Map of the Month–September 2014

Pictorial map of Manhattan, circa 1954

Colorgraph map of New York, 1954. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

For September’s map of the month, we’ll take one last nostalgic look at leisure pursuits in the “Colorgraph Map of New York,” published in 1954.  As the cover proclaims, it is a “souvenir picture map of New York with 380 full color pictures” and it is a delightfully askew description of New York attractions circa 1954. To see what I mean, you will find in the index seven store locations for Barton’s Bonbonniere throughout Midtown Manhattan, but no mention of Macy’s or Gimbels.

Or, take a look at the Indian head in the illustration below, number 59, that represents the Plume Trading and Sales Co. on Lexington Avenue between 29th and 30th Street. Described in the Digest of Information on the verso as “the only authentic Indian Trading post in New York City,” it was “a must for every visitor to New York City” complete with museum and sales department.

Pictorial map of Manhattan, circa 1954

Detail, Colorgraph map of New York, 1954. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Notice also Greenwich Village is lively with music, art, and dining (and a mysterious unlabeled ship in a bottle) while the Lower East Side has several images that seem to be graphic ‘filler’: pushcart vendors, park bench denizens playing checkers, laundry hanging from tenements, skinny dippers in the East River, a pickle vendor, and a fortune teller. The graphic artist, Ira Moss, has imaginatively kept the less-touristed neighborhoods just as visually dense as the more-touristed neighborhoods. Even the water surrounding Manhattan is bustling with ferries, fire boats, and cruise ships (all roughly the same size) while Coney Island’s Cyclone and Parachute Drop anchor the bottom left corner.

While featured establishments have most likely paid for inclusion in the index, Moss has captured some of the neighborhood flavor of 1950’s Manhattan in filling in the visual gaps. The result is this lively pictorial map, now a souvenir for time-travelers as well.


About Lisa Miller

Lisa Miller has been cataloging maps at Brooklyn Historical Society since August 2013.
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