Strange maps

Found via pixelfish a blog devoted to strange maps, which I’m sure you’ve all been giggling over for years, but tis new and delightful to me.

I keep looking for detailed maps of NYC during the 1930s but so far have not found anything. There are precious few books directly about the period either. Though heaps on NYC in the gilded age and the 1920s. I wonder why? The 1930s were every bit as fascinating.

I predict a boom in books about the depression on account of what’s happening to the world’s economy right now. Is it bad that I’m glad that the current situation is helping with the writing of my book? I mean, I’m not glad that the economy is in the toilet and we may be heading into a depression . . . Just that it’s helping me understand the Great Depression better.

Er, um, look over there: flying monkeys!


  1. jennifer on #

    Hi, a few thoughts — one, have you looked at the WPA Guide to NYC (it was republished several years ago, but I’m sure a library would have either the original — done in the 1930s by writers, artists, etc. through the Works Progress Admin. funding — or the republished). That’s a fascinating source of info.

    A map library (most universities of a certain size have one) might be a good place to check for maps of the time. Call/email ahead to see if someone can help you.

  2. Justine on #

    Jennifer: Thanks for the suggestions. I have indeed got a copy of the WPA guide. Two actually: an original and the reprint.

    So far the libraries I’ve tried have not had what I’m looking for. I begin to suspect it does not exist.

  3. PixelFish on #

    Hi, Justine. I hope you’ll forgive my presumption in the analysis of your text and your own experiences. Glad you found the Strange Maps blog interesting enough to share with everybody–I found it via Making Light myself so it’s a semi-new discovery for me as well. 🙂

  4. Justine on #

    PixelFish: Not at all! You were spot on. I’d just add that I was also mocking Australians. Especially those Sydneysiders and Melbournites who consider the rest of the country of zero interest.

  5. cathy on #

    Is the New-York Historical Society still in existence? I interviewed with them for an internship tears ago, and they had an extensive map collection. A lot of the maps, which were incredibly detailed, had been generated by insurance companies. Which makes sense when you think about it, because if you’re going to sell, for example, fire insurance, you’d want to know precisely where the buildings with all the really flammable stuff were, such as garment factories.

  6. Justine on #

    Cathy: It is, indeed. Now that I’m back from tour for a while I’m planning on visiting again. They have zillions of photos and diaries and letters and so forth I need to have a squiz at.

  7. Elizabeth on #


    I took a class on the great depression a couple of years ago and have a couple of sources, if you would like. The first is the book ironically titled “The Great Depression” by Robert McElvaine. Some great films from that era that chronicle the depression really well are “My Man Godfrey,” “Stage Door,” and “It Happened One Night.” Many of them have the happy endings stereotypical with this time, but they offer some real insight into women’s roles and the difficulties of the fallen man.

    Hope that helps.

  8. Justine on #

    Elizabeth: Thanks for the suggestions. I have read/seen all of those. Isn’t My Man Godfrey wonderful? Not that the others aren’t as well. But I have a large Powell and Lombard soft spt.

  9. Elizabeth on #

    My Man Godfrey is one of my favorite films. It is so deep, and at times even very dark. I have a soft spot for all those old Hollywood in their glory days movies. They’re all so great and thought provoking.

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