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Sgt Papasan Lefty’s Cartoon Map of Seoul Korea 1958

  • Author: BURGESS, Byrel W
  • Publisher: Samyung Printing Co, Seoul
  • Date: 1958
  • Dimensions: folded: 13.5 x 19.5 cms / fully unfolded sheet: 77 x 52.5 cms


Rare 1958 cartoon map of Seoul, South Korea designed & published by US serviceman & cartoonist, Byrel W Burgess [1914-1983]

About this piece:

Wrapper Title:

Sgt Papasan Lefty’s Cartoon Map of Seoul, Korea

Map Title:

Sgt-Papasan-Lefty’s Map and Cartoon of the City of Seoul, The Capital City of Korea…

Folding map printed in black and turquoise blue. Green printed paper wrapper to verso. Two or three chips to sheet edges, a few pinholes, and some relatively minor wear and slight hole damage at folds junctures. With all a very attractive and well-preserved example.

This rare comic map of the South Korean Capital, Seoul, was conceived and designed by American cartoonist & US Army sergeant, Papasan Byrel (“Lefty”) Burgess [1914-1983].

Published by the local Samyung Printing Co in 1958 it offered an entertaining guide for the 46,000 American service personnel still based in Seoul & South Korea in the wake of the recent Korean War [1950-53].

As Burgess makes clear this is:

A Complete Guide for your Tour of Seoul or Where to Go and How to Get There. This Map is Made All Fun…So Study the Map and Laugh! However Spot Locations of Main Buildings & Streets are True.

The map encompasses the area from Mapogu and Yeouido (with its US air base (K 15 1/2!)) on the West of the City to the waters of the Cheonggyecheon Stream (an increasingly unhealthy urban eyesore which began to be concreted over in the year this map was published [1958] but has recently been restored as part of a major urban renewal project) and the site of Korea University in the East. The Hangang River can be seen along the bottom of the map and the crowded downtown areas of the City fill the central section with the popular Itaewon district & the RTO Railway Station in the exact middle. The upper centre is dominated by the two Palace complexes of Gyeongbokgung & Changdeokgung (with its Secret Garden), President Syngnam Rhee’s Residence, the so-called Blue House (Chongwaedae) and the adjacent slopes of Mount Bugaksan.

The map itself is packed with entertaining vignette sketches, amusing cartoons, humorous comments and innumerable jokes. References to the US homeland are never far away: the State of Texas can clearly be seen in the upper right, whilst assorted signposts around the map direct the unsuspecting visitor to Yuma, Reno, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and ‘Frisco!

Papasan Burgess provides the following description in the title cartouche upper left:

Seoul has been Capital of Korea for over 500 years. It is a City of hills, surrounded by high mountains and is the Center of Korean Culture. Seoul has a population of over 1,800,000 persons, 20 theaters, 217 churches,     48 temples, 66 colleges and many primary and secondary schools. The Seoul Railway Station or RTO accommodates over 20,000 passengers per day.

There are many interesting temples, ancient gates, and other sights within Seoul and also in surrounding area which appeal to soldier and tourist alike.

The Scale of Miles is denoted in musical notes and local currency (hwan).

Sergeant Papasan Lefty Burgess aka Byrel W Burgess [1914-1983] was a native of Owosso, Michigan. He served as an engineer in the US Army for over 20 years where he was able to hone his evident talents as a highly accomplished & entertaining cartoonist and comic mapmaker. He first enlisted in 1935 but was mustered out in 1939 before being recalled to active wartime duties in 1943. Like fellow comic mapmaker Frank Dorn, he served under General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell in Burma & China. His first comic map was that of the Chinese City of Chungking, c1945, where American covert operations established a base in the final months of the war. In the early 1950s he was posted to Europe and produced further comic maps of London [1951] and Frankfurt-am-Main [1954], the latter relatively frequently seen & published under the comic pen-name “G I Crow”. Burgess is also said to have been a frequent contributor to the Stars & Stripes newspaper throughout this period. Following further postings to the Far East, he returned to the United States in about 1960, retired from the Army and settled in California. In October of that year he registered the copyright for two virtually unknown cartoon maps of San Francisco: A Crab’s Eye View of Fisherman’s Wharf, Telegraph Hill and Part of the Embarcadero and a Nite owl’s Map of Chinatown and nite club land.  He subsequently settled in San Leandro and in the mid 1970s was an active supporter of the Naval Regional Medical Center at Oakland, contributing several cartoons to its in-house magazine, the Oak Leaf. In the final years of his life he relocated to Yountville in the Napa Valley. He died in March 1983 aged 68 and is interred beside his wife in the San Francisco National Cemetery (Section I, Site C-39)

We have been unable to locate this map in OCLC nor in any institutional collections around the World. Nor does it appear that any other examples have appeared on the market during the past several years.

An extremely rare spotlight on the South Korean Capital in the late 1950s, all the more interesting & unusual in being viewed through the eyes of this entertaining Migook-in cartoonist.