Between 1942 and 1950, American pictorial mapmaker, Ernest Dudley Chase [1878-1966], published a series of three remarkable large-scale Mercator-projection World maps that bear witness to the seismic changes that took place in the military and geopolitical situation around the Globe during this hugely eventful eight year period.
These three striking designs also chart the evolution and development of American pictorial mapping & persuasive propaganda through the Allied prosecution and final victory in a Global World War in 1945 to a new Global Cold War, which eventually concluded with renewed international hostilities in the Korean peninsula in 1950.
We witness the initial clarion Call to Arms in the first of his maps [1942-43]:
…followed by the utopian aspirations of a new World order after the Allied Victory, one founded upon World Peace, unity and mutual security aided & abetted by the speed & wonders of modern communications & technology, as displayed in the second of his maps [1944-45]. Interestingly it bears the subtitle, “A Pictorial History of Transport and Communications from Jonah to the Jet Plane as Paths to Permanent Peace”.
The map in fact appeared in two slightly different editions, published first as the “Mercator Map of the World United” in October 1944 (following D-Day & the Invasion of Europe). And then, as the revised and updated “Peace Map of the World United” of late 1945 (following VJ Day (Sept 1945) and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima & Nagasaki):
The series concludes with American Dudley Chase’s painful acceptance of the new international realpolitik of the late 1940s and of the rising threat of global Communism in the third & final map, World Freedom: A Factual & Pictorial Map, copyrighted in May 1950, just weeks before the outbreak of the Korean War:
One feature of this series of maps that dealers, cataloguers and carto-bibliographers of Dudley Chase’s maps have hitherto largely overlooked is the fact that the second of these above map designs was one in which Dudley Chase played practically no part in initiating or creating.
As the titles of both the 1944 Mercator and 1945 Peace Map of the World United make quite clear, Dudley Chase acted merely as collaborative artist and publisher of a map that was “Originated, Designed, Copyrighted and Distributed by Oliver K Whiting of London”.
So who then was the elusive and little-known “Oliver K Whiting of London” and how and why did he come to feature so prominently on Dudley Chase’s map and in its original design, copyright and distribution? And why his particular interest and fascination in World Travel & World Peace at this time?
We do know that Dudley Chase and Whiting were close friends from an example of the 1944 Mercator Map which was recently offered for sale by one of our American colleagues. This particular example, presumably given as a special gift to Whiting, had been personally hand coloured by Chase himself, with an ink inscription added in the bottom left corner of the map itself, reading “Especially painted for my Good Friend, Oliver K Whiting, Ernest Dudley Chase”.
Through our extensive private researches we have discovered that Oliver Kenneth Whiting [1899-1978] was a successful Anglo-American businessman and British-born entrepreneur, whose family origins lay in England’s West Riding of Yorkshire.
In the inter-war years he was a frequent visitor to the United States, developing a secondary career, alongside his commercial activities, as a popular travel journalist and radio commentator. In June 1939 he reached new US audiences working with NBC as radio commentator during the Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the United States (a role that he would reprise in October 1957 during the subsequent visit of Queen Elizabeth II).
Most importantly, Oliver K Whiting was a man whose deeply-held Quaker beliefs & values shone brightly in all that he did, both personally & professionally, throughout his life.
And his 1944-45 World Maps were, in both design and content, a pictorial exposition of those Quaker beliefs as well as his own profoundly considered manifesto & blueprint for World Peace.
Oliver Kenneth Whiting was born in Roundhay, Leeds on May 28th 1899, the second son and youngest child of prominent local Quakers, John Edmund Whiting [1854-1932] and Emily Whiting (née Shaw) [1860-1940].
The family were actively involved in the wholesale drapery & cloth trade in the north of England, through the family business, Hotham & Whiting. The firm had originally been founded in about 1820 by the Leeds Quaker James Hotham, described in one of the early 19th Century trade directories for the City as a “wholesale and retail linen draper and importer of Irish linens”.
Oliver’s grandfather, John Whiting [1819-1899], a native of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, was initially apprenticed to and then taken into partnership with James Hotham, the latter event taking place in about 1848 and shortly before Hotham’s sudden & unexpected early death.
With the active involvement of his widow, Sarah, the firm continued to trade very profitably and successfully in Leeds under the name Hotham & Whiting throughout the second half of the 19th Century, even after the end of the Hotham family’s direct involvement in the business following Sarah’s own death in 1875.
The firm increasingly specialised in ready-made women’s clothing, carpets and a variety of woollen goods. They are recorded in trade directories of the period as “Linen Drapers, Hosiers, Glovers, Silk Mercers and Haberdashers” operating from large warehouse premises in Wellington Street in central Leeds.
By the 1880’s both Oliver’s father and uncle, William Whiting [1856-1934] had also been brought into the business as partners. And so it would continue into the next generation, with Oliver and his elder brother, John Ronald Sturge Whiting [1897-1962] as well as William’s son (John Ronald [1884-1970]) taking an active part in the day-to-day activities of Hotham & Whiting in their formative years.
Through ties of marriage, so customary amongst the Society of Friends, the Whitings were closely related to many other prominent English Quaker families. Amongst them the renowned chocolate-making dynasties, the Cadburys, Rowntrees & Frys, as well as the well-known Harvey, Jowitt, Firth and Sturge families.
Traditions of pacifism and humanitarian care & support for the individual, even a wartime enemy, were at the core of Quaker values & beliefs and had already been a feature of Whiting family history, having been front & centre of the campaigning work of several of Oliver’s paternal relatives. Shortly prior to her marriage, Oliver’s aunt, Anna Maria Whiting [1851-1934] had volunteered for a Quaker relief mission to France in June 1871, accompanying French-born Elizabeth Majolier Alsop [1805-1879], to areas of northern France recently devastated by the Franco-Prussian War. Thirty years later, in December 1900, Oliver’s uncle and aunt, William and Mary Lucy Whiting, residents of Grosvenor Mount, Headingley, Leeds would be involved in a bitterly controversial campaign in support of the families of enemy combattants left homeless by the destructive predations of British troops during the Boer War.
William Whiting and a group of prominent West Yorkshire Quakers had publicly minuted their deep distaste for British actions in the “present phase of the lamentable war in South Africa “ which had “brought sorrow and shame to many in this country”. They criticized the “burning of (Boer) farms, the destruction of property and rendering homeless of many (Boer) women and children” as “barbarous practices”, calculated only to harden and degrade those who take part in them and “sow the seeds of bitter resentment in the sufferers (destined to become our fellow subjects) which may last for generations to come”. They called for a speedy and humane resolution of the conflict.
Their local campaigning activities in Leeds in 1900 have recently been brought vividly to light in historian David Olusoga’s splendid BBC television series, A House through Time (Series 4, Episode 2).
The Whitings were amongst the many Yorkshire Quaker families regularly attended the Carlton Hill Friends Meeting House in Leeds:
Oliver and several of his siblings and cousins were educated at Ackworth and then Bootham (Boys) & The Mount (Girls) Schools in York, long-established Quaker educational establishments which still flourish today.
Bootham School archives record Oliver’s arrival at the School in May 1913, joining Middle Schoolroom Class and bedroom 15 of the boarding house.
By early 1914, his creative & technical skills were apparent in the annual Workshop competition when awarded several prizes for woodworking. In May 1914, with fellow class-mate Spriggs, he erected a wireless telegraph station at the School which received messages from as far afield as Wilhelmshaven in Germany and Crookhaven in Ireland and led to the Headmaster endorsing the fabrication of two further wireless receiver sets, which sadly could not be fully tested before the outbreak of the First World War.
In March 1915 we read in the Annual School Report of “O K Whiting’s map of the district of Leeds, indicating the nature of the cultivation” and of his construction of a model sledge and “land yacht” in the latest Workshop competition, for which he won prizes. According to the judges, however, the land yacht still required further fine tuning to its steering apparatus and brakes!
The outbreak of World War in August 1914 would have a dramatic & deeply challenging impact upon Whiting and his fellow Bootham students, as well as on the wider Quaker community and Society of Friends, in terms of their own individual and collective responses to the global conflict.
Since the time of George Fox in the mid-17th Century, the Quaker faith had been defined by its commitment to peace and by what became known as their peace testimony. In an address to the new King Charles II in 1661, Fox had stated without equivocation that:
All bloody principles and practices we do utterly deny, with all outward wars, and strife, and fightings and outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole World…the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world…
For Bootham headmaster at the time, Arthur Rowntree, the stark choice facing past and current scholars, including Oliver Whiting, in considering what course of action to take, in terms of fulfilling their own personal duty to both God and to the nation in a time of war, was one which he felt should remain a matter of personal conscience.
Writing after his retirement in 1927, Rowntree reflected on the impact of the War Years at the School:
The War years were years of extreme difficulty…It was not only that staff were depleted but boys were uneasy and unsettled. Even their mothers and sisters they said were doing real work: and telegrams were arriving announcing the loss of boys who had been their comrades a couple of years earlier…
In early 1915, due to growing labour shortages, many senior Bootham boys, no doubt including Whiting, were sent out to local farms outside York to assist with pig-rearing, turnip growing, summer harvesting and hay-making. Belgian refugees were welcomed in York and one family was financially supported by the School and housed at the nearby Rowntree factory village of New Earswick. Regular air raid & ambulance drills were instituted amongst the pupils in preparation for much-feared German Zeppelin raids. This new aerial terror would eventually be visited upon York in early 1916, causing bomb damage to several buildings across the city and resulting in nine civilian casualties.
It is no surprise then to find that amongst Oliver Whiting’s Leavers’ Class of 1916 there are several boys who immediately enlisted, once eligible to do so (two of whom would subsequently be killed in action). Probably the saddest and most deeply-felt loss amongst this Class of 1916 and the wider School community was Oliver Bernard Ellis (Lt O B Ellis, Squadron No.1 RNAS, killed in action in France, 19th May 1917 aged 18 years). He had acquired an almost legendary status at the school, not only for his exuberant larger-than-life character and sporting prowess, but largely for one remarkable deed of singular schoolboy daring in his penultimate year at the School. In the early hours of 7th July 1915 Ellis had scaled the walls of the North Eastern Railway Company’s headquarters in Central York in the middle of the wartime blackout to leave his initials prominently inscribed on the roof of the building for all to see! Ellen Rowntree, the wife of the headmaster, recalled in her diary :
Many more boys have gone and one the saddest losses is Oliver Ellis, “Caesar” or affectionate memories of intrepid climbs and gym fame and general exuberant life. After bringing down several enemy planes he was shot and his plane came down in flames….
(Ellen Rowntree: Scraps from a Wartime Diary in the Great War (Bootham Vol XIX, 1938-40)
Oliver Whiting would likely have had very similar feelings to that of another York contemporary, Walter Midgley, who, admitting to the local monthly Meeting in York in January 1916 that he had volunteered to join the Armed forces, explained “My reason for enrolling was that I felt it to be my bounden duty, that I could indeed do no less…My early training (as a Friend) drew me in one direction, my conception of duty in another”. Ultimately, he concluded, it was his own personal sense of duty which “overwhelmed all other considerations”. (quoted in: David Rubinstein: Friends and War, 1914-1915.)
Others took an completely unequivocal & absolutist stance on pacifism, becoming committed conscientious objectors. Several would serve successive prison sentences during the War years. Amongst them former FAU adjutant, Corder Catchpool [Bootham, 1900-1902], and his brother-in-law, Philip (Pip) Radley, a contemporary of Whiting [Bootham, 1912-1915], featured in the first of the above School photographs.
Yet others made a third and perhaps even more controversial choice, which was to serve in a wholly non-combattant role, volunteering as medical orderlies or drivers with the newly-formed Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU). Several of Whiting’s contemporaries, as well as a number of Bootham masters joined the FAU.
But many within the Society of Friends strongly disapproved, viewing the FAU as merely an auxillary to war and a complicit part of the military machine that was simply not compatible with the traditions of Quaker pacifism & the peace testimony.
Interestingly, the leading spirit behind the original formation of the FAU in 1914 was Arnold Stephenson Rowntree [1872-1951], scion of the renowned York chocolate-making family and nephew of the firm’s much-respected philanthropist founder, Joseph Rowntree [1836-1925].
Arnold’s mother had also been a Hotham and, in 1906, he had married Oliver’s first cousin, Mary (May) Katharine Harvey [1876-1962], the daughter of John Edmund & William Whiting’s elder sister, Anna Maria [1851-1934].
Arnold would later take his seat as the Liberal Member of Parliament for York between 1910 and 1918 alongside his brother-in-law (& another of Oliver’s first cousins), Thomas Edmund Harvey [1875-1955], fellow Liberal MP for Leeds West, 1910-1918.
Both men were Bootham Old Scholars and were closely involved in the activities of Bootham School during the war years, as School committee members & leading Yorkshire Quakers, frequently speaking at School events & meetings and officiating at important ceremonies, for example, the opening of the new School swimming baths in June 1914, when Oliver would undoubtedly have been present.
Both men would also help to draft the terms of the UK’s Military Service Act of 1916, which introduced wartime national conscription for the first time. Within its framework and terms they sought to determine & outline an active working role that conscientious objectors might usefully & actively perform as a condition of their personal exemption from national military service, and one which might be decided & processed through locally-based examining tribunals.
Harvey had also argued for the sympathetic treatment of Germans residents in Britain during both World Wars. He also helped set up the Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC) in 1914, closely modelled on the template established by his mother and other Quakers during the Franco-Prussian conflict of 1870-71. He and the Committee worked tirelessly to provide assistance to civilian victims of the war in several of the European conflict zones, contributing vital funds & much-needed aid throughout the course of hostilities and during the immediate post-war period.
Interestingly for a school with a roll of under 100 boys in 1914, Bootham Old Scholars supplied about one third of the new recruits for Arnold Rowntree’s Friends’ Ambulance Unit (FAU) when first established at the outbreak of hostilities. By early 1915, headmaster Arnold Rowntree would report that some 65 former pupils had also joined the armed forces, almost half of them Quakers.
Oliver’s elder brother John enrolled with the FAU in York in August 1915. The Unit records note somewhat cryptically that he was “asked to leave” shortly afterwards! In January 1916 he joined the Royal Navy (RNVR), initially being posted to HMS Hermione at Southampton before seeing active service on a number former yachts, drifters & ex-trawler Q-Ships around the British coasts and in the English Channel. His service records show that he served as a “fitter and turner” through the duration of the War.
Following completion of his own education at Bootham in October 1916, at the tender age of just 17 years & 10 months, Oliver also enlisted (as a Driver) with the Royal Artillery in March 1917. His was a sadly short-lived military career that was blighted by recurrent bouts of ill-health, seemingly the result of congenital heart problems. It led to his posting to the Reserve Battery of the Honorable Artillery Company (HAC) in September 1917. Based in Leeds, it seems he saw out the remainder of the War in his own home City and without ever leaving the British Isles. He would eventually be discharged from the Army in June 1919 on medical grounds, being deemed unfit for further miltary service.
In the immediate post-war period John Edmund & his family moved from Leeds to the South of England, seemingly due the poor health of Oliver’s mother Emily. The family settled in the genteel surroundings of rural Surrey, initially at Oak Hall, Frensham and then later at Combe Orchard, Aveley Lane, Farnham. Eldest son John also moved to the area with his wife and their young daughter. John Edmund, clearly an astute businessman, became a local JP and was also elected director of the Quaker Insurance Company, Friends’ Provident.
He was also an active participant in Quaker educational programmes and overseas missionary work. In March 1930 he hosted the young Tshekedi Khama [1905-1959], Regent of the Bangwato tribe and titular leader of the indigenous peoples of the British Bechuanaland Protectorate. Backed by the London Missionary Society, Khama had come to England to lobby the British Colonial Office to suspend an 1893 South African mining concession that threatened the future status and fortunes of the Bangwato nation in Bechuanaland (Botswana). All of the arrangements for Khama’s visit were specially organised by Oliver and John on behalf of their now ageing father, who would sadly pass away just two years later.
“I wish to tender my grateful thanks for your successful efforts on behalf of my country” was the message Tshekedi Khama directed to the Whitings following his visit. He was interviewed by British Movietone News in September 1933 expressing his appreciation for the kindness of the British people.
(His 1931 visit formed part of a saga of ongoing political instability in British Bechuanaland, which led to a almost carbon-copy postwar reprise, involving Tshekedi’s nephew & successor, Seretse Khama [1921-1988], prospective heir to the Kingdom of the Bangwato (later elected first President of newly independent Botswana in 1966). Whilst studying law in England after World War II, Seretse had met & married English woman, Ruth Williams in 1948, an event that aroused considerable controversy at the time, as well as mounting political pressure on the British from apartheid South Africa, Bechuanaland’s territorial neighbour and the operator of lucrative mining concessions in the Protectorate. In 1950 the British government of the time banished Seretse from Bechuanaland (& later Ruth and her young baby, born in Bechuanaland whilst Seretse was in England). They were to live in exile in Britain for the ensuing six years. The story is beautifully recounted & brought to life in the 2016 biopic, A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo & Rosamund Pike).
During the immediate post-war period, Oliver threw himself into establishing his own import-export leather goods business. And perhaps inspired by the wartime work of his two MP cousins and by the political idealism of post-war Britain, he began to dedicate much of his time to political campaigning on behalf of the Liberal Party. He became active in the National League of Young Liberals, undertaking local campaign work in the Guildford area & neighbouring divisions. He quickly earned a reputation for youthful energy & dynamism and was seen as one of the Party’s new rising stars.
The Whiting family were, like many Quakers, no strangers to Liberal politics. Oliver’s father counted William Gladstone amongst his numerous political friends and had once sent him a personal invitation to stand for one of the Leeds Parliamentary seats in the 1878 election. The family had also provided office space within Hotham & Whiting’s Wellington Street premises for Liberal committee meetings during several local election campaigns in the late 19th Century.
In July 1926 Oliver Whiting was selected by the national Party as prospective Liberal candidate for the Parliamentary seat of Richmond (Surrey), in the next General Election. Shortly afterwards, in August 1927, his engagement was announced to the artist Muriel Fry [b.1895]. She was the elder sister of another artist & engraver, Nora Lavrin (née Fry) [1897-1985], and of architect, Edwin Maxwell Fry [1899-1987]. They were all children of the prominent Canadian-born Liverpool businessman & City councillor, Ambrose Fry. The engagement announcement elicited a widely circulated message of personal congratulation from the Liberal Party leader, Lloyd George, the couple having first met during a Liberal Summer School in the city of Cambridge. It is not clear what happened thereafter, though it seems their engagement was quietly broken off in the ensuing months. Records show that Muriel Fry later married Samuel E Gee in London in February 1940.
Whiting’s Parliamentary & political aspirations appear to have stalled thereafter, his Liberal canditature for the Richmond seat seemingly being set aside with the deferral of national elections until May 1929. Records reveal that William Henry Williamson stood in as the new Liberal candidate for Richmond in the 1929 elections. Perhaps Oliver Whiting saw the political writing on the wall. Certainly Williamson lost badly, finishing a very poor third behind Labour with the Unionist (Conservative) candidate, Major General Sir James Newton Moore romping home with a majority of over 13000.
Disillusioned with postwar politics, Oliver Whiting seems to have turned to travel and journalism to now fulfil his personal ambitions, alongside developing and expanding his increasingly successful leather goods business. In 1925 Oliver had business offices in Abbey House (the former Westminster Palace Hotel) in Victoria Street, London. By the mid-1930s his business seems to have expanded significantly. It had small warehouses located in Hoxton & Lisson Grove with its main office on the fifth floor of Roxburghe House, 273-289 Regent Street, London, the address that appears on both of the 1944-45 maps.
Records reveal that Whiting exhibited at the British Industrial Fairs of 1936 & 1938, when his business is described as “Leatho” products. These, it seems, were embossed leather interior & office pieces, such as fire screens and waste paper baskets. With their decorative Art Deco look & feel, they proved increasingly popular in the 1920s & 1930s, being sold through several central London department stores, including Liberty.
By 1937 Oliver had also become an established BBC radio journalist at its Bush House HQ, just a stone’s throw from his Regent Street offices. He hosted weekly programmes that recounted many of his exciting experiences whilst travelling around the globe. His elder brother John also joined the BBC as a programme producer. And, like Oliver, he too was also developing a secondary career as an entrepreneurial businessman, inventor and freelance journalist.
Indeed one of the most interesting and pertinent aspects of Whiting & Chase’s 1944-45 World maps is their overriding almost utopian optimism and the way in which they envisage that modern travel and faster communications could be a positive way of bringing the World closer together and fostering lasting World Peace. It was a message that reflected the deep personal interest and experiences of both Oliver and his brother John.
The strapline of Whiting’s map – inscribed horizontally along the line of the Equator in the form of an encircling belt, whose buckle is the “Brotherhood of Man” – reads “No Spot on Earth is more than Forty Flying Hours from your Local Airport”.
The map postulates that faster communications by land, sea and air – as well as through mediums such as the telegraph, telephone, radio and cinema – are increasingly shrinking the World. Vignette illustrations and facts and figures announce the speed with which planes, trains, sailing ships & ocean liners travel across Oceans and Continents and how the appliance of science and scientfic progress foretell the coming of a brave new & potentially permanently peaceful World.
Science marches on towards a better World reads a second banner. “Nations can no longer live unto themselves alone – let us therefore strive to find a system of Law and Order by which we can all abide” reads a third, along the bottom edge of the image.
The second edition Peace Map was clearly published shortly after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the conclusion of the Pacific War and surrender of Japan in September 1945.
A note adjacent to Japan reads “The Bomb that ended the War”. For Whiting the inherent dangers that such destructive power bring are recognised in the prescient warning that “Atomic Energy can Destroy or Save the Human Race”.
We are provided with a progressive picture of human evolution and social interaction that moves through twelve foundational “Units of Peace” across the top of the map and which illustrate developments from Stone Age Man’s Family to the assembly of the pre-war League of Nations and in the final 12th vignette, a World very literally “bound” around by The Unity of all Nations, noting that “History records that eleven of these twelve steps to World Unity have already been taken”. So it is hardly suprising that Whiting’s focus was so strongly on the theme of World Peace at this time.
We get a fleeting glimpse of Whiting’s own views regarding World Peace in October 1944, shortly after the copyrighting & publication of his initial Mercator Map of the World United.
The date also marked and the ending of the important Dumbarton Oaks Conference which had laid out the first proposals for a postwar Peace organisation, to be known as the United Nations (UN). The UN was to be established by Charter, whose principal purposes should be:
- To maintain international peace and security; and to that end to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and the suppression of acts of agression and other breaches of the peace and to bring about by peaceful means adjustment or settlement of international disputes which may lead to a breach of the peace;
- To develop friendly relations amongst nations and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen World peace;
- To achieve international co-opertion in the solution of international economic, social and other other humanitarian problems;
- To afford a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the achievement of these common ends.
(Opening text of the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals – October 1944)
Following a lecture he had just given to a local Women’s Club in New Jersey, in late October 1944, Whiting was quoted in a local Hackensack newspaper. He intimated that a new World Peace project should be started by America, England, Russia and China, and that only gradually, as and when they were deemed ready, should a wider group of smaller nations be allowed to join these Big Four. He also suggested that a global police system might be established. On being questioned as to whether some of the smaller nations might not accept curtailments of their freedom, Whiting replied that there could be no gain without loss and that such loss would be infinitesimally small compared to the overall global gains.
It is clear that the publication dates of the successive editions of Whiting’s Mercator Map and Peace Map of the World United coincided almost precisely with these two momentous international gatherings: the first Mercator Map of the World United with the end of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in early October 1944. The second Peace Map of the World United, exactly 12 months later,with the first full session of the United Nations Assembly in San Francisco in late October 1945.
By 1945, the military & geopolitical landscape had been transformed by the successful culmination of hostilities in Europe and the Far East and by the bedding down of the foundations of a much more widely-based global Peace project, following the signature of the founding Charter of the United Nations by the leaders of 50 of the World’s nations in June 1945.
And the official birth of the new organisation at its first full Assembly, in San Francisco on 24 October 1945, following formal ratification of the Charter signed 4 months earlier.
Was this Whiting’s long hoped-for final 12th step to World Unity, “The Unity of All Nations”?
The Unit of Peace has grown throughout the Ages, tomorrow it will embrace the whole Earth reads the optimistic strapline across the top of the both maps, whilst a striking central cartouche embellished with the flags of all nations announces “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men” in a rainbow of cooperative colour.
An additional message announces that “Bound by a Code of International Friendship, Law and Order, United We Stand Divided We Fall” and below it a caricature vignette features the labouring figures of Hirohito, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin and other World leaders, collaboratively turning the Giant Capstan of Global Cooperation.
The global Ship of Unity, manned by a crew of caricatured World leaders, including Uncle Sam & John Bull, sails across the southern Seas (“We are all in the same boat” reads the adjacent note!) in contrast to the wrecked “Ship of Isolationism”, pictured off the shores of Japan, its back broken and destroyed by the Bomb that ended the war, an out of date anachonism to be sunk forever in the adjacent Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in all the World’s Oceans.
Whiting’s Peace map is replete with fascinating & thought-provoking visuals:
And yet the map is not without some charming tongue-in-cheek humour as well:
It is also fascinating to realise that many of the illustrations on Whiting’s map, particularly those relating to travel and communications, held immensely meaningful personal memories and connections, many of which had first found expression during Whiting’s childhood & student days at Bootham.
Oliver Whiting and his brother seem to have been utterly fascinated & almost obsessively captivated by the possibilities and potential of modern travel and transport. Whether on air, rail, sea or road, the pair seem to have embraced the adrenalin-filled exhiliration, excitement and pleasure of modern travel with almost unrivalled enthusiasm. And always, it seems, with an eye for the future of travel and the potentially profitable new inventions & business opportunities that it might offer.
Indeed it was in August 1928 that Oliver’s brother, John announced the establishment of Britain’s first national overnight coach service, as head of the Albatross Roadways Company. It began operating a daily sleeper route between Liverpool and London and by the middle of the following year had opened up daily overnight connections linking Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and London. The coaches had a 12-berth sleeping capacity and included the services of a onboard steward to provide all-night snacks & refreshments as well as clean passengers’ shoes and clothes!
Sadly the concept never caught on and the Company failed to attract sufficient passengers or compete profitably against the already well-established UK coach & train networks. By early 1930 the perhaps aptly named & unlucky Albatross Roadways Company had been quietly wound up.
In June 1929, John Whiting was again in the news, playing an important role in an inaugural international speedboat race across the English Channel, as crews from around the World competed for a prestigious trophy donated by Sir Harry Segrave. The event received the endorsement of several wealthy backers, including Gordon Selfridge. Sadly it quickly turned into something of a PR disaster – “Cross-Channel Outboard Race Fiasco!” – was the title of a Pathé news reel of the time, with only 2 of the 25 competing boats reaching the finishing line in Calais and several others breaking down or being lost en route.
By the mid-1930s John Whiting was extolling the speed & efficiency of the German rail network and its increasing use of Diesel-powered engines, in contrast to Britain’s continued reliance on much slower steam locomotion. In October 1936 he regaled readers of several British newspapers with an account of his high-speed journey from Hamburg to Berlin on the footplate of the German “flying Hamburger” train, travelling at speeds of up to 102 mph!
In 1931 the two brothers, along with two additional directors, formed the Hoverplane Company Ltd, based in Farnham, Surrey to exploit John Whiting’s invention of a new prototype Hoverplane. It was to be built jointly by the local firms of E. D. Abbott and Heath and Wiltshires and was first tested at the old brewery in Farnham and later developed at A. V. Roe’s Works at Hamble. It was first demonstrated to officials from the British Air Ministry in February 1931. In essence it was a flight-tuition aircraft which went by the name of the The Aero Whitlet. Fixed above the ground on a metal frame & rotating base, trainee pilots could go through the motions of flying an aircraft with considerable realism yet in surroundings of complete & total safety.
The correspondent of the Belfast Telegraph, writing in March 1932, after experiencing just such a flight in the Aero Whitlet on the roof of Selfridge’s, exclaimed effusively: “It’s is all there – joystick, controls, engine – all admirably adapted for inculcating air service into the public mind at public schools, at piers and pleasure resorts and any private spot with suitable facilities”.
The demonstration Hoverplane later toured the country. It was first sited on the roof of the City of London Flying Club’s Adelaide House and then later on the roof of Messrs G H Lee in Liverpool & Thornton Varley Ltd in Hull. It even appeared for short training demonstrations on the stage of South London’s Brixton Astoria Theatre in the Summer of 1932, apparently in the presence of the famous German First World War flying aces, Manfred von Richthofen and Major Baron von Schleich. The German pair appeared alongside two of their former Royal Flying Corps adversaries. The title of the Brixton show was “Reunited in Peace” and drew huge crowds. One is left wondering if the renowned Red Baron managed to resist the temptation of jumping into the cockpit of the Aero Whitlet and putting it through its paces!
John Whiting also patented a new passenger seatbelt (with an automatic safety release) and innovative technical improvements in the way in which passenger seats might be secured to the floor of aircraft fuselages, following a spate of catastrophic air accidents & passenger fatalities during the early 1950s.
This pioneer’s inventive spirit & restless wanderlust during the interwar years was funded & financially underpinned by a rather fittingly prosaic driving school business that he established after the First World War in Reading, Berkshire. Interesting, in the September 1939 National Register, John Whiting is recorded training wartime ARP Drivers. He would continue as a popular local driving instructor in later life until his death in Reading in 1962.
Three decades earlier, on August 18th 1931 the two Whiting brothers had been amongst a select group of 5 English travellers (in a total of 23 passengers and 44 crew) who had boarded the Graf Zeppelin airship at its base at Friedrichshaven in Germany to take a well-publicised flight across North-West Europe to Great Britain, a journey that would take just under nine hours.
The airship’s flight and arrival at Hanworth aerodrome in West London were caught on film by Pathé News in a clip entitled, with suitable English irony, “With no bombs this time”. It was an irony that would certainly not have been lost on Whiting, no doubt recalling the terrifying wartime Zeppelin raids over York that he had witnessed at first hand, as a Bootham schoolboy, some 15 years earlier.
Oliver Whiting’s own account of the flight and his experiences on board the Graf Zeppelin were recorded in Flight Magazine just 10 days later and illustrated by the image shown above. Below is the illustration of the Graf Zeppelin on Whiting’s own map:
Archive records also reveal that Oliver Whiting travelled on the record-breaking maiden transatlantic voyage of the French liner Normandie in May-June 1935 (as he recalled in his article Are you going to New York?, published in the Listener Magazine in May 1939). With a Blue Riband-winning crossing time of 4 days and 11 hours, the Normandie was greeted by crowds of over 100,000 people on the dockside in New York.
Oliver Whiting was also a passenger on the maiden transatlantic voyage of Cunard’s Queen Mary, just a year later, in May-June 1936. Slowed down by thick fog it failed to overhaul the Normandie‘s record-breaking crossing time of the previous year. But it did herald a new rivalry between the two great Ocean liners that would run for the next two years, as each reclaimed the Blue Riband in turn. The Queen Mary‘s August 1938 crossing brought the transatlantic crossing time down to a remarkable 3 days & 21 hours and established a record that would last until 1952.
Like his elder brother, Oliver Whiting was also a regular flyer, recounting many of his experiences in magazine articles of the time. For example, his terror at crossing the Alps by air in a violent lightning storm, or more comfortably & prosaically, travelling from the Swiss ski slopes of the Alps by air via Zurich to Croydon or across the US by plane on the so-called Lindbergh line (Popular Flying Magazine, June 1939).
Recorded as living in North London in September 1939 and as a volunteer ARP driver during the first few weeks of the War, Whiting appears to have soon escaped wartime Britain. In February 1942 he pops up as a fully registered US citizen, now resident in New York, and logged in official US World War II Draft records of that date. His Draft card shows him now residing at the Prince George Hotel in East 28th St, New York, a few blocks from his business headquarters on East 23rd St.
The “Oliver K Whiting of London” brand & import business continued to flourish in the USA, especially following the end of the War and during the boom years of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The 1949 New York State business directory records Oliver K Whiting of London’s specialities as “Paper baskets, novelties, scrap books, albums and desk sets”.
By the mid 1950s Oliver K Whiting’s growing range of novelty items – now including home essentials & domestic staples such as decorative table coasters, glass and ceramic ornaments & paperweights, family swear boxes and luxury leather cigarette boxes & office desk sets – were being marketed & sold in department stores across the United States and Canada. These included the likes of Nash’s of Pasadena, PK Smith & Company of Tampa and Ogilvy’s of Montreal.
In 1951 Whiting was married in New York to Deborah Fitzgerald and the couple subsequently settled at the Lake House in the charming village-like surroundings of Glenwolde Park, Tarrytown, New York. Whiting remained active in the local Quaker affairs & a regular presence at Monthly Meetings at Purchase (NY) as well as a periodic contributor to the Friends Journal. He was actively involved in several charities, most notably Gardens of Fragrance for the Blind, which was first established with the backing of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the early 1950s. It was clearly a cause close to Whiting’s heart. As a BBC radio reporter in London in the late 1930s, he had given a series of radio talks entitled Eyes for the Blind.
A popular raconteur and public speaker, from 1946 he was also an ardent advocate and teacher of the Dale Carnegie courses in personal & business self-improvement, based on the latter’s 1936 blockbusting US bestseller, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which went on to sell over 15 million copies. Interestingly Dale Carnegie had himself been a conscientious objector in World War One. Whiting brought the Dale Carnegie business courses to Britain in 1956-7. He soon became something of a business guru and motivational consultant in his own right, proving a popular guest speaker at US corporate meetings and business conventions. According to a 1974 directory, his speaking themes & topics included such titles as The Use of Better Human Relations in Business & Private Life; How to Use Your Hidden Abilities; and You May be Richer Than You Think!
In 1975 he published his own book, Open Your Eyes to Opportunity (Exposition Press), described as both “a guidebook in the Dale Carnegie tradition” and “a practical interpretation of a Friendly approach” . It offered “a few simple rules” to enable almost anyone “make an exciting improvement in their mode of living”.
Oliver Kenneth Whiting passed away in Tarrytown in March 1978.
A man in the self-same Quaker mould as his campaigning aunt Anna Maria during the Franco-Prussian War, his uncle & aunt, William & Mary Lucy Whiting, during the Boer War in 1900, and MP cousins, Arnold Stephenson Rowntree and Edmund Harvey, during World War One, Whiting was once described by an American journalist as “the ambassador of goodwill between the English speaking nations of the World”.
He was far far more – a committed Quaker throughout his life and, as his 1944-45 maps vividly demonstrate, an untiring advocate and ambassador for World Peace.
And undoubtedly, a man whose lifetime quest for World Peace had been indelibly shaped & stamped by the destructive impact of war that he had witnessed and experienced so formatively as a Bootham schoolboy and teenage soldier during World War One.
Just days before the opening of the United Nations Assembly in San Francisco, on October 16th 1945, Whiting penned a personal note to the widow of former American President FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt.
In December 1945 Eleanor Roosevelt would be appointed a permanent delegate of the UN General Assembly, and in 1946 became the first chairperson of the fledgling UN Commission on Human Rights, serving in that role until 1951 and subsequently as its US Representative. She also played a key role in the formulation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights .
It seems a wonderfully fitting epilogue to our post & to our investigations into this hitherto little-known Quaker businessman, mapmaker & lifelong Peace campaigner, Oliver Kenneth Whiting [1899-1978]:
To see a fine example of Whiting’s Peace Map of the World United, currently in stock, click here.
NB. I am extremely grateful for the help and support provided by the Archivist and supporting volunteers at Bootham School, York for the information that they uncovered & provided for me during my researches into Oliver K Whiting & the Whiting family for this blog. Images from the Bootham School Archives have been credited accordingly.