New Yorker’s Idea shows New York State in oversized proportion to the entire country. A text box in the upper left corner presents the concept: “The City of New York is unique — it is a nation within a NATION. Its inhabitants, of which there are some 7,000,000, are called NEW YORKERS. This MAP is presented, after patient research, as a composite of the NEW YORKERS’ ideas concerning THE UNITED STATES…” In the map, place names throughout the other states are often incorrect or fictitious, satirizing a New Yorker’s lack of knowledge and interest in other parts of the country. For example, Minneapolis and Indianapolis are humorously shown together in Michigan as “The Twin Cities,” and the Southeast is dominated by an oversized Florida (where New Yorker’s vacation or retire), with four rivers in Florida all labeled “Swanee River.” Moreover, California is divided in thirds consisting of San Francisco, California and Hollywood and other geography shows similar inaccuracies and distorted proportions throughout the country. The map is in the Art Deco taste, with additional details such as ships in the oceans, and various views and images in the borders such as the Empire State Building and a Fifth Avenue Coach bus.
Bostonian’s Idea depicts the outsized importance of New England relative to the entire country. Indeed, the eastern half of Massachusetts, including Boston and Cape Cod, are drawn at even larger proportions. The importance of Cape Cod is also emphasized by the inclusion of an image of a codfish over the cartouche. The remainder of U.S. geography reflects the Bostonian’s lack of knowledge and interest in other parts of the country, with the Midwest a vast void labeled “Western Prairies” and “Texas,” and a few cities clustered around very small Great Lakes and Mississippi River. In the Midwest, Omaha, Denver, Reno and Houston are incongruously placed near the Pacific Coast lumped together into a generic American West dominated by California. The Mid Atlantic and South are also blank except for Florida and a few major cities with concentrations of affluent, high society families such as Philadelphia, Washington, Richmond and Palm Beach. An inset map of “Boston and Environs” shows various actual suburbs along with six variations on the prestigious address of “Newton,” and several satirical inscriptions that purport to explain this and other notions held by wealthy Bostonians. Other notes on the map also suggest that certain members of the social elite consider themselves as the only true Bostonians.
Daniel K. Wallingford created, copyrighted and sometimes self-published A New Yorker’s Idea of the United States of America, and This Map Presents a Bostonian’s Idea of the United States of America. Each of these two famous pictorial maps shows the United States from a humorous and satirical local perspective. The maps have been variously issued over an extended period of time, starting in the mid 1930s, in a complex publication and reissue history that is not yet fully known or documented. This is complicated by the fact that the maps rarely have a date imprinted on them.
Some information on early publications can be gleaned from an extant letter in the Rumsey Collection, dated September 2, 1935, from Daniel K. Wallingford, 119 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston to a Mrs. G.W. Wade. The letter promoted the sale of “a revised edition” of A New Yorker’s Idea, available in three sizes, 8.5 x 6.5 inches, 12.5 x 10 inches, and 20 x 15 inches. The larger size, it was stated, was available mounted on board, hand colored and varnished. Accordingly, it can be concluded that A New Yorker’s Idea was issued 1935 or earlier. Another way to date the maps is whether the New York World’s Fair (1939-1940) is indicated on A New Yorker’s Idea or not. For example, on an extant medium-size example of this map, with address indicated at 222 Marlboro Street, Boston, the Fair is not shown indicating a date before 1939. The only known date on any of these maps is text printed on the back of an example of A New Yorker’s Idea published as a promotional item by the Columbia University Press; it states that the map was published as a “reissue” in 1937 due to its popularity the prior year.
Different issues of both maps are known with a variety of different addresses for Wallingford, though their sequence and dates associated with any one address are unknown. Extant examples of both maps also are known that bear the imprint of the Columbia University Bookstore, New York, instead of Wallingford’s name. There are other editions as well, such as Bostonian’s Idea published in color by Margaret G. Wallingford — presumably a successor to the rights to the map — in Chicago, in the early 1960s Alternate versions of these maps were also later redone by apparently unrelated publishers in different sizes and formats; it is not known whether these were authorized editions.
The offered pair of maps bear the address of Wallingford at 222 Marlboro Street, and as such are relatively early issues of the maps (before the addition of the 1939 World’s Fair to A New Yorker’s Idea). Furthermore, they are rare to locate as a pair.
Condition: Each recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with only light remaining toning, wear, handling. Center vertical fold on each, as issued.
“A Bostonian’s Idea of the United States of America.” Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library. http://maps.bpl.org/details_10494/ (21 July 2009).
Harmon, Katharine. You Are Here. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004, p. 102 (illustrating a colored version of A New Yorker’s Idea from the collection of George Glazer Gallery).
“Letter and Ad: From D.K. Wallingford, advertising various size prints and costs of the map…” David Rumsey Map Collection. 2018.
https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~290267~90061919:Letter-and-Ad–From-D-K–Wallingfor (22 January 2018).