1939 "The City of New York" by Richard Edes Harrison

This 1939 Richard Edes Harrison map of New York City, published for an issue of Fortune Magazine, represents a triumph of the visual display of quantitative information. Its aesthetic impact is all the more impressive in its clear expression of municipal and demographic data, making this a map of the people of New York City, as much as of the physical city itself. 

The map centers on Brooklyn and Manhattan, but includes much of the surrounding burrows. The color-coded detail of the map is nothing short of an impressive work for its time. The map is color coded by residential, industrial, business, parks and parkways, airports, cemeteries, public and private institutions, and Federal Government Property. 

An inset map, “The Lower Half of Manhattan in Detail,” positioned below the title provides a more detailed street layout of lower Manhattan, from Central Park to Battery Park. Using a new color code for this inset map, Harrison marked the city’s most valuable real estate, including structures assessed at 5 million dollars or more. 

In the lower right, two comparative insert maps show the difference between day and night population densities for the entire area shown in the main map. The map also has a very decorative and unique compass rose. Within the rose’s circuit is yet another inset map, showing the limit of the main map in the context of the greater metropolitan area and the surrounding states.

Harrison’s map of New York City is based mainly on a series of maps issued in 1933 by the City Planning Commission. Produced as an Emergency Relief Project, those 1933 maps illustrated the distribution of living and working populations, the age, type, and rental of buildings, and the use of land, existing streets, and waterways in great detail. Harrison’s street grid was reproduced directly from “Existing Streets 1935,” which in turn was based on the “Board of Estimate and Apportionment Map,” copyrighted in 1933 by Herman Smith.  Harrison did the impressive work of designing the present map, bringing the material up to date, revising shorelines, and adding new construction from the past six years. 

This map appeared in only one edition, as a supplement to the July issue of Fortune magazine. OCLC lists only five examples in institutional collections.

Richard Edes Harrison (1902- 1994) was an American cartographer and cartoonist. Harrison is credited with redefining cartography, by employing spherical perspective, bold shading, and graphic design to make maps more publicly accessible. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Harrison studied design at Yale, graduating in 1923. He relocated to New York City at the height of the Great Depression and worked in industrial design. Harrison created his first cartographic work while he worked a fill-in job at Fortune magazine. The success of his first project launched a long-standing collaboration with Fortune, including expertly executed WWII maps and travel maps. 


Very good condition. Color lithograph. Mended invisibly at juncture of folds. Lightly toned. Trimmed to border at top. Archivally presented in a custom-built, black and silver wooden frame with UV glass. Framed Dimensions: 32" H x 27" W.

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