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An Illustrated Map of Chicago

  • Author: TURZAK, Charles J - CHAPMAN, Henry Thomas (designers)
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston
  • Engraver: The Tudor Press, Boston
  • Date: 1931
  • Dimensions: 96 x 58 cms


Artists Charles Turzak & Henry Chapman’s striking pictorial map, a modernist Art Deco vision of early 1930’s Chicago

About this piece:

An Illustrated Map of Chicago – Youthful City of the Big Shoulders  – Restless – Ingenious – Wilful – Violent – Proud To Be Alive – Chicago USA

Colour-printed separately published broadsheet map. Original folds with some light verso reinforcement to several of folds and fold junctures. Short repaired tear at sheet edge upper centre, just intruding into upper border, slightly affecting the letter U of the word “Shoulders”, the tear closed & lightly reinforced on recto with very thin layer of barely visible archivist tissue. Very slight toning to lower section of right vertical fold. Inconspicuous old pinholes to corners at sheet edges. With all an attractive example.

Charles Turzak [1899-1986] and Henry T Chapman [1897-1970] designed this remarkable and striking pictorial bird’s eye map of Chicago, the very epitome of a youthful, brash, restless 1930’s American Mid-West metropolis.

The map was one of several strikingly designed pictorial maps depicting major US cities commissioned from an assortment of US commercial artists by the Boston publishing firm of Houghton Mifflin and which appeared in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

The map itself is printed in bright pastel greens, pinks, oranges and blues (“five gay colours”, as the (sadly lacking) special presentation envelope for the map describes them) and in a highly distinctive Art Deco style that appears to herald the dawn of a new modernity. It is a modernity that belies the realities of the deep economic Depression that had spread like a dark pall over American life and employment following the 1929 Wall Street Crash.

Turzak himself was an increasingly successful young Illinois artist who after graduating from High school had gained entry to the Arts Institute of Chicago in 1920, and with freelance advertising work and a teaching class in wood engraving had funded his way through to graduation from the Institute in 1924. Having returned from a visit to Europe shortly after the 1929 Crash, he found that pre-Crash private commissions almost entirely dried up, to the point where he became dependent upon the contracts provided by the Government WPA & FPA programmes, through which many struggling artists survived. As a result of his involvement with these programmes he produced several large mural designs for local Post Offices and Government buildings, including the headquarters of the 6th Army Corps.  Several of his separately published woodcut prints from this early 1930’s period strikingly portray the tough lives of both the Chicago unemployed and its resident workers unveiling the powerful empathetic vision of a true artist of the people, whilst his equally strong woodcut urban landscapes reveal a man who could capture the very essence, personality and drama of the 1930’s Chicago metropolis in all its moods.

At the time of the 1930 Federal Census, Charles was living with his Czech-born parents, Joseph and Julia in Winona Ave, Chicago. A year later and just six months before this map was first copyrighted (Oct 14 1931) Turzak married his sweetheart, Florence Cockerham [1902-1999], a journalism student at Northwestern University.

During this period, which appears to mark a turning point in his career, he also illustrated John & Ruth Ashenhurst’s 1933 book All about Chicago, published at the time of the 1933 World’s Fair. Illustrated biographies of both Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin, in which his distinctive woodcuts feature prominently, followed shortly afterwards, the latter with text supplied by his new wife, Florence. They helped to foster his growing reputation as an accomplished woodcut artist & commercial illustrator. By the time of 1940 Federal Census the Turzaks, now with a young daughter, had moved to Olcott Avenue, Chicago. From 1942 Turzak was Editor of Today’s Health Magazine. In retirement, like so many others, the family moved to Florida, settling in Orlando in the late 1950’s where they remained, with Turzak continuing to design and paint until his death in early 1986. His widow Florence died in 1999 and both are buried in Orlando’s Chapel Hill Cemetery.

The Chicago map itself was a cooperative venture between Turzak and fellow commercial artist, Henry Thomas Chapman [1897-1970]. Chapman was a native of North Dakota and fellow graduate of the Arts Institute of Chicago. Like Turzak he had found much employment in Chicago advertising and by the time of the 1930 Federal Census Chapman had settled in the Highland Park district of the City. In about 1927-8, he had married one of his Institute classmates, Elizabeth Alice Hooper [1904-1970]. Like the Turzaks, the couple moved to Florida in the late 1950’s, settling in Panama City where Henry is recorded as an architect & draftsman in the local directories of the period. Henry & Elizabeth Alice passed away in July & December 1970 respectively.

The map’s title appears in plain border lettering around three sides of the map which also incorporate a numbered longitudinal and lettered latitudinal grid. The words “Chicago USA” and a detailed key, cross referenced to the grid, appears in two separate panels along the bottom.

Ships and steam vessels criss-cross the rich blue waters of Lake Michigan, their steam plumes and wakes mirroring the City’s orange urban grid pattern which fills the central sections of the engraving.

The waters of the Lake also reveal that this is Prohibition era America, a period in which Chicago held an almost unrivalled position as one of the most lucrative centres of criminal bootlegging in the country, almost all controlled by the local Mob & the likes of Al Capone.

This is the Chicago so vividly depicted in Bruce-Roberts Inc’s anonymous 1931 comic Map of Chicago Gangland which it claimed was “designed to inculcate the most important principles of piety and virtue in young persons and graphically portray the evils and sin of large cities.”!

On the Lake lower right, a bootlegger’s speedboat, bottles of illegally imported hooch (no doubt brought in from across the Canadian border to the north) dangling from its gunwales, tries to outrun a pursuing US coastguard vessel, as machine gun fire is exchanged between the two. A startled nearby fish comments wryly “How Dry I am”! Close by an oarsman is surprised by a talking giant fish, and thinks himself drunk on alcohol-free government-issued liquor: “I thought I was drinking government stuff”, he exclaims!

The City Limits stretch from 119th Street & Blue Island in the South (left) to Evanston and Howard Street in the North (right) and to Palos Park, Cicero and Oak Park in the West. The City’s downtown business district, a huddle of tall skyscrapers many adorned with strange green faces & crowded around the almost dwarfed City Hall, can be seen mid-Centre.

Just to the right, a female street cleaner sweeps the thoroughfares of Little Italy and Wells Street, where amid scenes of crowded worship at the Moody Bible Institute, anti-capitalist soap-box debate in Bug House Square and gun-slinging scenes of mob violence, can just be spied the hallowed walls of the City’s Newberry Library.

On the nearby waterfront can be seen the distinctive profile of recently built 37 storey Palmolive Building (later the Playboy Building), completed in 1929, and which in 1930, was topped by the famous Lindbergh beacon, named after the famous aviator. Its beam can be seen sweeping the waters of Lake Michigan an adjacent comment referencing  its  “two billion candle power” light which was intended to guide incoming aircraft to the City’s Midway Airport. Its runway, with several aircraft on the concourse, is just visible to the south of Cicero at the edge of the City Limits in the upper left. It had recently been the scene of a destructive fire which in June 1930 had destroyed 2 of its hangars and 27 commercial & private aircraft.

In the skies over the City, an array of 1930’s aircraft can be seen in flight, including an airship for viewing “210 Square Miles of Chicago & its Suburbs”  and what appears to be a four plane troupe of barnstorming stunt flyers & wing walkers, visible in the upper right. These were frequently a feature of the American Mid-west entertainment at local airfields during the late 1920’s & early 1930’s. The performers here include a top-hatted professor with umbrella in one hand who clings with the other to the wing of one of the four planes as its crew shout for him to pull his parachute. All serve to further convey the City’s proud thrusting modernity and restless vitality.

Other significant landmarks that are highlighted include the City’s Steel Mills on Lake Calumet to the south of the City; the Pullman Sleeping Car Plant on 119th Street; and the historic Union Stock Yards in the meatpacking district bounded by Halsted Ave and 39th /47th Street in the mid left of the image.

The stylized three dimensional compass spur visible upper left, with its vignettes of livestock and wheat, its city waterways inscribed with the words “I Will”, the skyscraper HQ of the Chicago Board of Trade, and the compass cardinal points represented by steaming railway trains, further re-emphasize the dynamic character of the City and its position as a pivotal transport hub at the centre of the industrial and agricultural economy of the Mid-West & by extension, of the entire United States.

Visible on the waterfront can be seen the Grounds of the forthcoming World’s Fair. The Fair would open in May 1933  further enhancing the City’s status and proudly marking its Centennial year – a Century of Progress. The Fair had as its theme technological innovation and its motto ” Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts”. Its iconic modernist symbol would be the Sky Ride, an aerial tramway straddled between two steel towers 1850 feet apart and some 630 feet high (higher than any other buildings in Chicago at the time), sited perpendicular to the Lake shore & by which some 4.5 million visitors would travel across the artificial lagoon at the centre of the Fair complex during the 1933-34 period. The Sky Ride was designed by local bridge engineering firm, Robinson & Steinman and its initial designs can already be seen here, 18 months before the Fair would open.

In all a striking pictorial vision of early 1930’s Chicago.

Refs: David Rumsey Collection