Striking TIME map of Red China by Robert M. Chapin

Robert M. Chapin, Jr., RED CHINA. New York: TIME Inc., 1955
Printed in color halftone, 28 ½”h x 42 ¼”w plus margins. Folds as issued with a bit of creasing and a couple of tiny separations at intersections, but about excellent.

A striking map of Communist China by Robert M. Chapin, enlarged from a double-page spread in the April 18, 1955 issue of TIME.

Chapin’s map uses an unusual projection, simulating an astronaut’s-eye view of China as seen from perhaps a few hundred miles over the Pacific. China is largely colored yellow—an implicit slur, perhaps?—with the coastal river basins are a light green. The Soviet Union and other neighboring Communist countries are shaded red (of course) and non-aligned and West-leaning countries are darker green. Chapin’s gifted airbrushing highlights the region’s dramatic topography, with the snow-capped Himalayas in the far distance, major rail lines are delineated, and important cities are indicated by large red circles. The general impression is of a vast, threatening presence looming over Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and American-occupied Okinawa.

The map was one of three dedicated to the geography and politics of China in the April 18, 1955 issue of TIME. A single-page map showed Taiwan, separated from China by the Formosa Straight and the U.S. 7th Fleet; and a third, titled “Hub of Asia”, was centered on Peking and highlighted countries either signatory to or protected by the 1954 Manila Pact, which created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) as a counter to China.

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. The present example was in the artist’s possession until his death and was acquired from one of his descendants.

Rumsey #9904. Background on Chapin from Susan Schulten, “Journalistic Cartography,” History of Cartography, Volume 6: Cartography in the Twentieth Century, esp. pp. 706-717 (but esp. 713); Norberto Angeletti, TIME: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Influential Magazine (excerpted at; and Walter W. Ristow, “Journalistic Cartography,” Surveying and Mapping 17 (1957), pp. 369-90 (but esp. 384-387).