Robin Camille Davis
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Can you spot it? Gangsterland, Chicago edition

April 17, 2011

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a really great collection of historical maps online (about 400 at this time). They're great to browse through. One of today's finds is (ready? full title:) "A Map of Chicago's gangland from authentic sources: designed to inculcate the most important principles of piety and virtue in young persons, and graphically portray the evils and sin of large cities" from 1931. It's a cheeky representation of the gang violence that plagued the White City during Prohibition.

I've made a game for you! Click here to open the map viewer in a new window in your browser. Zoom in, and try to find the following:

Happy hunting!

As a side note, a "blind pig" refers to a clever business plan that sidesteps the law. A blind pig proprietor charged money for patrons to see a bizarre animal (like a blind pig) and then served them "complimentary" alcoholic beverages.

The metadata about the map doesn't provide any context. Is this map serious? Is it sarcastic? While it seems to belittle the activities of gangsters, it doesn't quite convey the gravitas of gang violence. The colors are so bright, and the men shooting at each other so cute, that I can't quite consider it a rebuke of Chicago politics or culture.

P.S. This post is intended to encourage the use of digital collections. If these cutouts of the map constitute a copyright violation I will sadly take them down.