1959 Robert M. Chapin map of “an interesting world in an interesting time”

Robert MacFarlane Chapin and Jeremiah Donovan, IT’S AN INTERESTING WORLD IN AN INTERESTING TIME. New York: TIME Inc., 1959.
Poster printed in color halftone, 24 ½”h x 30”w at sheet edge. Folds for mailing as issued, else excellent.

A striking pictorial map of the world from the early years of the Space Race, by TIME Magazine cartographers Robert MacFarlane Chapin and Jeremiah Donovan.

The artists use the unusual “armadillo” projection, developed by Erwin Raisz in the 1940s, which enabled them to convey the illusion of Earth as viewed from space, while still depicting the vast majority of its surface. Dozens of vignettes scattered across the map offer a range of cultural, political, and historic references, with some merely stereotypical but many reflective of the times. World leaders are scattered across their respective countries with President Eisenhower in the U.S., Premier Khrushchev in the U.S.S.R., Prime Minister Nehru in India, President Nasser in Egypt. A woman, apparently standing atop the Pacific, holds up a star representing Hawaii’s accession to the Union in August of 1959. Other symbols reflect apartheid in South Africa, the nuclear blast on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, and tennis star Rod Laver in Australia.

The choice of projection also enabled the artists to put terrestrial events in the context of the Space Race, which arguably began in 1955, when both the U.S. and Soviet Union declared their intentions to launch competing artificial satellites. Accordingly, the American Vanguard 1 and Explorer 1 satellites, along with the Soviets’ Sputnik 3, are shown in orbit. The darker side of the Space Race is hinted at by the tiny mushroom clouds of weapons tests in the American West, in the Pacific, and over Siberia.

R. M. Chapin and Jeremiah Donovan
Mapmaker Robert MacFarlane Chapin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933 with a degree in architecture. Finding little demand for his training during the Depression, he took a job as a retoucher of photos at Newsweek, where he somehow learned to draw maps. In 1937 he was lured away to run the map department at Newsweek rival TIME, where he worked for the next 33 years. He and his team were extremely prolific, particularly during the Second World War, when they produced four, five and six maps per week to keep up with breaking news. After the War Chapin remained at TIME for another quarter century, during which period he produced numerous maps, including many addressing aspects of the Cold War, a titanic “us vs. them” struggle to which his bold style and liberal use of red were well suited. “The Time-Chapin association, extending over almost two decades, has been one of the major pillars of American journalistic cartography. Chapin maps have established a pattern and style for modern newsmagazine cartography.” (Ristow, p. 384)

Chapin’s maps were enormously popular, and they were often enlarged and reprinted in poster format for distribution to schools.

Artist Jeremiah Donovan (1916-1982) studied at the Pratt Institute and the Art Student’s League in New York before working as a freelance artist for Time, Inc. in 1946. In 1951 he was hired on as a staff cartographer and artist, and he succeeded Chapin as the head of Time’s cartography department, retiring in 1973. Over his career, more than 1300 of his drawings were published in Time Magazine, and his work was highly sought by commercial firms.

Hornsby, Picturing America, p. 245, plate 157.