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The Sea Coastes of America shewing the Ports of Call of the Panama Mail Steamships

  • Author: GODWIN, Harrison
  • Publisher: Panama Mail Steamship Company
  • Date: 1928
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 87 x 70.5 cms / Map image: 83 x 67.5 cms


Harrison Godwin’s comic pictorial map of North & Central America detailing routes of the Panama Mail Steamship Co [1928]

About this piece:

The Sea Coastes of America shewing the Ports of Call of the Panama Mail Steamships as the Country thereabouts in lying and situated, with all the havens thereof. Exactly done and corrected with great Diligence. Harrison Godwin March 1, 1928 San Francisco.

Lithographic map in bright printed colours. The whole sheet contemporarily laid down on old linen backing. Some slight creasing to paper, largely confined to blank margins. One ot two minor chips at sheet edges and barely visible “bubbling” of paper caused by uneven adhesion of linen backing, these areas affecting blank margins and sheet edges only. With all, a very attractive and well-presented example.

Probably the rarest of Harrison Godwin’s pictorial maps, this splendid design was commissioned by the Panama Steamship Company. It is signed by Godwin and dated San Francisco, March 1st 1928.

The map promoted the Company’s increasingly popular San Francisco to New York cruise and the return voyage  East to West, via the Panama Canal, which ran throughout the year and is here denoted by the dotted red route lines which adorn the map.

Enjoying the luxurious onboard comfort of its fleet of five palatial Liners, American tourists were enticed by the prospect of “a month of soothing rest and delight through Spanish America” which Godwin seeks to highlight with the same tongue-in-cheek, cartoon-style humour that characterized his Map of San Francisco Showing Principal Streets and Places of Interest [1927] and the almost identically entitled companion Map of Hollywood Showing Principal Streets and Places of Interest [1928]. The period 1927-1928 was undoubtedly Goodwin’s most productive as a pictorial cartographer, witnessing the commissioning, design and publication of these three delightful cartoon maps in very quick succession.

The Panama map incorporates innumerable vignettes, historical annotations and a comic border frieze which follows the progress of a typical American tourist journeying from West to East. A central panel illustrates the luxurious comfort of the Panama Mail Steamship fleet, with their beautifully appointed & airy cabins, the deluxe ones with en suite bathrooms, and the attractive communal areas, including deck verandas, tea rooms, social halls & dining salons.

In recognition of Charles Lindbergh’s sudden rise to fame, following his recent milestone solo flight across the Atlantic (May 1927), Godwin includes an inset map of the aviator’s subsequent flying circuit of Central & Northern South America and the Caribbean completed between December 1927 and February 1928.

Another inset map depicts Guatemela, where the steamer’s passengers would disembark at the port of Champerico and be then taken by train on a captivating eight hour journey through the mountainous interior, climbing 5000 feet to eventually reach the capital, Guatemala City. After enjoying a luxurious overnight stay in this “city of scenic grandeur and charm” and a delicious lunch of avocado, pineapple, papaya & mangoes, followed by a personal motor tour of the city, visitors then returned by train to the coast to re-embark at San Juan de Guatemala. According to Godwin, the traveller is left wondering how the Panama Mail Co. manages to offer “two such irreplaceable days for a mere $28.00”!

[William] Harrison Godwin [1899-1984] was a well-known artist & cartoonist who also played a significant role in the commercial development of Carmel and Monterey, California during the first half of the 20th Century. Born in New Jersey in March 1899, Godwin was the eldest son of William Harrison Godwin Snr [1862-1900] and Helen Gertrude McKay [1878-1958]. His father sadly died on his 38th birthday in Philadelphia in Feb 1900. With his younger brother Fred [1900-1975], who would also become an important local figure in Carmel as both leading hotelier and one time City mayor [1946-1950], the pair appear to have moved to California during the First World War, where Harrison quickly honed his talents as a teenage cartoonist working for the Los Angeles Examiner for two years under the pen name Zip.

The pair’s maternal Scottish-born aunt, Agnes “Alice” Signor (née McKay), who had originally managed three San Francsico hotels destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, had moved to Carmel in 1911 when she began to rent rooms in the extended home of local Norwegian-born resident, Christian Jorgenson, originally built at the corner of Camino Real & 8th Avenue in 1907, in the process creating her own self-contained boarding house. At the time she also managed the Carmel Bathhouse. In 1916 she bought out Jorgenson and began to develop the property as a smart hotel, enlisting the help of her two Godwin nephews, Harrison & Fred. The expanded & refurbished hotel, La Playa, opened in 1920. Agnes died in 1923 and the Hotel passed to the two brothers. Extensively damaged by fire in 1924, the brothers invested over $30000 in extensively rebuilding & refurbishing it and it opened again in 1925. It would remain in Godwin family ownership until 1968.

Throughout the 1920s both brothers took an increasing interest in local real estate and property development, Harrison being especially closely connected with the Del Monte Properties, Pebble Beach Golf Club & Cypress Country Club projects. He also took a financial interest in several other West Coast hotels. In Feb 1927 he married Audrey Willett, the daughter of a prominent San Francisco businessman (the couple would separate & divorce in 1936). From 1929 Harrison was also closely involved in the marketing and development of a 400-acre residental park adjoining the new Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona – the so-called Jewel in the Desert – which had opened to a great public fanfare in February of that year. Interestingly a local newspaper article of the time mentions the fact that Harrison was in the process of designing a special cartoon map of Arizona – projected to take at least four years – but which would to be offered to all guests of Biltmore Hotels in Arizona. If the Arizona map ever reached publication, examples appear to have hitherto remained either unrecognized or unrecorded as his work.

In 1930 Harrison sold his share in the La Playa Hotel to his brother. In the Federal Census of that year, though the brothers and their respective wives are still recorded as living together at La Playa, Fred is listed as the Proprietor and Harrison as an advertising agent for a Steamship Company, almost certainly the Panama Mail Company.  In 1940 Harrison acquired the slightly fusty & down-at-heel Pine Inn in Carmel which he extensively refurbished. Re-opening in April 1941, it would remain under his direction & ownership for the next four decades until his death in 1984.

Aswell as being extremely smart businessman he was also an accomplished sportsman. In his youth Harrison participated in local baseball league games in Carmel alongside fellow resident, artist and pictorial cartographer, Jo Mora. He was also a fine golfer, appearing frequently in the 1940s & 1950s in Bing Crosby’s well-known Pro-Am events hosted at local Monterey & Pebble Beach courses.

A rare and delightful comic pictorial map by one of the most accomplished early exponents of the art.

Refs: David Rumsey Collection