From the moment the Volstead Act took effect in January 1920, Prohibition in the United States was crippled by exceptions written into the law, the impossibility of enforcement in a nation with tens of millions of thirsty citizens, and thousand of miles of coastline and porous borders. The resulting stew of absurdity, contradiction, and illegality was fertile ground for satirists, among them Edward McCandlish (1887–1946), who gave us this wonderful pictorial map.
Though based on an illustration McCandlish drew for the Washington Post, the Bootlegger’s Map was separately issued in Detroit after his move to that city’s Free Press. It made perfect sense: Michigan remained throughout Prohibition one of the wettest of all states, inundated by booze flowing from Ontario over the Canadian border.
“The map is chock-full of puns on alcohol. For starters, the title plays on the Anglo-Norman maxim, Honi soit qui mal y pense (“shamed be he who thinks evil of it”), appearing here as “Honi soit qui mal y pints!” Likewise, notable cities, states, landmarks, and place-names—real or fabricated—are mangled or given appropriate emphasis: “Bar-Harbor” and “Port-Land” (Maine), “Mash-Ville” (Tennesse), “Vir-GIN-ia,” etc. Punning misspellings also abound, such as “Booze” for Boise, Idaho and “Swallow Swallow” for Walla Walla, Washington. The compass-rose, labeled “Pints of the Compass,” reads “Norse—Souse—Wets—Yeast,” while the scale is given in “Half Pints,” “Pints,” “Quarts,” & “Gallons.” The Five Great Lakes are labeled, sequentially: “99 44/100% Pure” “Eventually” “Why” “Not” “Now?”
“One amusing illustration consists of a dazed rabbit in Nevada jumping over a dripping barrel of alcohol with a speech bubble at his head, reading “How Dry Am I?” Of note, as well, is the birthplace of leading prohibitionist Wayne B. Wheeler (Brookfield, Ohio), which is represented as “Bubbling Brook.” Off both coasts, strings of barrels delimit America’s domestic waters; off the East coast in particular, “Relief Ships” are situated beyond the barrels, replete with the good drink. Smugglers are also shown carrying barrels from Canada (labeled “Canada Dry?”) into the United States.” (Arsenault)
Advertisements placed in national magazines by the Griswold Press in 1929-30 practically shouted “MAKE BIG MONEY selling the bootlegger’s map. Fast selling comic number. Send 10c for copy and prices. GRISWOLD PRESS, 854 Howard St, Detroit, Mich.” The map was “widely syndicated to other publishers… as well as to anti-prohibition bodies, brewers and the like, who often added their own additional advertising imprints.” (Rod Barron)
McCandlish’s map, in one form or another, had a nearly 20-year run: In 1944 Hagstrom issued Bill Whiffletree’s Bootlegger’s Map of the United States, “Deranged by Edward McCandlish.” While an entirely new map, it was executed in the same style and conveyed the same high spirits[!] as the original. Also that year, Hagstrom issued McCandlish’s The Ration Map of the U.S., while the New Haven Chamber of Commerce published his Un-Convention-Al Map of New Haven.
Hornsby, Picturing America, p. 59, pl. 13. Rumsey 6878 (variant). Superb background from Roderick Barron, “US Comic Maps & the Prohibition Era, 1920-1933 – Part 2: Edward Gerstell McCandlish’s “ Bootlegger’s Map of the United States, ”” on line at Barron Maps Blog. Parts of this description quoted verbatim from James Arsenault & Company, with permission.