Home » Product » Nils Hansell The Wonders of New York 1953

Nils Hansell The Wonders of New York 1953

  • Author: HANSELL, Nils (artist)
  • Engraver: Lutz & Sheinkman, New York
  • Date: 1953
  • Dimensions: sheet: 84 x 64cms / wrappers: 17 x 22.5 cms


Nils Hansell’s stunning “Wonder Map” of New York [1953], highlighting the vibrant modernity of this bustling US metropolis

About this piece:

Wrapper title:

New York’s Wonder Map By Nils Hansell

Map title:

Wonders of New York

Original colour-printed map, folding down into lightweight card wrappers, the front cover with large black & white title, Hansell’s signature and red background printed with the rows of line drawings being the vignette scenes of New York life that illustrate the borders of the actual map. The wrappers somewhat bumped and soiled, with crease to lower right corner of front cover and some short nicks to sides of back cover. The map itself in very good condition. Short separation on fold at top centre in printed border. Some minor wear & a couple of very short barely noticeable clean splits at fold junctures from repeated unfolding & refolding. With all a fine example.

First copyrighted in August 1953 and originally offered for a price of just $1, Nils Hansell’s “Wonder Map of New York” is a stunning and brightly coloured lithograph by New York printers, Lutz & Sheinkman.

The map owes a considerable debt of gratitude for its decorative design template & striking aerial perspective to Charles Vernon Farrow’s earlier “Wondrous Map” of Manhattan, published in 1926.

Like Farrow’s map, the body of the map offers a bird’s eye view over Manhattan which extends from Battery Park to the Upper East Side, whilst the decorative borders provide a remarkable numbered key to an assorted array of 301 City tourist sights and local neighbourhood attractions.

Hansell’s map was targeted at both New Yorkers and tourists alike and included an inset map of the City’s Subway System in the lower right corner. It also offers exhaustive notes & tips on the culture, history, literary associations, local lore & legends, shops, goods, markets, restaurants & tourist attractions of New York’s distinctive districts and neighbourhoods.

Amongst the many surprising factlets we discover the building where redheads run the lifts (260 Madison (179)); the reputed spot where Captain Kidd’s treasure lies buried (77); and the site of Shinbone Alley (96), setting for  Evening Sun columnist Don Marquis’original 1916 creations, Archy (the cockroach) & Mehitabel (the alley cat) & soon to be transferred to the nearby Broadway stage [1957]. Hansell also reveals that 400,000 pigeons inhabited the city (177) and that Trinity Church could claim any whale caught in the river (111). One of the most intriguing references is to the brawny giant figure of 8ft Bowery Mose who was wont to stash a 50-gallon keg of beer in his belt just in case he got thirsty (68). B’hoy Mose it seems was a popular New York folk hero, a latter-day Clark Kent, whose mythical deeds of daring & fantastical, far-fetched escapades were first brought to the Bowery stage in 1845. The character was apparently based upon real-life Irish printer, Bowery tough & local volunteer fireman, Moses Humphreys.

Hansell’s New York offers a dramatic panorama of bustling modernity. Overshadowed by the ever-present figure of lady Liberty, its harbour waters are filled with the great ocean going liners of the post-war era, including the Queen Elizabeth, the Liberté, and the Oslofjord together with two recently launched US ships, the SS Constitution and SS United States, the latter holder of the Blue Riband transatlantic speed record, following her maiden voyage in July 1952. The equally impressive presence of the aircraft carrier, USS Midway (until 1955 the largest ship in the World) can also be spotted adjacent to the piers of the Williamsburg Bridge. Returned from Mediterranean duties (May 1953) and earlier NATO manouevres (Oct 1952) the vessel had recently been redesignated CV-41, as now clearly denoted on her flightdeck. As well as Midway‘s own fighters, local helicopters & international jet airliners overfly the city’s skies.

With its vibrant primary colour-scheme, especially the bright yellow afternoon sun reflecting upon the glazed facades of Manhattan’s innumerable skyscrapers & towers, including the new United Nations Building [1952], Hansell’s map captures the energy & vitality of this thoroughly modern metropolis.

And just as on Farrow’s earlier “Wondrous” map, Hansell’s also incorporates a pictorial border frieze which emphasizes the day-to-day hustle & bustle of New York life in a series of wonderfully choreographed street-scene vignettes & sketches. And it is especially fitting that Hansell should reserve for himself a special starring feature. In the lower corner of this thoroughly modern map we discover a charming self-portrait of the now balding, forty-something, pipe-smoking artist at work.

Nils Hansell [1909-1989] was undoubtedly an eccentric and unconventional character, born in New Jersey in November 1909, the second son of first generation Swedish immigrants. The family subsequently moved to New York and settled in the Bronx, where Hansell was educated at Fieldston High School, Riverdale. He subsequently gained a place at the short-lived “Experimental College” at UW Madison, before progressing to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in the early 1930s. After a variety of different jobs in journalism & film during the 1930s, he set up his own gasoline transportation business in Texas, which he sold for a tidy profit just before America’s entry into the Second World War in 1941. During the war he was drafted into the US Air Transport Command (ATC), serving as pilot and navigator in North Africa, the Middle East & Asia. before carving out a new role as official war historian of the ATC and its ten regional Divisions in 1944-1945. At the end of the war he travelled extensively in Central Europe before returning to the US where he attracted considerable publicity in the summer of 1947 by undertaking an epic eight-week solo voyage by kayak along the Erie Canal and through rivers & waterways of New York state, travelling from the northern border town of Buffalo to the harbour wharves of downtown Manhattan. In the 1950s he did further poster designs for his alama mater Columbia University and eventually joined IBM, where he became Art Director of their Journal of Research & Development, a role which he held until his retirement in 1971. A keen amateur yachtsman, during the early 1960s Hansell was one of the driving forces behind establishment of  Operation Sail, an international gathering of large ocean-going yachts & “tall ships” which also fostered the development of traditional sailing and seamamship skills amongst young naval cadets and trainees. Operation Sail has held five international gatherings since its inaugural Festival of Sail in New York harbour in 1964.

We recently researched the life and work of Nils Hansell, hitherto a figure whose artistic career was virtually unknown to students & historians of 20th Century pictorial cartography. You can find out more in our June 2018 Blog Post below.

Refs: Barron Maps Blog post