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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