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Safeguarding Our American Liberty 1941

  • Author: GUENTHER, Lambert
  • Publisher: C S Hammond & Co, New York
  • Date: 1941
  • Dimensions: 54 x 79 cms


Propaganda World map highlighting US air & naval power, published in 1941, shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour

About this piece:

Safeguarding Our American Liberty

Separately published large colour printed lithographic map. Two short edge tears in blank margin at lower left side, not affecting printed surface, expertly closed and reinforced with archival tissue. With all a very well-presented example.

Striking Pictorial Map of the World designed by artist Lambert Guenther for the New York map publishers, C S Hammond & Co. Copyright was registered on April 14th 1941, just eight months before the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour which precipitated the United States’ entry into the Second World War.

The devastating impact of Pearl Harbour badly dented the propaganda value of this map which focuses principally on the build-up of American naval and aerial forces in preparation for the anticipated Pacific conflict: an array of US destroyers, cruisers, battleships, aircraft carriers and submarines plough through the turquoise seas in the lower image, above them the protective cover of pursuit aircraft, inteceptors, fighters and heavy bombers, who, surveyed by the symbolic form of the American Eagle, emerge from beneath the folds of the Stars & Stripes & through the orange-tinged clouds of a new dawn.

Added interest is provided  by figures for the numbers of US naval vessels currently in service and those presently under construction: 15 battleships and another 17 planned; 37 cruisers and another 48 under construction; and a current tally of six aircraft carriers with 12 new ones in the pipeline.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour would in fact only reduce the total US battleship numbers by four (of the eight docked in Hawaii) whilst two US aircraft carriers fortuitously escaped destruction, leaving the balance of naval power in the Pacific theatre still heavily in favour of the Americans. It also highlighted the vital role that would in fact be played by US aircraft carriers & their torpedo-carrying dive-bombers in the ensuing Pacific War. This would perhaps be demonstated most strikingly in the sinkings of the supposedly impregnable great Japanese battleships, Musashi & Yamato, in the battles of Leyte Gulf and Okinawa in 1944-45. Japanese wartime naval strategy was founded on the unfortunately mistaken belief that its bigger battleships with their heavier and longer range armoury would always be able to outgun enemy naval forces in any major sea battle.

Below the American Eagle, a central banner bears the famous words of George Washington:  “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

The maximum patrolling range of both naval and aerial forces in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean is shown on the upper map, whilst a spider’s web network with indicative distances highlights US naval & air bases and friendly ports & landing points across the globe.

New York Map publishers, C S Hammond & Co, published several  wartime maps, including their equally decorative Defense Map of the United States, which also appeared in 1941.

The map’s designer, Lambert Guenther [1883-1961], was not a 1909 Swedish-born artist, as some notable authorities have suggested, but rather a first generation German Jewish emigré, originally born in the Westphalian city of Wesel on 13th September 1883, the son of Bernhard Guenther [1814-1919] and Sibilla Salomon [1844-1900]. He arrived in New York in May 1904 from Bremen on board the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm and within three years had married another recently arrived German immigrant, Rose Goldschmidt [1886-1940]. He and Rose became fully naturalized US citizens at the outbreak of World War in August 1914. In 1940 Lambert & Rose were divorced & following his first wife’s tragic death, he married again, to Mary Brown [1910-1960].

An enterprising & innovative commercial artist and illustrator, he was a long-time resident of New York before moving first to Westerly, Rhode Island and then North Stonington, CT where he spent much of his later life.

On first arriving in New York in 1904, Guenther had specialized in advertising artwork and letterhead design before quickly broadening his commercial skill set to embrace everything from comic cartoons & posters to murals and pictorial maps. Several of his theatrical cartoons appeared in the New York Tribune in 1915 and his sketches were frequently syndicated in newspapers nationwide. After winning the $200 first prize for a poster design to advertise the Jan 1913 Automobile Show at New York’s Grand Central Palace & Madison Square Gardens (described as “a most artistic piece of impressionistic drawing”), his commercial career was set fair. He subsequently received poster commissions for the Womens’ 1915 Suffrage campaign and US Government wartime recruitment drives. “Get Behind the Girl He Left Behind” [c.1918], a poster promoting the Womens’ Land Army, is probably his most striking & well-known design from this period.

In a 1941 newspaper article, Lambert Guenther is described as a middle-aged man of serious mien…a painter who knows his New York and loves to depict it. Seemingly he did so spectacularly in a beautifully designed mural map of Manhattan found on the dining room wall of Sacher’s (German) Restaurant at 301 Madison Avenue, between 41st & 42nd Streets, very close to Grand Central Station. It is unknown if this map survives (& what a wonderful discovery it will be, if it has!) but it is undoubtedly worthy of more detailed description:

His map of Manhattan, enlivened by many figures of living New Yorkers is one of the wall pieces at the Sacher restaurant…The map is strictly accurate as a bird’s eye piece. At appropriate spots, several personages burst through the surface, and seem to come right at the beholder. Mayor La Guardia, Al Smith, and J P Morgan are among the characters strikingly depicted. There are pushcart men and all manner of typical New Yorkers. On the same panel, giving it life and color, is a scene in which Peter Minuit is buying Manhattan from the Indians.  Mt Guenther’s work reminds one of striking historical paintings by Howard Pyle, each now worth a fortune.

 More prosaic commissions followed, including the illustration work for T P McElroy Jr’s 1949 Handbook of Attracting Birds, the maps & cover design for Erich Posselt’s 1949 guide to the Rip van Winkle Trail  in the Catskill Mountains, and a local Chamber of Commerce guide to Mystic, Connecticut [1954].

Guenther’s only son Robert sadly died in 1949 and his second wife Mary in Feb 1960. He himself passed away on 13th October 1961 aged 78.


“Get Behind the Girl He Left Behind” [1918];

David Rumsey Collection

Stephen J Hornsby: Picturing America – the Golden Age of Pictorial Maps, Pl.137, p.232