A Map of Chicago’s Gangland: A Cheeky, Cartographic Look at Al Capone’s World (1931)


Modern day Chicagoland gang activity does not inspire quippy cartoon “wonder maps.” Back when Al Capone ruled Chicago’s underworld, the public viewed gangsters with movie magazine breathlessness. Their violent crimes and glamorous lifestyles sold newspapers and movie tickets.

Today? Gangsta rap—a genre not known for its whimsy—glorifies the hardcore existence of kids whom the system has failed, trapped in a cycle of poverty, compounding the social problems that were heaped on them at birth. 

But back to 1931, the year Capone was sent to prison for tax evasion, and local firm Bruce-Roberts published Chicago’s Gangland map, above, from “authentic sources.”

As any civic minded reformer knows, the best way to “inculcate the most important principles of piety and virtue in young persons” is to pack all “the evils and sin of large cities” into something resembling a large-scale comic book. 


If the 30 execution orders posted on Dead Man’s Tree doesn’t scare ‘em straight, perhaps 1750 cases of government booze and some scantily clad dancing girls will!


Naturally, the site of 1929’s Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre gets star treatment, with a graphic depiction guaranteed to stir the imagination far more than a visit to the actual site itself.


The publisher thoughtfully included a Gangland Dictionary to further inculcate the impressionable youth and explain the presence of two pineapples in the cartouche


Click here to view the map in a larger format. Then zoom in to explore this lighthearted spin on Chicago’s wicked past in greater detail. The moral instruction continues in the form of poster-sized reproductions whose sale benefits Chicago’s Newberry Library.

via Slate

Related Content:

“The Wonderground Map of London Town,” the Iconic 1914 Map That Saved the World’s First Subway System

A Wonderful Archive of Historic Transit Maps: Expressive Art Meets Precise Graphic Design

Download 67,000 Historic Maps (in High Resolution) from the Wonderful David Rumsey Map Collection

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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