1. After being demobbed at the end of the war, he returned to Pasadena and is listed as a “writer” in local city directories of the period, before moving to NYC in the early 1920’s, seemingly around 1922/23. We have been unable to trace of the deaths of either Kenneth or his wife, and there do not appear to have been any children from the marriage. Fuessle continues to appear in NYC Directories until the late 1950’s. It is equally fascinating to discover that Morris Colman appears to have been closely associated with the world of publishing and book jacket design & illustration (as was Charles Vernon Farrow). Colman was originally born in Russian Poland in about 1898 and immigrated to the USA in 1912/3. He is listed in the 1920 US Federal Census, aged 22, living in Chicago with his brother Walter (a plumber aged 32), sister-in-law, Esther (25) and their daughter Sarah (1), all recent immigrants from Russian Poland. His brother had come to the US in 1908 and been naturalized in 1916. In 1930 Morris, aged 32, is listed in the US Federal Census as a single commercial artist lodging in East 27th Street, New York. In 1940, a Morris Colman (46), born Russia, with wife Rose (42) and son Julian (18) iS listed as a “Painter” living in Brooklyn, NYC. It would appear that this is very likely the same Morris Colman, artist, author and designer, who joined the Viking Press in 1941 as head of Children’s Book design and production, as a colleague of Harvard-eductated Milton G Glick, head of book production, Colman and was much respected as a book designer within the US publishing trade & profession, particularly for the close friendships that he developed with the many commercial illustrators and artists with whom he subsequently worked. He retired in 1964. He resided for many years in Croton on Hudson and died there in March 1981.
What is equally apparent is that the mainstay of Farrow’s illustration & design work came from the the New York book publishing trade and from their commissioning of colour dust jacket artwork for American editions of popular novels & fiction of the day. He also seems to have received regular commissions for decorative book endpapers & illustrations. The parrallels with Max Gill, who also worked extensively on dust jacket artwork and book illustrations for numerous British book publishers during this period, are noteworthy.
Farrow’s strikingly designed colour-printed dust jacket art encompasses a number of different genres but includes a strong focus on ghost stories and detective and crime fiction. He produced dust jacket artwork for several of J S Fletcher’s crime novels, including The King versus Wargrave [Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1924], The Annexation Society [Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1925], Sea Fog [Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1926] and The Amaranth Club [Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1926]. Other novels for which he designed the dust jacket artwork are : Thorne Smith’s Topper, an Improbable Adventure [Robert M McBride, New York, 1926] (NB – a very fine example of Thorne Smith’s Topper, complete with the rarely found original Farrow-designed dust jacket, recently sold at auction in New York for US$3000), George Devol’s Forty Years A Gambler on the Mississippi [Henry Holt & Company, New York, 1926], Ronald Arbuthnot Knox’s The Three Taps, a Detective Story without a moral [Simon & Schuster, New York, 1927] and J P McEvoy’s Hollywood Girl [Simon & Schuster, New York, 1929]. He also provided the illustrated map endpapers (Virginia & Kentucky) for Elizabeth Madox Brown’s historical romance about frontier life in early Kentucky, The Great Meadow [Viking Press, New York, 1930]. His next published work appears to have been as illustrator for the book, Yoo Hoo Prosperity ! The Eddie Cantor five year plan, by Eddie Cantor and David Freedman, also published by Simon and Schuster in New York in 1931. The copyright for this book was registered on August 28 1931.
Farrow’s close links with the world of New York book publishing explain more clearly his next cartographic project, designed & drawn at Bayside, L.I, in 1927 and depicting a large & humorous Mercator-projection World map. The map detailed, in satirical pictorial fashion, the so-called “Inner Sanctum of Simon and Schuster”, and appears to have served as a special comic, tongue-in-cheek, Christmas holiday promotional piece for the Company. The Inner Sanctum had originally been the nickname given to a small room within Simon & Schuster’s New York offices that connected the respective offices of Mr Simon and Mr Schuster, where most of the mutual brainstorming and company strategizing was reputed to take place. The term soon became associated with the weekly advertising column which Simon & Schuster published in the New York World, essentially a promotional column to enable the company to interact with its book-reading public. It purported to give behind-the-scenes insights on current authors, plays, movies, books, the book publishing trade and recently secured author contracts, even hot stock market tips and business news in general. As Charles Dellheim has noted in Constructing Corporate America (p.239) the format offered a very personal initiation into the mysteries of the literary world and conjured up the aura of an exclusive, indeed sacred club, that the reader could join at any time. It was in fact adapted from a similar column run by the Oxford University Press called Amen Corner and another in the book trade journal dedicated to direct mail advertising, entitled The Mailbag. Such was the popularity of the column that the name was adopted as one of the Simon & Schuster own “Crime mystery” imprints and spawned a 1940’s film noir of the same name. As Farrow’s map perhaps intimates, it was a term already almost synonymous with the Company itself.
In The Queens Borough’s Daily Star newspaper of Wednesday June 4th 1928, a short article notes the publication of numerous local posters in the Bayside area announcing the recent Memorial Day exercises, these posters having been made by several local artists, including C Vernon Farrow.
A notice in the New York Sun newspaper of 30th Jan 1934, details a number of changes at the New York City office of Advertising agency, Stewart, Hanford and Frohman Inc at 10 East 42nd Street. Amongst the agency personnel mentioned is one Vernon Farrow, whom it states, will continue in his role as art director. One wonders if this might be (Charles) Vernon Farrow. It seems very likely.
One of Farrow’s last works appears to have been the illustrated map endpapers for a new edition of the Bible, The Bible designed to be read as living literature, the Old and New Testaments in the King James Version, edited by Ernest Sutherland Bates and again published by Simon and Schuster in New York in 1936. Using the template of late 16th Century maps of the Middle East, the front endpapers delineate Syria and Palestine with dotted lines denoting the wanderings of the Tribes of Israel. The rear endpapers show the Mediterranean & Middle East with a series of tracks delineating the three principal missionary journeys of St Paul as well as his important voyage to Rome.
The announcement of Farrow’s death appears in Births, Marriages & Deaths column of the New York Times of July 29th 1936. It reads :
FARROW – On Tuesday, July 28 1936, C Vernon, beloved husband of Ethel (nee Oursler) and father of Diana J and Helen A Farrow. Service at his residence 211-17 34th Avenue, Bayside, L.I, on Thursday July 30th at 8 pm.
Farrow was subsequently interred at the Loudon Park Cemetery in his native Baltimore, his engraved headstone apparently provided at the expense of the US War Department, in recognition of his status as an Army war veteran, 1917-19. His widow, Ethel Oursler Farrow, would herself be interred beside him in the same cemetery, after her own death some 45 years later, in June 1981.
Four examples of Farrow’s Manhattan larger map are recorded in US institutional collections: in the David Rumsey Map Collection at Stanford University; in the New York State Library; in the Newberry Library Collections; and in the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Another example is preserved in the Staatliche Museum in Berlin, Germany.
Refs: David Rumsey Map Collection (map); David Rumsey Map Collection (envelope); New York State Library, Call No:(7471) 1926 203-1287; Newberry Library #map6F G3804 .N4:2M3A3 1926 F3 (PrCt); AGS Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Call No:862.6M-1926 http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agdm/id/2387; Staatliche Museum zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek, Inv.Nr.14051741; Elisabeth Burdon: The Cartographic Impact of MacDonald Gill’s Wonderground Map of 1913.