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Chicago in 1931 was a gangster’s paradise, full of illegal speakeasies, corruption, violence, and all other sorts of vice.  At least, that’s what this map of Chicago from 1931 wants to make very clear, in the hopes of dissuading young people from falling into sinful activities.  This explicit purpose is spelled out in the legend below, which floats authoritatively over Lake Michigan on the map.

The map itself, shown below, looks like it was lifted right out of the Middle Ages, when cartographers placed more importance on the moral and theological dimensions of reality than geographical accuracy.  But instead, it was the product of the 1930s, when prohibition allowed organized crime to become an extremely profitable and powerful force in the city.  This was the era of Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, both of which are mentioned on the map.  Liquor bottles and skulls and crossbones are scattered abundantly throughout the city, emphasizing the dangers that lurk in every corner.

Zoom in to the map and see what else you can find.  For example, even the giant fish in Lake Michigan is gulping beer that runs over the side of a huge mug.  It’s funny to see such a moralistic map today, but it makes sense that they took these issues very seriously back then.  It really did seem like violence and corruption were tearing the city apart, and the map’s creators wanted to influence the reader to help turn the city around.  It’s not just a map, but a powerful argumentative tool.

For more on this, see here: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2014/06/26/1930s-chicago-gang-map-combines-history-humor-morality/

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