Monday, November 1, 2010

Map of Chicago's Gangland

Image via the Newberry Library.

One of the successors of the London Wondeground map is the 1931 Map of Chicago’s Gangland.  Created by Bruce-Roberts Inc. (strangely, I can’t find a record of the actual artist), its full title is the suitably baroque

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

And around the outside is the little rhyme

Sing a song of gangsters,
A pocket full of dough,
Four-and-twenty bottles
Make a case you know

Like the Wonderground map, it is full of humourous vignettes, but this time the subjects really are gangland killings:

Chicago gangland sample

Sample of the map, from the Encyclopedia of Chicago.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago has a viewer that lets you explore the map, albeit in only a small window, but the quality is good.  The map can be purchased from  the Newberry Library shop.

Apart from making a fine prop for a game, this seems like something that would be useful in driving a kind of sandbox game.  The players have this map, they know how to get around Chicago, but now it’s up to them to explore what’s on here.  Let’s suppose that the game is set in 1931, when the map was published: most of those big boxes of text are (more or less) well known parts of Chicago’s history, and then there are the little jokes – what if they are actually giving hints of other incidents that hadn’t reached the public attention?  Who, then, is the mapmaker that had this information, and why did they choose to reveal this and hide it at the same time, putting it on a map for public sale but disguising it as jokes?

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