A rare and very handsome 1897 cartographic advertising broadside for Fiss, Doerr & Carroll, the self-proclaimed “largest horse dealers in the world.” Executed by the era’s foremost printer of chromolithographic maps.
The firm of Fiss, Doerr & Carroll was formed in 1896 by the merger of horse dealers Fiss & Doerr and Carroll & Connelly. In an 1897 interview with the marketing journal Printer’s Ink, founder Carroll boasted that the merged firm was selling a staggering 900 horses a week at auction. In that same interview, he seems to refer at length to the broadside offered here:
“Four thousand eight hundred dollars [of a $30,000 marketing budget]… will be devoted this year to a map of Greater New York, together with pictures of the company’s buildings and portraits of the firm’s members. This is said to be the most accurate map of Greater New York thus far published. The plate, which is in 18 colors, cost $3,000; 25,000 copies of it are to be distributed among our customers and business houses, framed and covered with glass.” (Printer’s Ink, vol. XVIII no. 13 (March 31, 1897), p. 10)
Though surely not the “most accurate map of Greater New York thus published,” this broadside is certainly among the more attractive. It consists primarily of a bird’s-eye view of the region, oriented such that Fiss, Doerr and Carroll’s 24th-Street location in Manhattan is literally at the center of one of the world’s great commercial hubs. President J.B. Doerr and Treasurer J.D. Carroll are depicted in portrait vignettes at upper right.
The “Blue Front” of the title refers to the blue facades of the company’s buildings, both of which are pictured in vignette illustrations in the upper left. As evidenced by the signs thereon, one of these housed the firm’s auction department and the other their retail operations. After the turn of the century these were supplanted by a massive seven-story stable and a single-story auction mart with an elegant Beaux-Arts façade.
Fiss, Doerr & Carroll’s market dominance could not however stand in the way of progress, and in 1907 the firm announced that it would be begin selling gasoline trucks (The Power Wagon, Apr. 1907, p. 4). The horse trading business entered an inexorable decline, and in 1928 the auction mart was sold to R&T Garage Company.
The purported print run of 25,000 is exceedingly large—even allowing for hyperbole on Carroll’s part—and yet the broadside is today extraordinarily rare. We know of but one other impression, sold by this firm in 2015 and now in the PJ Mode Collection.
Lithographer Julius Bien (1826-1909) is best known for his chromolithographic, elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, printed between 1858 and 1862. Jay Last notes “In the 1860’s Bien began to specialize in the production of lithographed maps and charts. For the rest of the century, he produced maps for nearly all the major American geographical and geological publications and for the decennial census reports. Bien developed new coloring and shading techniques, was an early user of photolithography, and was instrumental in establishing scientific standards for American cartography” (The Color Explosion, pp. 36-37). It is not surprising, then, that Fiss, Doerr and Carroll should have turned to Bien to print an advertisement featuring a map, and their confidence proved very well-placed. The innovations in coloring and shading noted by Last are used to great effect in this fine example of what we might call “the chromo-cartographer’s art,” achieving a nuanced topography of the built landscape, open space, and water.
Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, 2208. As of October 2017, not in OCLC, Antique Map Price Record, Phillips, or Rumsey.
Upper margin a bit trimmed and with a hint of hinge residue, else excellent.