US Comic Maps & the Prohibition era, 1920-1933 – Part 1: Isle of Pleasure

Henry J Lawrence’s Map of the Isle of Pleasure [1931]

As noted on the introductory flyleaf of Edward Behr’s splendid 1997 study, Prohibition – The Thirteen Years that changed America:

On 16th January 1920, at the stroke of midnight, America went dry. For the next thirteen years no US citizen had the right to buy or sell alcoholic drink. Prohibition was to change America forever. However, instead of eliminating the source of the “Devil’s Brew”, this period of supposed abstinence was to incite Americans to bend and break the law by every possible means: formerly law-abiding citizens now frequented speakeasies and brewed illicit alcohol in their baths; fisherman found rum-running far more lucrative than fishing; illegal distilleries sprang up across the country. All types of people, from petty criminals to government officials, found in Prohibition an opportunity to get rich quickly. Far from eliminating alcohol from America, the laws of Prohibition encouraged more drinking (albeit illegally) than ever before.

Prohibition turned Republican Andrew J. Volstead [[1869-1947], a dour Lutheran of Nowegian ancestry with large bushy moustache, and a hitherto relatively obscure Minnesota Congressman, into a recognized and much-reviled household name, as it was assumed that the long-debated 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, which introducted nationwide Prohibition, was directly attributable to him.

Andrew J Volstead [1869-1947] - photograph from Library of Congress
Andrew J Volstead [1869-1947] – Library of Congress

In fact much of the background work in the drafting and preparation of the Volstead Act legislation was down to the influential attorney & general counsel of the powerful Anti-Saloon League of America, Wayne B Wheeler [1869-1927].

Wayne B Wheeler [1869-1927] - Library of Congress
Wayne B Wheeler [1869-1927] – Library of Congress

Introduced in May 1919, the legislation took three months to pass both Houses before its final adoption in October 1919. The veto of an increasingly ailing President Wilson was overriden in Congress and  the bill finally became Law in January 1920, replacing existing “dry” legislation measures already in force in many US States.

The impact of Prohibition would be felt across America in every aspect of daily life and society, in both rural and urban areas.

It is noticeable that with time, as the pendulum began to swing increasingly back towards repeal of the Volstead Act in the second half of the 1920s and early 1930s, especially after the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the more pressing economic concerns of the Great Depression, Prohibition attracted the increasing attentions of contemporary US mapmakers and cartoonists, for whom it provided a rich & abundant vein of comic satire and alcohol-related humour.

Foremost amongst these were the likes of the well-known British-born mapmaker, Ernest Clegg [1876-1954] (in this instance working in association with Canadian-born American artist, Arthur Crisp [1881-1974]); the emergent young architect, Henry Jefferson Lawrence [1900-1986]; the well-known artist and illustrator of “flappers” & the 1930’s Jazz Age, John Held Jr [1889-1958]; and the toy-maker, author, and erstwhile Washington Post cartoonist, Edward Gerstell McCandlish [1887-1946].

One of the most striking of the above productions is Henry Jefferson Lawrence’s remarkable 1931 Map showing Isle of Pleasure, a rare example of which we were delighted to acquire very recently.

Henry J Lawrence Map showing Isle of Pleasure [Houston, 1931]
Henry J Lawrence – Map Showing Isle of Pleasure [1931]

This remarkable map takes the insular outline of a stylized human skull, denoted as the State of Inebriation, entirely surrounded by the waters of the Gulp Stream & Prohibition Sea. The latter include the sea monster Old Delirium Tremens, shoals of Pickled Herrings & Soused Sardines (well oiled) – and not least the shipwreck of the 18th Amendment, which can be seen slowly “sinking into oblivion”, the lonely figure of Volstead visible in the uppermost rigging of the fast disappearing ship.

The shipwreck of the 18th Amendment with Volstead in the sinking ship's rigging
The shipwreck of the 18th Amendment with Volstead in the sinking ship’s rigging

The scene is illuminated by rays of Moonshine emanating from a deeply despondent and tearful Blue Moon in the upper left corner.

The map itself is replete with anti-prohibition satire, jokes, puns, alcoholic references & liquor names and innumerable double-entendres & wordplays.

At the centre of the island can be seen Lake Champagne, inhabited by a dancing pair of naked females, Pink Ladies, also  known as Eye Openers, greeted with a toast by the onlooking Long John (a blended Scotch whisky first distilled in 1825 by one John Macdonald, a Wester Ross farmer, and originally known as the “Long John’s Dew of Ben Nevis”). Indeed close, by can be seen another example of Mountain Dew, an illicit farmer’s still. At the south of the Lake, is Cordial Greeting, marked with the sign “Absinthe makes the Heart grow Fonder”. Nearby is the Bronx Express, a steam train which can be seen pulling in to the Liquor Depot Station, a reference to the New York Bronx area’s reputation as a centre of illicit bootlegging and smuggling during the Prohibition era. In the south-western corner of the map is a graveyard in which can be seen the grave of “John Barleycorn” who died in the Year 1AP (After Prohibition) and the graves of several “dead soldiers”, a slang term for empty liquor cans & containers. The distinctive shrubs of the Cemetery are called Anheuser Busches, referencing the famous St.Louis brewery. In the upper left of the map is a large Sanitorium (for those Ale-ing) whilst beyond is the Road to Reason; High Ball Grounds (where a game of baseball is in progress); the Canadian Club building (Canadian Club whisky); the 19th Hole; and the Lindbergh Cocktail (denoted by Lindbergh’s plane, the Spirit of St.Louis) originally created by an American bartender in London to commemorate Lindbergh’s famous 1927 transatlantic flight.  A line of liquor smuggling ships named Jamaica, Bay & Bacardi – lie at anchor in Rum Row, hove to off the Island’s northern shores, just outside the 12 mile (or as named here, 12 smile) limit that denoted international waters. A lonely single boatman, Paul Jones (a type of bourbon) plies what was to become a increasingly widespread trade between ship & US shore.

Lawrence drives home the message that: East or West – wherever Men drink together – there is Conviviality…

The map’s scale is given as Two Fingers to the Drink, with a Liquid Measure – 8 Drinks make 1 Pint – 2 Pints makes 1 Happy.  A prominent compass spur has as its cardinal points: Near Beer (N); Wines (W); Sherries (S); and Egg Nog (E). “Near Beer” was a new low alcohol beer (usually less than 0.5% alochol) which began to be produced by many of the big American brewers at the beginning of the Prohibition era (by boiling off the alcohol) to get around the new tighter proscriptions of the Volstead Act. One popular quip of the time was that “Whoever called it near beer was a poor judge of distance!”. The map is “Drawn from the Keg” and copyrighted by H J (Heinie) Lawrence of Houston, Texas and is dated 1931. Around the borders of the map are inscribed the names of numerous additional beverages & liquors.

The Library of Congress Copyright records reveal Lawrence’s map was registered for copyright on September 8th 1931.

Yet, Lawrence’s design and content was not entirely his own or indeed entirely original. He owed a great deal of his 1931 creation to the earlier 1925 Map of Pleasure Island, from which much of the visual content, topography and toponyms of his own map are very closely copied, if not almost directly transcribed!

First copyrighted on September 5th 1925, this unusual & hitherto virtually unknown production was a joint collaboration between the British-born, New York-based illuminator & cartographer, Major Ernest Clegg [1876-1954] and Canadian-born fellow New York artist, Arthur Crisp [1881-1974].

Arthur Crisp & Ernest Clegg - Map of Pleasure Island or the Bootlegger's Paradise - 1925
Arthur Crisp & Ernest Clegg – Map of Pleasure Island or the Bootlegger’s Paradise [1925]

Birmingham-born Ernest Costain Clegg, a graduate of the Birmingham School of Art, was a decorated veteran of both the Boer and First World Wars. A specialist in illuminated manuscript work, he had emigrated to the US before the First World War, marrying Australian-born actress, Rita MacDonnell in Bermuda in 1911, and initially gaining employment in New York with the firm of Tiffany. He is known for his fine illustrations of John McRae’s First World War poem, In Flanders Field [1921], and later for several finely detailed large-scale maps of the United States and its regions, including his striking 1927 map of Charles H Lindbergh’s flights, including his early “barnstorming” ventures as well as his record-breaking solo transatlantic flight. He was a accomplished watercolourist, mainly of naval subjects. Many of his watercolours also drew from his wartime experiences as an eye-witness to both the Battle of Jutland [1916] and the surrender of the German Fleet [1918]. A keen sailor himself, he also produced a series of decorative charts commemorating the 1930’s Americas Cup competitions. During this period he also became known for his work as a commercial artist and illustrator of US books and magazines. Clegg returned to the UK in 1944 and in the immediate post-war period produced a series of finely-executed and highly decorative English County Maps, published in collaboration with Countryman Magazine and the Leeds firm of John Waddington, to raise funds for the wartime Women’s Land Army. His important contributions in this field were marked by the award of a CBE in the January 1947 King’s Honours List. Clegg’s wife Rita died in 1949 and their marriage appears to have produced no children. After extensive research in the archives we are the first researcher to finally be able to confirm with certainty the precise details of Clegg’s place & date of death. Clegg passed away in undeserved obscurity in a nursing home in Paignton, Devon in December 1954, aged 79, following a short illness. Having moved around suburban London and the Home Counties in the period after his wife’s death, the last couple of years of his life appear to have been spent in relative comfort as a resident of a small home for retired Army officers, Huntly, located in the south Devon village of Bishopsteignton. Huntly was finally closed in 2011 when sold for redevelopment as luxury apartments.

A photograph in the Peter A Juley & Sons Archive of the Smithsonian Institution, depicts the 1925 manuscript (mural?) artwork for a variant version of this same map, in this instance inscribed by Crisp himself. Several other photographs show Crisp at work in his studio in 1931.

Arthur Watkins Crisp was born in 1881 in Hamilton, Ontario. He studied at Hamilton Art School under John S. Gordon before moving to study at the Art Students League in New York from about 1900. The founder of several art groups in New York, including Allied Artists of America, the New York Water Color Club, and the American Water Color Society, his principal speciality was as a muralist and throughout his career he worked on a wide range of public buildings, schools, offices, theatres and private homes in both New York and Trenton (NJ), his work being characterized by a relatively formal design style combined with a distinctive palette of rich & vibrant colours. In the early 1920’s he was commissioned to decorate the Reading Rooms of the new Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. In the late 1950’s he moved to Biddeford Pool in Maine, where he died aged 93 in June 1974.

Henry Jefferson Lawrence [1900-1986] was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of William Fountain Lawrence [1830-1908] and his second wife, Arlena (Arlie) Roberta Taylor [1871-1937]. The second of four children, three sons and a daughter, his elderly father died when he was just 8 years old, leaving his young widow to bring up Henry & his three siblings, all of whom were under 10 years of age at the time.

Henry Jefferson Lawrence in 1925 from: The Cork & Curls 1925 Yearbook University of Virginia
Henry Jefferson Lawrence in 1925
from: The Cork & Curls, 1925 Yearbook
University of Virginia
Alpha Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi The Cork & Curls 1925 University of Virginia 1925
Alpha Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Phi, University of Virginia – The Cork & Curls, 1925

Drafted in the final months of the war, in September 1918, as an 18 year old student, Lawrence subsequently studied for a Batchelor of Science Degree in Architecture at the University of Virginia in the early 1920’s. During his time at Virginia U, he became an active member of the critically acclaimed Virginia Glee Club men’s choir, singing with them for at least three years. In 1920-21, as a second year student, he also became assistant arts editor of the University Magazine, the Virginia Reel [1920-1929], described after its first issue as “a creditable medium of the wit, humour and artistic caricature of the University” (University of Virginia Alumni Magazine VIII (10): 228, May 1920). Lawrence was also Associate Editor of the University’s Engineering Journal.

It is not clear if he may be the same Henry J. Lawrence who, in 1926, was the original architect and designer of Miami’s Tower Theater  (later refurbished in 1931 with its Art Deco facade & interior  by architect Robert Law Weed [1897-1961]).

 After graduating and marrying, Lawrence moved West to Texas, settling in Houston, where he is recorded with his new wife, Helen Jeanette Brooks [1902-1997] in both the 1929 Houston City Directory and the 1930 Federal Census. Lawrence was here employed by Alfred Charles Finn [1883-1964], who by the mid 1920s was Houston’s leading commercial architect, designing office skyscrapers, hotels, retail stores, and theatres across the whole of the City’s downtown business district. Finn’s practice designed many of Houston’s most prominent & best-known buildings during this period.

Interestingly the skyscraper depicted in the lower right corner of Lawrence’s map (humorously denoted as A Long Tall One) bears a striking resemblance to Houston’s iconic Art deco JP Morgan Chase Building (formerly the Gulf Building), designed by Finn (with two other leading architects) and completed in 1929. For nearly thirty five years it would remain the tallest building on the Houston skyline, until finally surpassed by the Exxon Building in 1963.

"A Long Tall One" - notice the ressemblance to the Houston's 1929 Gulf Building (now the J P Morgan Chase Building)
“A Long Tall One” – notice the resemblance to the Houston’s 1929 Gulf Building (now the J P Morgan Chase Building)

By 1940 Lawrence had moved back East, to Montgomery, Maryland, where he is recorded working as an architect in the 1940 Federal Census.

Lawrence has evidently undertaken extensive military training during his youth, perhaps as a student/officer reservist during his time at the University of Virginia. During the Second World War Lawrence was, until 1942, commanding officer of the Central Signal Corps Unit Training Center at Camp Crowder, MA. According to one of his obituaries, he later saw active service as Colonel & commanding officer of the US Army’s 466th Regiment and, in the immediate post-war period, of 61st Troop Carrier Group.

In 1947 he joined the State Department and was seconded to the Office of Foreign Buildings (OFB), initially moving to Manila in the Philippines, where he was supervisor of the construction of the new US embassy and of additional accommodation blocks for embassy personnel. His role also involved overviewing the construction of other new US embassies and missions across South Asia and the Far East, notably in New Delhi, Karachi, Colombo, Bangkok and Rangoon. In 1950 he was named Director of the OFB regional headquarters in New Delhi. He returned to Washington in 1952 as Assistant Director of Building & Design for the OFB and was promoted to its Deputy Directorship in 1956. He was temporarily assigned to the United Nations between 1983 and 1985. Lawrence died on 21st January 1986 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

As far as we are aware, Lawrence’s 1931 Isle of Pleasure was his only foray into comic cartography.

His, however, was but one of an increasing number of maps that increasingly satirized and poked fun at the restrictive anomalies & peculiarities of Prohibition-period America in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

These added popular fuel to the growing arguments for repeal of the 1920 Volstead Act.

Following Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election as US President in November 1932, this finally came to fruition with the ratification of the 21st Amendment in early December 1933.