Map of the United States as Californians See It.
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Oren Arnold’s charming and pioneering 1947 pictorial map: the epitome of a new genre of comedic cartography that developed following the end of WW2.
This wonderfully twisted and distorted map of the United States provides a humorous visualization of how Californians perceive the rest of the country. The Cali-centric view was originally adopted from the book California Brags, published by the Brags Publishing Company in Riverside. It was one of the first American maps in a new post-war genre of cartography, which saw the compiling of fanciful pictorial maps driven by humor.
The map shows the country in its entirety, but with California taking up the entire west coast and about one third of the western interior. The two parts are colored vibrant yellow (California) and red (rest of the country), creating an immediate and sharp contrast. The only exceptions to this distinction are a small swathe of Mexico colored green, and a seemingly toxic Florida in a dark and ominous black. The separation of Florida from the rest of the country is, of course, only in the minds of Californians, who according to this rendition perceive the state as a hurricane-riddled, crocodile-infested swamp, in which only death reigns. The mapmaker has skillfully deployed simple yet effective comic imagery and evocative labels.
California is the area most adorned with pictorial and cartographic details, whereas the rest of the country has been mostly reduced to its larger cities. The bulk of the United States nevertheless contains multiple humorous elements, such as freezing inuits with penguins, carpetbaggers, and bugs. Many of the states have been relegated to the far north of the country and diminished significantly in size. The central mass of the country is condescendingly labeled: ‘Unexplored. Unimportant anyway; Not in California.’ Cutting across it all is a large yellow arrow that extends from New York City to the Californian border and reads: ‘About 200, delightful, easy miles.’
Within California itself we find countless images and labels. In fact, it has been illustrated to such a degree that the already artificially enlarged space is entirely filled with decoration. Here we find everything and anything that one might associate with California: movie stars, cowboys, beach babes, mariachis, oranges, mission buildings, canyons, and forests (and the list goes on). Even naturally favorable physiographic features such as the Bay of San Diego have been enlarged and supplied with fawning descriptions, in this case as the ‘World’s finest harbor’.
There is no reservation or humility here. All that is good and beautiful can be found in the sunshine state of California.
Dark impression with some bleed-through visible on the verso.
The OCLC lists only one institutional holding, at the Newberry Library in Chicago (#1029765372). To this can be added a copy in the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection at Stanford University (#8146.000).