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Myths Maps & Men Merrill Lynch Salutes the Year of the Moon 1969

  • Author: RAMUS, Michael (artist)
  • Publisher: Merill Lynch, New York, USA
  • Date: 1969
  • Dimensions: 42 x 35.7 cms


US Cartoonist Michael Ramus’ rare commemorative 1969 cartoon map of the Moon published by American bankers, Merrill Lynch

About this piece:

Myths, Maps & Men Merrill Lynch Salutes the Year of the Moon

42 x 35.7 cms. Colour-printed commemorative pictorial cartoon map of the Moon in two hemispheres. Central fold with 4″ clean separation through upper section from top sheet edge, now invisibly closed and reinforced on verso and virtually indiscernible. Short repaired tear at left side in centre, just touching image border. Map now entirely backed with museum-quality archival tissue for better presentation and preservation. With all a very attractive example.

American cartoonist and magazine illustrator, Michael Ramus [1917-2005] designed this splendid Moon map for US Bank Merrill Lynch to commemorate this historic “Year of the Moon”, 1969, notable for the successful landing of two NASA Apollo Missions on the lunar surface: Apollo 11, for which the 50th anniversary has recently been celebrated, on July 20th 1969 and Apollo 12, on November 19th 1969.

Four American astronauts, Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 and Charles “Pete” Conrad & Alan Bean of Apollo 12 would be the first humans to walk on the surface of the Moon.

Ramus’s map is an entertaining & whimsical celebration of Man’s centuries-old fascination with the Moon, not only in terms of the remarkable progress in lunar space travel, science and astronomy but also in the context of popular mythology, culture and literature.

The map itself depicts the Far (Dark) and Near Sides of the Moon in two accurately drawn hemispheres, with notable topographical features such as large lunar craters and numerous so-called Seas depicted, many of the latter inhabited by wonderful mythical beasts and marine monsters. The landing sites of both Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 are highlighted, with the 1967 Surveyor probe also illustrated with one of the two astronauts close to the Apollo 12 landing site.

On the “Far Side” of the Moon, a bulbous-nosed Soviet rocket can be seen in orbit, a back-handed compliment perhaps to the USSR’s largely unsuccessful unmanned lunar missions during this period, the last of which, Luna 15, had crashed to the lunar surface just days before the Apollo 11 landing in July 1969. Indeed Ramus gives the “Far Side” of the Moon a distinctively Russian flavour, with the Mare Moscoviense and Tsiolkovsky Crater both named.

In the top corners of the map, two large Suns with human faces discharge clouds of positively & negatively charged solar particles from their lips. In between them is a diagram of the different phases of the Moon, whilst below this, the figures of the three most recent US Presidents – John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson & Richard Nixon – whose administrations had succesively supported and financed the NASA Space programme – can be seen soaring across the star-spangled firmament on the back of a giant American bald eagle. In its beak it clasps an unfurled banner bearing Neil Armstrong’s famous words: “One small step for Man….one giant leap for Mankind” and in its claws, the US coat of arms and the olive branch of peace. To the left, the mythological figure of Diana, goddess of hunting and the Moon; to the right, a reference to the popular nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle, as the Cow jumps over the moon, beside the Apollo lunar orbiter. Across the bottom of the map, further illustrations reference man’s enduring fascination with the Moon and heavens, including Galileo’s first ever observations of the Moon through a telescope in 1609. It’s aura of romance is alluded to in the figures of Romeo & Juliet, whilst its darker influences are highlighted by witches on broomsticks, black cats and Hallowe’en decorations. Other vignettes illustrate the milestone transatlantic flights of the Wright Brothers [1909] and Charles Lindbergh [1927] the first 20th Century stepping stones in long-distance powered flight and in mankind’s desire & quest to reach for the skies. In the centre of the map, Ramus cleverly integrates the form of a giant Saturn rocket with the decorative compass spur. In the lower panels of text, Merrill Lynch asks its readers how they we will remember 1969 – principally as the year of the human footprint on the Moon – and what their expectations might be for 1970. Though we might not choose the moon as our goal, they suggest that by working together we might each achieve our individual aims and goals, whatever they might be. The text concludes with the reflection that “no future can dim the courage and achievement of our astronauts of 1969 who walked upon the moon….

….One small step at a time, the spirit of man strides on….”

Cartoonist and illustrator Michael Ramus was born in Naples, Italy in August 1917, the son of US surgeon Carl E Ramus [1872-1963], who worked for the US Public Health Service, and Anna Woods Tucker [1885-1976]. Returning to the USA in June 1920, the family settled in New York, though much of Ramus’ early life was apparently spent on Ellis Island, the renowned New York reception centre for newly arrived immigrants from Europe seeking entry into the United States.  After attending Lincoln School (affiliated with Teacher’s College, Columbia, New York) and then two years at Phillips Exeter Academy, he studied briefly at Yale before quitting to continue his studies at the Art Students’ League in New York. Drafted into the US military in March 1941, his artistic skills were harnessed as a poster designer for the US Army’s Recruiting Publicity Bureau on New York’s Governor’s Island, where he designed several striking, prize-winning posters for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). In 1942 he won a $50 prize offered by Life magazine for paintings & watercolours produced by members of the American Armed forces. He would later take up a post with Life in 1950, after one of the magazine’s early editors discovered some of his doodles of “funny little people with big noses” that Ramus had idly sketched whilst waiting for an appointment at the Magazine’s New York offices. His drawings, illustrated maps & humorous cartoons became a staple of the pages of Life through the 1950s & 1960s, as well as appearing in other popular US magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Collier’s, Smithsonian, Reader’s Digest and American Heritage.

As he later noted: “It was at the old Life magazine that I was first able to bring my cartooning bent into my work. At the time there was not much “humorous” illustration being done in serious journalism. There were not really any precedents so what elements of style I developed were pretty much sui generis”

Interestingly amongst some of his illustrations for Life during the 1960s Ramus produced several moon-related sketches, including several for an article dedicated to the NASA Ranger VII probe, “The Contraption that Reconnoitred the Moon”, in August 1964. The previous month during a controlled descent to the lunar surface (before it finally crashed), its cameras captured several thousand detailed photographs revealing the Moon in much clearer and crisper detail than any previous images. As a result US scientists felt greatly reassured that the forthcoming manned missions would be able to land safely in the Mare (Sea) regions, where the photographs suggested the lunar surface was significantly smoother & free of boulders.

Ramus was also an accomplished comic book artist, his most notable creation being “Fantoma of the Jungle”, a beautiful blonde superhero with special magical powers.

He married Grace Bigelow Cook in the 1940s and the family settled in Skillman, Princeton, New Jersey. A keen amateur geologist, Ramus took particular pleasure in joining the field trips of members of Princeton University’s Geology Department. In July 1962 on one such trip, he discovered significant skeletal remains of the Cretaceous period dinosaur, Leptoceratops gracilis, in the Lance beds of Wyoming.

A retrospective exhibition of Ramus’ work – including cartoons, artwork, sculptures and collages – was held at Rider University, Lawrence, NJ in November & December 2002.

Ramus passed away in May 2005 at the age of 87 and is interred in a family plot at Rocky Hill Cemetery, Somerset County, NJ.

Refs: Stephen J Hornsby: Picturing America – The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps (University of Chicago Press, 2017) Plate 138, pp.264-65.