A large, scarce, and eminently-displayable 1940 persuasive map by Emma Bourne with a refreshingly tolerant—and for its time rather novel–message aiming to combat prejudice and unite a nation. Praised by Hornsby as “one of the most striking maps of the era”.
Many Americans favored an isolationist approach to international affairs leading up to the United States’ entrance into World War II, and many of these Americans also viewed immigrants as a threat to the nation. Commissioned by the Council Against Intolerance, illustrator Emma Bourne sought to counter this outlook with this remarkable, borderless map of the country—comprised not of many states but of many cultures, each making its own distinct contributions to the national fabric.
A note at lower right summarizes Bourne’s intent: “With the exception of the Indian all Americans or their forefathers came here from other countries. This map shows where they live, what they do, and what their religion is.” The map is thus crammed with tiny vignettes highlighting the immense variety of the American agricultural, industrial and extractive economy, from lobster in Maine to steel in Pittsburgh, and from silver in Colorado to vineyards in California. The omission of state borders was no doubt a conscious design choice on Bourne’s part, perhaps to keep the image “clean” but also to avoid divisions that might challenge her “one people” argument. Red ribbons interwoven between regions list the origins on the people who live there along with symbols for their respective religions. A table at lower left lists prominent figures in literature, science, industry, and the arts with their countries of origin.
The map falls notably short in representing the experience of Native-, African-, and Chinese-Americans, each in a distinct way. Aside from the statement cited above, Native Americans receive few other mentions on the map, reflecting the fact that immigrants’ gain was their loss. In the table the origin of the two listed African-Americans is given as “Negro”, a sly substitution of race for place that enables the mapmaker to glide over the issue of slavery. (It is worth noting that Langston Hughes’s personal copy of this map, at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, has annotations of a burning cross next to the cotton workers in the South.) While Chinese immigrants are mentioned, their contributions (such as providing much of the labor force to build the Central Pacific Railroad) are unnoticed, and their religion indicated by a simple “o” symbol, which is nowhere explained!
From the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, the New York City-based Council Against Intolerance in America published a great deal of material advocating its message of tolerance. The Council was led by James Waterman Wise, a Jewish author, art dealer, and lecturer, who had written about the threat of Nazism in the early 1930s, anticipating Hitler’s rise to power. Rebecca Onion of Slate writes “The group’s rhetoric was pro-American, arguing in its materials that prejudice would undermine national unity in a time of war.”
I was able to turn up only the sketchiest information about illustrator and painter Emma Cartwright Bourne. She was born in Norfolk, CT in 1900 and attended Vassar College (her mother’s alma mater), where she participated in the College Choir and the Glee Club. She married writer Robert Donaldson Darrell in Arlington, Massachusetts in 1930, and died in Mattapoisett, in 1986. Smith College holds a lithographic portrait of an African-American man attributed to her and dated ca. 1940. I find no other record of her connection with the Council Against Intolerance or any indication that she designed other maps.
This era saw the publication of a number of maps celebrating the contributions of diverse groups to American nationhood. Among others, Louise Jefferson’s Makers of the U.S.A. (1956) and Mary Ronin’s United States—The Land and the People (1958) come to mind, but for my money Bourne’s, for all its sins of omission, is by far the most visually compelling.
Hornsby, Picturing America[:] The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps, plate 19. Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1288. OCLC 51509501, giving 10 institutional holdings as of November 2020. Rebecca Onion, “A Pretty 1940 Map of American Diversity, Annoted by Langston Hughes”, Slate.com.