US Comic Maps & the Prohibition Era, 1920-1933 – Part 2: Edward Gerstell McCandlish’s “Bootlegger’s Map of the United States”

West Virginian-born toy maker, children’s author and cartoonist, Edward Gerstell McCandlish [1887-1946] produced one of the best-known and most widely circulated comic maps of the Prohibition era, the so-called Bootlegger’s Map of the United States.

The map actually appeared in three (or more) quite distinct versions, the source, primacy and dating of which have never been particularly well differentiated or outlined. Even now considerable confusion still seems to remain as to their origins & the order in which they first appeared.

We give what we hope will be a clearer and more definitive picture herewith:

The first map – indeed the original Bootlegger’s Map of the United States – appears to have first been published as a double-page cartoon in the Washington Post in about 1926, supposedly the first time such a large single (double-page) cartoon had appeared in a US newspaper. At this time McCandlish was working as leading cartoonist & columnist for the Post, a position which he appears to have held for several years from the early 1920’s onwards. His work included the writing of children’s short stories in a Sunday column entitled Bunny Tots, several of which later appeared in book form. The first three in this series – The Bunny Tots at the seashore, The Bunny Tots’ snow book, and The Bunny Tots’ window book – were published by A L Burt of New York and copyrighted in March 1928. In all McCandlish penned over twenty one children’s stories. He subsequently moved to the Detroit Free Press in the late 1920’s, working there as the newspaper’s principal illustrator and cartoonist.

A second version of the Bootlegger’s map, perhaps the one most often seen, an example of which is illustrated here and which we currently offer for sale, was a separately issued folded broadsheet published by the Griswold Press of Detroit, Michigan. It is perhaps no coincidence that it seems to have been first published at around the same time as McCandlish’s move to the Detroit Free Press in the late 1920’s. It was very probably a commercial initiative to harness the popularity that McCandlish’s original Washington Post cartoon had clearly generated.

Edward G McCandlish - Griswold Press - Bootlegger's Map of the United States - circa 1926-31
Edward G McCandlish – Griswold Press – Bootlegger’s Map of the United States – circa 1926-31

That McCandlish’s map should find such a ready reception in the State of Michigan and specifically in the City of Detroit is indeed hardly unsurprising. Michigan was actually well ahead of many neighbouring Mid-west states in its approach to temperance and prohibition. By 1911 nearly half of its 83 local counties were in fact “dry” yet the irony remains that beneath its harsh “dry” exterior, Michigan probably remained one of the wettest states of the Union throughout the entire Prohibition era.  In May 1917, the Damon Law was passed through the state legislature prohibiting the sale of alcohol throughout Michigan, so leading to a steady stream of liquor-smuggling vehicles running back and forth across the neigbouring Ohio state border, a foretaste of the covert operations that would ensue across the Detroit River & Canadian border in the wake of nationwide prohibition following the passage of the Volstead Act in January 1920. After 1930 much of this illicit trade took place through the newly opened Detroit-Windsor (Ontario) Tunnel, which became known as the “Detroit funnel”. The Damon Act also produced a massive spike in organized crime which now sought to exploit the new opportunities for bootlegging and liquor smuggling, witnessed most dramatically in the emergence of Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang during the 1920’s. The bribery and corruption of border customs officials, police and federal enforcers became almost endemic. One of the most interesting statistics of all is the fact that by the late 1920’s, some 27% of the Federal Prohibition enforcement budget was directed & expended in the state of Michigan alone. Michigan’s deep-seated ambivalence towards the Volstead Act’s proscriptions is readily reflected in the fact that it was the first US State to endorse the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition in 1933.

This background context illuminates the highly influential role played by Detroit’s Griwswold Press as the publisher and nationwide distributor of McCandlish’s bootlegger’s map in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

Indeed, classified advertisements placed by the Griswold Press in 1929 & 1930 issues of US technical and business magazines reveal the money-making potential of McCandlish’s bootlegger’s map, much of it driven by the Griswold Press’ apparent recruitment of individual commission-based sales agents across the country. The advertisements read:

MAKE BIG MONEY selling the bootlegger’s map. Fast selling comic number. Send 10c for copy and prices. GRISWOLD PRESS, 854 Howard St, Detroit, Mich.

Although a copyright date of 1926 is given on this Griswold Press issue, it is interesting to note that the example in the David Rumsey Collection actually leaves the copyright date blank, probably indicating that it is an early or possibly pre-publication/proof state.

According to the official copyright files of the Library of Congress, the first registration of the Bootlegger’s Map‘s copyright appears to have actually been filed by McCandlish (then resident in Northville, Michigan) only on March 10th 1930, which seems at odds with the apparent publishing history of the map in the years immediately prior to that date. It is possible it was published in the preceding years without McCandlish’s official copyright having been registered. Certainly the measurements of the map (21 x 34 inches) per the copyright records do appear to correspond with the dimensions of examples issued and syndicated by the Griswold Press.

During this period, the Griswold Press’s Bootlegger’s Map does appear to have been widely syndicated to other publishers (two examples published by the United Map Corp of Buffalo, NY and Termagico of New York are known from recent auction records) as well as to anti-prohibition bodies, brewers and the like, who often added their own additional advertising imprints. In one of the acompanying examples offered for sale, the map is issued with the additional Compliments of the Val Blatz Brewing Co.  Milwaukee, Wis.

Interestingly an Ohio newspaper report from March 1932 reveals the evident popularity of these maps, especially amongst the owners of illicit speakeasies and illegal drinking establishments and the manner in which they seemingly served as covert distributors of these maps amongst their clientèle:

A “bootlegger’s map’ of the United States  with scale in souse, yeast and wets was displayed in federal court here today at the trial of Charles L. Bowers, charged with violation of the national prohibition law. A federal agent said he took the monster map from Bowers’ alleged speak-easy in Collinsville. Springfield was designated on the map by a bucket of brew, its contents flowing over the surrounding countryside. Chicago was marked “Chi-keg-go.” Illustrations showed coast guardsmen armed with shotguns patrolling inside the twelve mile limit while on the opposite side of the line were “relief ships” laden with liquors. Four hundred plans have been found… 

The Coshocton Tribune, Coshocton Ohio, 24 March 1932 (p.14)

Indeed later post-Prohibition editions of the map are also known, including an example published by Le Baron-Bonney Co of Bradford, MA in 1941, very likely the same map highlighted for sale in the September 1941 issue of House & Garden Magazine (& over which “fun-loving folk of all ages will laugh loud & long”.

A second colour-printed version of the map which was also designed by McCandlish was copyrighted and published by the Hagstrom Company of New York under the Bill Whiffletree trademark. This edition was seemingly also published over a decade after the end of Prohibition and just two months after the wartime D-Day landings in 1944.  Bearing the title Bill Whiffletree’s Bootlegger’s Map of the United States,  copyright for the map was filed by Hagstrom on August 10th 1944, on the exact same date as another McCandlish creation, Bill Whiffletree’s Ration Map of the United States. Just a few weeks later, the New Haven Connecticut Chamber of Commerce would copyright McCandlish’s only other known map design, An Un-convention-al map of New Haven [©Aug 28 1944].

Edward G. McCandlish - Hagstrom Company - Bill Whiffletree's Bootlegger's Map of the United States - 1944
McCandlish – Hagstrom Company – Bill Whiffletree’s Bootlegger’s Map of the United States – 1944

The Ration map, which appears to be even rarer than its “bootleggin” companion, was evidently a new commission designed by McCandlish to extract light-hearted humour and satirical fun from the growing range of government strictures which had been imposed upon domestic US consumption of food, fuel and consumables since early 1942, following America’s entry into the War after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Rationing would remained in force across most consumables and fuel until the end of the war in September 1945 or soon afterwards, excepting sugar, supplies of which remained on ration until 1947.

It seems probable Hagstrom saw the commercial benefit of using McCandlish’s popularity & notoriety as the designer of the original 1920’s Bootlegger’s Map to republish a special wartime edition as a companion to the new Ration Map.

The earlier Griswold Press issue of the map provides a satirical overview of the United States during the first decade of Prohibition. The title is accompanied by a suitably garbled version of the official motto of the British Royal coat of arms: Hon y soit qui mal y pints (Hon y soit qui mal y pense). The Points of the Compass become the Pints of the Compass, which are Norse, Souse, Yeast and Wets. The Scale is also given in Pints: Half Pints, Pints, Quarts & Gallons. The map finds limitless humour in alcohol-related wordplay and double-entendres on well-known place names across the country: Port-land & Bar-Harbor in Maine, Lake Champagne (Champlain), Scnec-Toddy (Schenectady) and West Pint (West Point) in New York; Brandy-Wine, Maryland;  the State of Vir-gin-ia; the city of Chi-keg-o (Chicago); The Missis-sip-i & Rye Grande (Rio Grande) Rivers, Cotton Gin, Texas; Albu-Corky (Albuquerque) New Mexico and perhaps cleverest of all, Take ‘ome a Pint (Tacoma Point, Washington State).  Pittsburgh, PA also receives attention, this the city of Heinz’s 57 varieties, noted for its strict sabbatarian & temperance legislation and supposedly described by James Parton in 1868 as being akin to “Hell with the Lid Off”, so labelled here. Reference is also made to Wyoming’s Teapot Dome butte (shaped like a tea pot), the focal point of a major national bribery scandal over petroleum oil leases in 1921-22.

Detail of Mid-west on Griswold Press issue of Bootlegger's Map c1926 - note the references to Volstead & Wheeler
Detail of Great Lakes & Mid-west on Griswold Press issue of McCandlish’s Bootlegger’s Map c1926

Wayne B. Wheeler [1869-1927], the influential general counsel of the Anti-Saloon League and the principal driving force behind nationwide Prohibition and the passage of the 1920 Volstead Act, is also acknowledged with his birthplace pinpointed, not without some irony, as being Bubbling Brook, Ohio (actually Brookfield, Ohio). Just to the North, perhaps honouring the Michigan origins of this map, appears a vignette of what appears to be a tall corn barn (clearly harbouring an illicit still) ironically labelled Volstead (after Minnesota Congressman, Andrew J. Volstead, whose name is forever associated with the passage of national Prohibition legislation in 1919-20) a large tap on its side feeding drips of illicit liquor into an underground reservoir concealed beneath the fields below. Vignettes of country stills and illicit bootlegging activities abound, as well as other rural habits such as the smoking of corn silk (in the North Dakota Badlands). A line of smugglers carry kegs of liquor across the Canadian border, beside the comment, Canada Dry? A cordon of floating barrels along the Pacific and Eastern seabords mark the 12 mile limit of US waters. Beyond lie vessels laden with illicit liquor & euphemistically labelled Relief Ships.

The second 1944 issue of the map is in similar vein to its Griswold Press precursor but is printed in colour and also much revised. New features are added, including several vignettes of tumbledown backwoods shacks. A detailed letterpress below the map offers Bill Whiffletree’s personal views on the issue of “Bootleggin”, whilst a  portrait of the said author appears above the letterpress, holding up a sign stating that “This Map has been Wholeheartedly Approved By Its Author Without Any Reservations Whatever”.

Detail of West coast from Bill Whiffletree's Bootlegger's Map [1944]
Detail of West coast from Bill Whiffletree’s Bootlegger’s Map of the United States [1944]

The rising power and influence of the silver screen & Hollywood is reflected in a party of drunken actors & revellers, feasting and cavorting on a pleasure cruiser sailing off the Baja coast, flying a flag labelled “Hollywood Producer’s Ass” (presumably short for Association!). A travelling show in Wyoming offers the opportunity to the public to view, for one day only, a rare example of a Bone-dry Indian. A Kansas Cowboy is depicted herding his cattle from the comfort of a luxury saloon car. A neighbouring more down-at-heel Arkansas traveler heads westward on horseback, his saddle pack laden with bottles. To the east, an old Kentucky Colonel squats beside a keg of illicit liquor; further north a group of Contented Bulls (policemen) in Chikego (Chicago) sit around a table openly drinking and playing cards. In Florida, a wooden bridge links the southern Keys (Major Key, Minor Key, B Flat), and Cuby (Cuba), with a notice proclaiming Sloppy Joe’s Place, this the famous Havana bar, owned by Jose Garcia Abeal, which became a mecca for American tourists throughout the Prohibition era. The Cuba-Florida “bridge” also offered one of the principal highways for illegal liquor smuggling into the US.

Edward Gerstell McCandlish was born on 10th March 1887 in Piedmont, West Virginia, the son of Upton Beall McCandlish [1848-1915] and Margaret Lindsay Landstreet McCandlish [1855-1919]. His father was a prominent local banker, working his way up from local cashier to become President of both the National Bank of Piedmont and First National Bank of Hancock. McCandlish himself appears to have had a somewhat chequered & unconventional education, attending Maryland Agricultural College (later Western Maryland University), the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and a professional art school in Baltimore. In his early life he is said to have  also worked as a lumberjack, sailor and highway labourer. It was a pattern that seems to have been repeated throughout his working life. In the years before the First World War he had established himself as a toy-maker in Piedmont & Hancock, West Virginia though by the time he was drafted for the US Army as a Private in the 116th Engineers in June 1917, he was also working as a painter at a local Maryland steel works. After service in France, where much time was spent in Army camouflage work and in the production of stage scenery for AEF theatrical shows, he returned to the US & became actively involved in both the American Legion Veterans’ Organisation in Washington DC [George Washington Post No.1] and, through the Surgeon General’s Office, in the instruction (in art) & rehabilitation of wounded & disabled veterans at the city’s St.Elizabeth’s Hospital. He subsequently moved to Staten Island, New York where he also worked at the US Hospital No.43, and then to Stonington, CT where he settled with his new wife, Maybelle Bowen [1889-1973] whom he had married at White Plains, NY in July 1919. In about May 1920 he established his new toy company, The Character Toy Guild at Stonington.  Several of the models for this new venture were copyrighted in June 1920, including a Banbury stick horse, a Brindle belle (cow), a Pat-a-cake baker and a Scout Boy (dog). As noted he worked for the Washington Post and Detroit Free Press as illustrator, cartoonist and children’s columnist during the 1920’s and early 1930’s. During the late 1920’s & 1930’s he and his growing family resided at Northville and Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the 1940 Federal Census McCandlish with his wife and family of seven children are recorded as residents of Van Wert, Ohio. Shortly afterwards they  appear to have moved east to Geneva, NY. In April 1941, now resident in Geneva, he filed a new roller skate design which was finally patented in August of that year. In October 1942 McCandlish gave up his work as a commercial artist to assist the American war effort, taking up employment at one of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation’s aircraft factories in Buffalo, NY. In early 1945 he moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire as promotion director of Radio Station WHEB, before resigning in August of that year, in order to form another new Company, Allied Arts Inc. He died very suddenly, near North Brookfield, MA, on December 4th 1946, aged 59, and was interred a week later at the Arlington National Cemetery.