An interesting attempt at the visualization of political data from the Election of 1948

Alexander Gross, F.R.G.S., ELECTION MAP WITH 49 NOVEL DIAGRAMS Showing All Election Results 1928 to 1946 –Presidents – Senators – Representatives – Governors. New York: Geographia Map Co., [1948].
Charts and maps printed in four colors recto and two colors verso on a 27”h x 41”w sheet, folding to 9”h x 8 ¼”w with title printed in a panel on verso. Minor creasing and edge wear, very good overall.

A rare, innovative and visually striking political chart produced before the United States presidential election of 1948, summarizing the results of election cycles between 1928 and 1946.

Given the enormous size and complexity of our national government, national elections present a significant data-visualization challenge. Early efforts focused solely on presidential elections, providing results on a state-by-state or perhaps county level. This chart is the first I have encountered to include the outcomes of elections to the Senate and House of Representatives, with gubernatorial elections thrown in as well.

The center of the chart is an electoral map of the United States, showing the state-by-state results of the Election of 1944, with states going for Republican John Dewey in blue and those going for incumbent Franklin Delano Roosevelt in green. Surrounding the map are 49 circular diagrams, one for the country as a whole and each of the others representing one of the then-48 states. The upper half of each diagram consists of six concentric circles, one for each Presidential election between 1928 and 1948, with each circle colored blue or green to indicate the winning party (For example, at far upper left is the diagram for Alabama, with each presidential circle colored green to indicate the Democratic Party’s dominance of that state’s political scene.)

The lower half of each diagram consists of 11 circles, one for each biennial election during the 1928-48 period. The halves are further divided into three pie-shaped slices representing senatorial, gubernatorial and congressional contests. Here a combination of numbers and coloring indicate the winners in each election cycle, with a third color, yellow, introduced to indicate third-party candidates (For example, in New York—second row from bottom, second diagram from left—the Election of 1946 saw the state elect a Republican Governor; 16 Democrats, 28 Republicans and 1 third-party candidate to the House; and one Democrat and one Republican to the Senate.)

Aside from its inherent cleverness, the chart is interesting for what it reveals about the long-term fluidity of American politics. Most apparent is the Democratic Party’s chokehold on the former states of the Confederacy, from Virginia to Texas, which propelled FDR to an unprecedented four terms in the White House, followed by Harry Truman in the Election of 1948. This contrasts with the strength of the Republican Party in the New England states. This dynamic began to loosen in the 1980s with the election of Ronald Reagan, and today of course the political landscape is more or less reversed.

The map was produced by cartographic entrepreneur Alexander Gross (1879-1958). A native of Hungary, Gross emigrated early in life to London, where during the First World War he founded the commercial map publisher Geographia, Ltd. His earliest publications seem to have appeared in 1915, when he issued several Daily Telegraph War Maps depicting various theatres of conflict, all bearing the Geographia, Ltd. imprint. The firm went bankrupt some time before the Second World War, and Gross emigrated to the United States, where he established the Geographia Map Company. The firm took off in the 1940s, and its wide-ranging output came to encompass maps covering the theatres of war; atlases, maps and travel guides to major cities in the United State and abroad; and atlases of the United States and the world. The Election Map offered here thus seems to be an aberration relative to Gross’s usual output.

Geographia survived Gross’s death in 1958, though by the 1970s it seems to have languished. It was purchased by Rand McNally in the late 1980s, then repurchased by its prior owners a few years later, and still operates today in Hackensack, New Jersey. Gross’s daughter Phyllis Pearsall (1906-1996) founded the Geographers’ A-Z Map Company, described by Wikipedia as “the largest independent map publisher in the United Kingdom”.

Not in OCLC.