Ernest Dudley Chase was one of the most prolific and renowned pictorial map artists of the 20th century, producing about 50 maps published from the 1930s to the 1960s. Chase’s maps cover a broad range of geographical locations and varied topics including historical and current events, architecture, and technology. They typically incorporate large numbers of minutely rendered illustrations with explanatory captions that blend a scholarly approach with wit, patriotism, and optimism. As works of graphic art they are finely drawn and composed with a decorative flair. The biographical pamphlet A Meticulous Maker of Maps describes Chase’s “passion for perfection,” executing the detailed pictures under a magnifying glass “dot by dot, with tiny pens.”
Chase was born in Lowell, Massachusetts and began his career as a graphic artist. He established his own greeting card company, which he sold to Rust Craft Publishers in 1920. He subsequently served in several managerial positions there until his retirement in 1958. He authored The Romance of Greeting Cards, the first complete history of the medium, published in 1926, with a revised edition in 1956. An avid traveler, he took numerous trips in the U.S. and abroad between 1922 to 1937. Chase began drawing maps at age 49, which he self-published from his home in Winchester, Massachusetts, principally in the 1930s and 1940s. His venture into pictorial maps is detailed by cartography scholar Stephen J. Hornsby as follows:
Riding the wave of public interest, Chase began a side business turning out pictorial maps of Europe and North America. By the mid-1940s, he had designed enough maps to fill his own mail-order catalog The Ernest Dudley Chase Decorative Pictorial Novelty Maps. A promotional flyer claimed that he was “the leading creator and publisher of pictorial or illustrated maps in this country, if not indeed, the world.” Chase drafted his maps with care, each taking from six months to a year to complete. He worked with a magnifying glass, inking in dot by dot, the tiny scenes that covered many of his maps. These stamp size scenes were based on his own sketches, still and motion picture collection (he reputedly shot an estimated one hundred thousand feet of cine-film), postcards, and other illustrative material. Much of this visual material came from his extensive travels in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, but he was not averse to asking for illustrations. For his map of Spain, published in 1935, he wrote to mayors of Spanish towns requesting postcards. [footnotes omitted].
A large number of Chase’s maps depict his native New England, especially locales in Massachusetts. He made two different maps of the United States, one of them entitled America, The Wonderland. He also produced continental maps of North America, South America, and Europe, and a few of European countries. Maps such as World Wonders deal with past history, showing important sites of human civilization worldwide. Others are topical, such as patriotic maps published during World War II showing the European and Pacific theaters of war. The World United, published near the end of the war, and World Freedom, published after the war, express hope for a peaceful future. Some of his later maps of Alaska and Hawaii were issued shortly after they became states. He also produced a whimsical map of an imaginary Loveland, formed as a pink heart with romantic illustrations and captions, and a satirical map The United States as Viewed by California (Very Unofficial), exaggerating the proportions of the United States from the perspective of a Californian. Various other companies published his maps in the 1950s and 1960s, and his third wife, Clara Katrina Holland Chase, produced a popular map of Cape Cod, published by Trina Publishing or the Atlantic Card Company.
Chase donated many examples of his maps to the Harvard University Map Collection, Pusey Library, which featured them in the exhibition “The Pictorial Maps of Ernest Dudley Chase” from February to April 2003. According to the curators of the exhibit, Chase “designed pictorial maps ranging in scale from his own hometown to global themes of navigation, exploration, communication, and world peace. He could be alternately whimsical, didactic, and subtly allusive–often on the same map.” In 2009, the State Library of Massachusetts presented the exhibition “Ernest Dudley Chase: A Worldview in Maps,” showcasing his wide variety of works.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling. Pinholes in upper outer corners apparently from where formerly tacked to a wall, can be matted out when framed.
Cobb, David. “Re: Ernest Dudley Chase and Clara K. Chase.” E-mail correspondence to George Glazer Gallery dated 29 August 2005.
“Ernest Dudley Chase.” National Cyclopedia of American Biography. James T. White & Co., after 1966.
“Ernest Dudley Chase: A Worldview in Maps: Exhibit now on view at the State Library.” 22 May 2009. State Library of Massachusetts Blog. http://mastatelibrary.blogspot.com/2009/05/ernest-dudley-chase-worldview-in-maps.html (22 July 2009).
Harmon, Katharine. You Are Here. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.
“Harvard Map Collection Digital Maps.” Harvard College Library.http://vc.lib.harvard.edu/vc/deliver/browseCombine?_collection=maps (23 July 2009).
Hornsby, Stephen J. Picturing America, The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. pp. 31-34.
“Map of the Month.” September 2008. Boston Map Society. http://bostonmapsociety.org/0908MapOfTheMonth.html (22 July 2009).
“The Boston Map Society’s Upcoming Events.” Harvard Map Collection. 2002. http://hcl.harvard.edu/maps/bms/bmsevent.html (3 February 2003).
“The United States of America.” Harvard University Library Map Collection. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FHCL:1063125?buttons=y and http://ids.lib.harvard.edu/ids/view/5860212?buttons=y (28 July 2009).
Thrift, Tim. A Meticulous Maker of Maps. Boston: Ernest Dudley Chase, c. 1945. 12 pp.