The Lindgren Brothers of Spokane, Washington and their remarkable “Hysterical Maps”

The Lindgren Brothers of Spokane, Washington and their remarkable “Hysterical Maps”

Mention “Hysterical Map” and most aficionados and collectors of early 20th Century pictorial maps will invariably think of the firm of Lindgren Brothers of Spokane, Washington, USA, who became synonymous with this light-hearted and amusing style of pictorial cartography in the period between about 1933 and 1955.

Their distinctive designs, refined over the years created a series of over three dozen entertaining souvenir maps of National Parks and popular recreational areas of the American West and Pacific North West.

The maps became increasingly standardized as their spread & popularity increased, especially during the period between the late 1930s and late 1940s. They are easily recognizable to the modern collector, typified by their vibrant yellow body colours, red roads & highways, innumerable pictorial vignettes, amusing quips and jokes, and a surrounding narrow blue border (occasionally red also, but usually about 2cms deep) which frames each of the maps and invariably incorporates an amusing text on all four sides.

A Hysterical Map of the Grand Coulee Dam [1940] (Courtesy of Rumsey Collection)

With their cock’eyed innaccuracies, guaranteed smileage, and easy affordability the maps offered an immediate appeal to the newly mobile, middle-class, automobile-driving tourist, increasingly eager to explore the natural wonders & outdoor beauty of the American West. Usually offered for 25 cents with an accompanying envelope, they could be sent to friends, colleagues and relatives as small token gifts or retained by the buyer, and perhaps framed on their return home, as enduring & amusing souvenirs of their cherished vacation times.

The Lindgren Brothers were perhaps fortunate that the growing popularity of their Hysterical Maps also coincided in the early 1930s with the growing promotion of Spokane by the City authorities as an easily accessible tourist destination: One 1930’s brochure depicts the city, its dynamic modern skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the Selkirk Mountains as its backdrop, approached by almost empty freeways. “Visit Spokane” encourages the strapline, “Hospitable Center of the Pacific Northwest Vacationland”, a “Gateway to National Parks” and “Gateway to the Grand Coulee Dam and Columbia Basin”. This promotional marketing was also accompanied by a growing stack of Works Progress Administration (WPA) programmes (government-funded public works initiated as part of FDR’s New Deal) which included numerous major infrastructure projects (for example the nearby Grand Coulee Dam (see above) constructed between 1933 & 1942) as well as road & highway projects which made automobile tourism ever easier, as did the creation of a range of low-cost & easily affordable camp-sites within the National Parks themselves.

Although the Lindgren firm & their maps have been the focus of a superb study by Craig Clinton in his article – Hysterical Maps – The cock’eyed maps of the Lindgren Brothers – published in the IMCOS Journal Number 125 [Summer 2011], there still appears room for some further insights into these maps and not least, into the family background of the Lindgrens and the association & connection of several somewhat overlooked local figures in their map making productions.

The firm itself was founded in 1928 as a partnership between Jolly Elmer (born Hjalmer) Lindgren [1895-1952] and his elder brother Oscar Sims Lindgren (also known as “Ott” or O.S.)  [1892-1967]. A third younger Lindgren brother, David [1905-1961] does not appear to have taken any active part in the Spokane business.

The three brothers had witnessed a somewhat peripatetic backwoods childhood as the children of first generation Swedish immigrants. Their father, John Andrew Lindgren [1862-1926] had emigrated from Arvika, Sweden and arrived in the US in about 1881. He would become a fully naturalized citizen in 1900. His wife, Anna Greta [née Davidson] [1871-1922] had been born in Stromstad, Sweden and had also arrived in America in the early 1880’s. The couple met and married in about 1892, probably whilst John was employed, like so many recently arrived Scandinavian immigrants during this period, as a logger in one of the burgeoning number of Wisconsin lumber camps located on the western shores of Lake Superior, to the east and south of Duluth. Both brothers appear to have been born in the logging boom town of Porter’s Mills (Porterville), Eau Claire,WI before the family moved to the settlement of Mason Town, Bayfield, WI, on the shores of Lake Superior itself. John worked in the logging yards for the White River Lumber Company, and he and his family are recorded here in the 1900 Federal Census. Mason Town during this period was predominantly a logging community of first-generation immigrants from Norway & Sweden.

Mason Town, Bayfield County, WI c1910-20

A Wisconsin logging settlement on the shores of Lake Superior where many first generation Scandinavian immigrants lived and worked during this period. It was  operated by the White River Lumber Co. In right background can be seen the large Mason Saw Mill.

It is perhaps not just in half-jest that Jolly Lindgren inscribes many of his maps as being “drawn in broken English”: it may well be that given the surroundings & milieu in which he and brothers grew up, their early childhood conversations may well have been largely conducted in broken English, with probably rather more of their parents’ Swedish mother tongue being employed in day-to-day use….

By the time of younger brother David’s birth in 1905, the family had moved again, some 1400 miles west, to another logging settlement, Sandpoint in Idaho, on the shores of Lake Pen Oreille.

Father John appears to have taken employment in the massive planing yards of the Humbird Lumber Company and the family are recorded as residents in the Humbird Precinct of the town in both the 1910 & 1920 Federal Censuses.

The Humbird Lumber Company played a predominant role in the local Idaho economy, employing upwards of 1500 men at its height, until its rapid & terminal decline after the Wall Street crash.

Sandpoint lies about 70 miles by road to the north east of Spokane.

Late 1930s or early 1940s view of Sandpoint, Idaho. The derelict lumber sheds of the now defunct Humbird Lumber Co are visible on the shoreline close to the port

Elder brother Oscar (Ott) had by now begun work as a lumber man in Gildford, Montana before being drafted in 1917. He subsequently served as an NCO (rising through the ranks to become an officer & 2nd Lt) with the 7th Battalion, 20th  Engineers. He served in France in 1918-19 and following repatriation settled in Portland,OR, where he married in 1924, before moving back to Spokane in 1928. He remained in the Army Reserve with the rank of 1st Lt with 74th Engineers and was active in the local Veterans’ Post in Portland in the mid-1920s.

Doubtless the training & technical skills of a military engineer provided an invaluable asset to the fledgling Lindgren Brothers Company, where Ott’s steady hand oversaw the silkscreen stencilling & printing techniques (later enhanced by photography) that the company would employ so innovatively & successfully in their map productions of the 1930s & 1940s.

Although Jolly was also drafted in June 1917, it is not clear if her ever served with American forces in Europe.

However by the time of the 1920 Federal Census, the now 24-year old Jolly was listed as an independent sign writer in Sandpoint, ID. During the 1920s both Lindgren parents died in Sandpoint (1922 & 1926) and the brothers evidently decided to come together again to establish their new joint card & sign writing venture in Spokane.

Their timing could probably not have been worse, as the Wall Street Crash followed just a year later, in October 1929, and the need to diversify and find new revenue streams in order to survive the catastrophic economic downturn that enveloped so many American small businesses and commercial enterprises became ever more pressing.

As Craig Clinton highlights in his IMCOS Journal article, in 1930 the brothers brought in Theodore (Ted) Turner Jr [1902-1989], as their new sales and customer relations director. Born in Seattle and raised on a farm in Southern Idaho, he had been educated at Idaho University in the mid 1920s. It would be Turner who would subsequently become a partner in the business in 1949, when the company was renamed Lindgren-Turner. Following Jolly Lindgren’s sudden death whilst visiting Boise in 1952, the Company was incorporated and Turner became its new President as it entered a new & far more profitable phase of its development.

After 1949 it almost completely cornered the new post-war decal craze. “Decal-mania” gripped the nation, with 1000s of bright and vibrant adhesive state maps & recreational stickers, wonderfully cheap & collectible, and easily stuck onto suitcases, car bumpers & windscreens.

Mid/late 1950s decal maps of California & Washington, designed by William S Terao

An April 1950 full-page advertisement in the Billboard magazine illustrates a selection of some of the more than 1000 decorative souvenir decals that they could offer, encouraging readers and would-be retailers to “cash in on this new fad” and contact one of Lindgren’s rapidly growing network of local distributors across the US….”silk-screened in beautiful lacquers!…in 8 colours, beautiful and humorous, eye-catching and glamorous….whether they stay at home or go places, young and old everywhere are buying these decals – not just 1 or 2 but many different designs for their collections…”

According to Turner (as quoted by Craig Clinton & confirmed in a 1960s press article) in one year alone during this early 1950s period, the Company sold over 10 million decals. Many of these decal designs were by their new local in-house artist and VP, William Shigeo Terao [1915-1990], whose style remained remarkable faithful to the original Hysterical Map roots from which so many of these small & highly decorative 1950s cartographic state map stickers so clearly derived.

Terao was a second generation American, the son of Japanese immigrant parents and had been born in California in 1915. A commercial artist by training, he served two terms with the American Army during and after World War II [1942-45 & 1947-49], latterly serving with the 100th Infantry Battalion in Japan. His family had been interned in a resettlement camp in Idaho throughout the war, before moving to Spokane in 1947. With his brother Eiyu (Harry), the pair would become founding patrons of the Spokane Buddhist Church and, in succession to one another, the Church’s pastors & spiritual leaders from the 1950s through to 1970s.

William S Terao [1915-1990]

The Lindgren Brothers’ tentative steps into map making began in 1932 with the publication of their first promotional “Cartograph” – A Hysterical Map of The Spokane County – which amusingly highlighted the attractions and sites  of interest to be found in the immediate environs of Spokane. The map sheet was initially offered with a small calendar pad attached to its lower left corner. It proved so popular that it was reprinted several times, and in a revised version, as a separate map, the blank area where the calendar pad had been now overprinted with blue clouds of “Palouse Dust” blowing in across the prairies from the South West.

Craig Clinton’s article omits any mention of the evident close involvement of another local figure during these stages in the development of the Lindgren Map publishing business between about 1933 and 1934. The Library of Congress Copyright records show that four of the initial Hysterical Maps designed by Jolly Lindgren in 1933 and 1934 were in fact copyrighted (partly or wholly) to local Washington businessman & advertising agent, Lee R Double.

The Maps in question are:

  • Hysterical Map of the Eastern Washington Country

       J E Lindgren (Lindgren Brothers) & Lee R Double

       ©(1c.)8 May/17 July 1933

  • Hysterical Map of “The Puget Sound Country” – A Trifle Cockeyed

       ©17 July 1933 Lee R Double

      19 x 20.5 inches [48.3 x 52 cms]

  • Hysterical Map of Mount Rainier Nat’n’l Park More or Less Cockeyed

       Words & Music by “Jolly” Lindgren

      ©17 July 1933 Lee R Double

      19 x 19 inches [48 x 48 cms]

  •  Hysterical Map of Olympic Peninsula & Puget Sound Country A Trifle Cockeyed

       Hatched & etched by Jolly Lindgren

       ©1934 Lee R Double

Lee R Double’s Hysterical map of Olympic Peninsula And Puget Sound Country

“Hatched & etched by Jolly Lindgren” [1934]

(Courtesy of Rumsey Collection)

Lee or Leon Richard Double [1897-1955] had been a Sales manager with several ad agencies in Seattle in the late 1920s, including R L Polk & Company, and in 1931 had been elected President of the Advertisers’ Association of Seattle. He had set up his own agency, Harger & Double, in partnership with Leon J Harger, in downtown Spokane’s Standard Stock Exchange Building in 1933. It is not entirely clear why it was Double that registered the copyright for these four maps rather than the Lindgren Brothers. Perhaps Double commissioned them directly from Jolly Lindgren as amusing promotional material for his newly launched agency.

The former Realty Building, 242 West Riverside Ave, Spokane

Designed by architect Albert Held & erected in 1910, this was one of Spokane’s first & tallest skyscrapers. Located in what is now the East Downtown Historic District, from around 1935 to at least 1940 the offices of Lindgren Brothers were located here, very likely on the building’s uppermost 8th Floor (804 Realty Building). In the 1950s & early 1960s the Lindgren-Turner Co Company was located at 902 Broadway Ave.

(Image courtesy of

Whatever the background to the publication & copyright of these early Hysterical Maps, Double appears to have quickly disappeared from the scene. A large map of Yellowstone copyrighted exclusively to Lindgren Brothers in 1933 initiated a distinct change in design, with the first appearance of the familiar blue framed border to the map with text running around it. The colour palette of these early pre-1935/6 Lindgren maps remained distinctly unappealing (to the modern eye) with a predominance of dull & earthy brown body colours.

However this soon changed and between 1935 & 1940, the Lindgren Brothers catalogue of Hysterical Maps expanded rapidly covering most of the principal National Parks and Recreational areas of the American West: Jackson Hole & Grand Teton, Yosemite, Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, The Grand Coulee Dam, The Red Lodge-Cooke Highway, Mount Rainier National Park, Glacier National Park, Zion National Park & Bryce Canyon.

A Hysterical Map of Grand Canyon National Park [1940] (Courtesy of Rumsey Collection)

With the advent of World War II, business again fell off, not least, according to Clinton, due to the call up of both Ott Lindgren and Ted Turner, who were both in the Military Reserve, Turner being a retired Air Force Colonel.

It was not until the post-war period, that the business picked up again and a new series of Hysterical Maps appeared, ranging ever more widely in their coverage: Lake Tahoe [1947]; The Mother Lode [1948]; Death Valley [1948]; Yosemite [1948]; Palm Springs [1948] and Rocky Mountain National Park [1948].

A Hysterical Map of Lake Tahoe [1947] (Courtesy of Rumsey Collection)

A Hysterical Map of the Mother Lode [1948] (Courtesy of Rumsey Collection)

Hysterical Tour thru’ Yellowstone National Park (The Easy Way) [1947]

In 1947 Lindgren Brothers diversified further, publishing a humorous 126 page illustrated booklet, an “Hysterical Tour thru Yellowstone National Park (The Easy Way)”, the text by Ted Turner Jr and the sectional route maps and amusing cartoons by Jolly Lindgren. An immensely entertaining guide, it opens with a clever piece of cross-marketing…..

Girding our loins to take on all we could about old Yellowstone, we added to our possessions a droll chart called a Hysterical Map and we were ready to case the joint by way of Tower Jct….

The booklet concludes with the comment that “we are now more sincerely convinced than ever that the automobile is here to stay.”

Nor was the Lindgren Company exclusively restricted to publishing just Hysterical Maps or maps that focused only on National Parks and other vacation & recreational areas.

In 1940 Jolly Lindgren designed a Fishermen’s Map of Montana for L W Wendt Co.  Six years later, Jolly also designed & published a large “Hysterical Map” of the Campus of Washington State College at Pullman. In August 1947, in conjuction with local Spokane company, Western Souvenirs, Jolly designed & copyrighted an Authentic map of the Columbia Basin Irrigation System as it will appear upon completion. In 1947-8 the Company also copyrighted a special Sports Calendar.

An intriguing further connection adds weight to Spokane’s claim to be the undisputed home of “Hysterical Cartography” during this period: Local Spokane candy maker and confectioner, Davenport Candycrafts Inc, also appears to have copyrighted three comic & “Hysterical Maps” between 1936 and 1942.

The Company had moved to the area and first leased space in the Pine Creek Creamery Building in Spokane in 1936 after the premises had lain empty for the previous 5 years of the Great Depression. In 1937 Davenport’s owners, Newton O Wentz & Fritz E Lee, purchased the entire building and proceeded to occupy all its floors.

Whether, like Lee R Double’s Hysterical Maps of 1933-34, Jolly Lindgren was also involved in the design & production of these Davenport maps or whether this was a simple case of opportunistic copy-catting remains to be discovered. The former proposition probably seems the more likely. Hopefully examples of these  rare & ephemeral maps may come to light in due course. They are:

Washington State:

Hysterical Map of America’s Scenic Playground in Washington and Oregon

©16 May 1936 – Davenport Candycrafts Inc, Spokane


Hysterical Map of Alaska. For Chocolates and Confections.

©31 May 1940 – Davenport Candycrafts, Spokane

United States:

Screwy War Map of the USA & stuff. For Chocolates & Confections

©4 March 1942 – Davenport Candycrafts, Spokane

As mentioned, immediately following World War II, a new series of Lindgren’s own Hysterical Maps were published in 1947-48, but popular tastes and fashions were rapidly changing.

With the Company’s structural changes in 1949 and 1952 and a much greater focus on the decal market, Lindgren-Turner cut back heavily on the design & production of new Hysterical Maps, the last to appear seemingly being Tennessee [1953] and Great Smoky Mountains National Park [1955].

However a new range of perhaps more popular King Size Map postcards was launched in about 1949, recycling some of the earlier Hysterical Map designs on a reduced scale.

Lindgren-Turner Co – Jolly Lindgren – King Size Map Card 

A Hysterical Map of Yellowstone Park And The Jackson Hole Country, c1949-52

(Author’s collection)

Lindgren-Turner Co – Jolly Lindgren – King Size Map Card

A Hysterical Map of California, c1949-52

(Courtesy of Rumsey Collection)

Lindgren-Turner’s new art director, William Shigeo Terao, created several new designs following Jolly Lindgren’s death in 1952. The last of these appear to have been the Lone Star State of Texas & Oahu, Hawaii [1954].

Oscar Lindgren passed away in 1967 and, as Craig Clinton indicates, in 1971, the Company was purchased by Emblem Manufacturing and its business operations relocated to Southern California. Turner retired to New Mexico and died in Albuquerque in 1989. Terao died in Los Angeles in late 1990.

And so, after 62 years, the final chapter closed. The unbroken thread that had seamlessly connected the lives of these four men – Jolly Lindgren, Oscar (Ott) Lindgren, Theo (Ted) Turner & William S Terao – was finally cut.

They were a remarkable quartet who over the course of nearly a quarter of a century had made Lindgren Brothers and their Spokane company synonymous with “Hysterical Maps” and, in the process, created both a highly distinctive brand & a unique strand of early 20th Century comic & pictorial cartography.


Craig Clinton: Hysterical Maps – The cock’eyed maps of the Lindgren BrothersIMCOS Journal Number 125 [Summer 2011], pp.27-39

Stephen J Hornsby: Picturing America – the golden age of pictorial maps [University of Chicago Press, 2017] pp.49, 58, 66, & 67

Katherine Harman: You Are Here – Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination [Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2004]: Hysterical Map of The Grand Coulee Dam, 1935, ill pp.91-92

David Rumsey Collection