Hello again from Curtis Wright Maps! I hope you enjoy this next installment of the monthly updates examining maps from WWII. I also wanted to let you know that I will be participating in the Rose City Virtual Book fair from June 12th – June 14th. Be one of the first to see over new 30 items, never before listed! More information available at the Cascade Bookseller’s Association website.
In last month’s post, we took a look a class of maps that were used by Allied soldiers to help escape enemy territory during the war – the silk escape map. This month, we’re going to pivot to an entirely different form of cartography that was rampant during the war – commercial maps for public consumption.
The popularity of the map was at an all time high in America during WWII. According to Susan Schulten in her book, A History of America in 100 Maps, world maps sold out in the United States on the day the Nazis invaded Poland, and by 1942, Newsweek had dubbed Washington, D.C. “a city of maps.”
To capitalize on this tremendous popular interest in geography, mapmakers around the world began churning out enormous quantities of cartographic material related to the ongoing conflict. This “commercial patriotism” took many different forms, but perhaps none are as recognizable as the Dated Event War Maps of C.C. Petersen.
The Toronto-based publishing and advertising firm applied for the first copyright of the map series in 1942. Artwork for all maps was provided by Stanley Turner, but printing and distribution was a much broader affair.
It appears that while C.C. Petersen held the copyright, the company would license the publishing to local companies throughout Canada and the United States. It’s also possible that Turner may have actually maintained his original rights to the artwork, while Petersen played the role of distributor.
Between 1942 and 1945, Turner drew at least eight different base maps that were updated upwards of 35 times, usually identified through various “editions” printed at the bottom of the sheet. These varied from images of particular theaters to the most common world map on Mercator’s projection (updated to 28 editions). He also drew several maps in the years immediately before and after the war in his distinctive and bold style of illustration.
The editions by which the maps are often identified can be misleading. In certain circumstances, they relate to the version of the map as it was drawn and updated by Turner. In other issues, the editions refer to the specific printer. So it’s possible for a map labeled ‘5th edition’ to be published later than one labeled ’12th edition,’ if they were issued by different printers.
Within each new issue, the artist would include updated text boxes and illustrations reflecting the latest events that had happened since the previous publication. These updates were often provided in the negative space of the oceans, rather than directly over the area of the map that was affected by the change. In addition, custom inset maps were provided to give necessary attention to a particular region.
In another twist, local firms and businesses would purchase copies of the Dated Event War Maps in bulk. They would then add a logo or advertisement that contributes to the tremendous variety of maps that were issued.
The vivid colors that make these maps almost instinctively identifiable generally reflect areas under Axis, Allied, or neutral control across the globe. In later editions, bright red is used to highlight Axis territory re-captured by the Allies, giving an enormous geographic implication to its conquest.
The myriad of companies involved with producing the Dated Events War Maps and the numerous, frequently updated issues, can be said to mirror the commercial response from other industries during the war.
Furthermore, the language the maps assume and manner in which they present information about the war shows the relatively insulated nature of the American public on the homefront. Rather than experiencing the war on their doorsteps, Americans and Canadians were able to enjoy a relatively stable wartime experience, where maps like this could be purchased, absorbed, and then often discarded.
As a result, many versions of the Dated Events War Maps are scarce, and it’s likely that new editions previously unknown to the market will pop-up. There are several Dated Events War Maps in my inventory, available for your enjoyment here.