A mammoth, vibrantly-colored and spectacular pictorial food map of the United States, published by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.—better known as A&P—to promote its carnival exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
The map depicts the country in outline, with each state packed with illustrations depicting its most important food products. Vermont for example is represented with a pot of maple sugar and a cabin labeled “Lots of Maple Sugar and Potatoes,” while California bears a cornucopia of foods and an exhaustive list including “most of the country’s Almonds, Apricots, Lemons, olives, Walnuts, Figs, Grapes, Plums, Oranges, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Lettuce, and Cantaloupes…” The oceans are rendered in a pleasing fishscale pattern and populated with a variety of sea creatures, most cavorting, some being hooked by fishermen, two about to eat swimmers, and another being ridden by an Eskimo. It is worth noting that close inspection of the map also reveals several racially-stereotypical caricatures of African- and Asian-American figures, particularly in California and across the South.
Inset thematic maps at three corners depict, clockwise from lower left, the sources of poultry, meat and fish, and grains. A fourth inset at lower right provides a geographic overview of the vast A&P empire, with different symbols for buyers and warehouses, and the “territory served” by its stores shaded in yellow.
Text below the map hints at the map’s persuasive intent. It celebrates the transformation of the American landscape from “a vast wilderness” to “the richest and most fertile land in the world”. Just decades prior “every village had to grow its own food”, but now, thanks to railroads, preservation, canning factories, farming machinery, and telecommunications–and of course to A&P–“we can reach out a hand and draw our daily food from the farthest corners of the land.”
A&P and Louis Delton Fancher
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, or A&P, was originally founded in 1859 in New York City by George Gilman as “Gilman & Company”. The firm began as a wholesaler, before being renamed and shifting to a retail tea and coffee chain with a mail order business. It later became the country’s first grocery chain, expanding to 200 stores by 1900. Growth exploded with the introduction of the economy store format in 1912, and by 1915 there were 1,600 stores. These smaller stores—often with one or two employees—followed a standardized layout and cut costs by eliminating delivery and credit accounts. When this map was published in 1932, A&P had grown to the world’s largest retailer, with more than 16,000 stores across the United States and $872 million in yearly sales (1935), good for one ninth of all grocery store sales. A&P’s decline began in the 1950s, as it failed to respond increased competition.
Illustrator Louis Delton Fancher (1884-1944) produced numerous books, World War I recruitment posters, early film posters, and many advertisements for an array of clients including automobile makers, Firestone tires, Omar Turkish cigarettes, and of course The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was raised in Chicago, and then settled in New York. He studied there at the Art Students League and also trained in Paris, Munich, and across Italy. During the First World War he was one of a handful of artists assembled to work for the Division of Pictorial Publicity of the Committee on Public Information—which produced posters, cards, buttons, and. In 1921 he became an artistic consultant for Bartlett-Orr Press, and in 1925 he joined Calkins and Holden, the firm described as the first modern advertising . It is likely he drew this A&P map during his tenure with Calkins and Holden.
Rumsey #9754. OCLC 62288925 et al, giving more than a dozen institutional holdings. Background on A&P from Levinson, Marc. The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America (2011).