Map of Manhattan Bars Prior to Prohibition
New York City: 1932

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Map of Manhattan Bars Prior to Prohibition
detail detail
E.L. Harper (after)
A Map of Manhattan Depicting Some Bright Spots in that Dark Era before the Saloon left the Corner and Moved into the Home
Colonial Sales Corp., New York City: 1932
Print on paper
8.5 x 15.5 inches
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

Pictorial Prohibition Era map of Manhattan showing landmark bars and saloons at the turn of the century from the Battery to Central Park. As the satirical title suggests, the map is an exuberant look back at city life at a time prior to passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which went into effect in 1920 to strictly forbid the sale or production of alcoholic beverages. In its lighthearted tone, the map anticipates the imminent repeal of the unpopular law. Storefronts and scenes illustrated in pictorial map style encompass establishments catering to all strata of society, from wealthy top-hatted gents to working class people. Among the bars depicted are Fraunces Tavern, Delmonico's, Harry Hill’s and its Lady Bartenders, Keen’s English Chop House, The Golden Bar at the Waldorf-Astoria and many more. Additional illustrations depict urban life of the era, such as an organ grinder entertaining dancing children, a carriage horse drinking from a fountain in Madison Square, "The Squatters Settlements" along the East River -- a one room shack with barnyard animals wandering in the yard, a woman furtively pushing open the "Ladies' Entrance" of an establishment labeled "The Road to Ruin," and a racially stereotypical depiction of an elderly woman smoking a pipe captioned "The Only Woman in Town Who Smoked in the 80's." The rivers are decorated with boats. The map is surrounded by a border design of drink recipes.

The Prohibition Era began with the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919, with the law taking effect in 1920. The unintended consequence of the law was to create a large underground economy in illegal alcohol with a related expansion of organized crime and corruption. In 1932, the same year this map was copyrighted, the Democratic Party made the repeal of prohibition part of their party's platform, a position supported by presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt. With the ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933, which repealed the 18th, Prohibition ended.

A larger version of the map with a different border consisting of illustrations of period scenes of New York City was published by the same company and can be viewed on our web site. Though bearing the same copyright, it might have been a later version, produced once Prohibition had ended. In the Depression economy, the return of legal alcohol sales was no doubt welcome news to restaurant owners. This probably was a promotional piece distributed to customers of Colonial Sales Corp.

E.L. Harper made at least two New York City pictorial maps in the 1930s, A Map of Manhattan Depicting Some Bright Spots in that Dark Era before the Saloon left the Corner and Moved into the Home (1932) and A Map of Greenwich Village Showing some of its Historical, Artistic, Literary, Educational, and Religious Places of Interest (1934).