Articles

Mid-Century Illustration Maps Folkloric Americana

by Allison Meier on August 23, 2013

Map of American Folklore

Map of American Folklore by William Gropper (via Library of Congress, click here to view high res)

John Henry with his hammer, Rip Van Winkle taking a snooze, the Celebrated Jumping Frog rests alongside Coronado scaling a mountain, while Babe the Blue Ox sprints toward the famous Idaho potato. All these figures of American folklore are sprawled across the United States in a 1946 map by artist William Gropper.

The New York-born cartoonist and realist created the map to celebrate the American myth, and it was sent around to locations abroad to show the diversity of that folklore. However, Gropper was something of a left wing activist, and as Slate Vault reports, the map drew the wandering eyes of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and Gropper was summoned to testify before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. However, he refused, and it cost him some commissions. Yet there’s nothing subversive about the world he depicted, a wonderful rabbit hole into the stories culled from across a country where pioneers and radical figures have  long been celebrated. Check it out in high resolution here.

Map of American Folklore

Detail of the map of American Folklore

h/t Slate Vault

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