“Concrete Socialism” in 19th-century New York

Walter Vrooman, Map of New York City SHOWING CONCRETE SOCIALISM IN RED, AND PRIVATE ENTERPRISES IN WHITE, 1895. Baltimore: Patriotic Literature Publishing Co., 1895.
Lithograph printed in red, 39 ½”h x 14 7/8”w at sheet edge. Very good overall.

Walter Vrooman (1869-) was a socialist reformer best known as a leader of the Ruskin Hall Movement, which was committed to the ideal of providing low-cost higher education for the working class. After helping found the Ruskin Hall (known today as Ruskin College) in Oxford, England—a calculated “in your face” to the University–in 1900 Vrooman moved back to the United States to establish Ruskin College in Trenton, Missouri. At its peak the College had more than 10,000 students, but after years of financial difficulties and several moves it closed in 1919.

In 1895 Vrooman published his Government Ownership in Production and Distribution (1895). There he makes an empirical case for the future of socialism by describing in detail hundreds of cases, 337 to be precise, in which

“one business after another, one activity after another has been taken by different countries and municipalities throughout the world from the realm of private enterprise…. [which] cannot but prove to the most unwilling mind, that… the whole trend of our time is toward some form of fraternal socialism as against our present paternal individualism.” (p. 10)

Offered here is the highlight of Vrooman’s work, a large and stunning persuasive map of “New York City Showing Concrete Socialism in Red, and Private Enterprises in White.” The map is “a powerful example of color used to make a point” (Mode): Almost half of Manhattan and the Bronx (apparently including the Harlem River!) is colored red (of course!) to indicate that it is under some form of government control.

“That the principle of fraternalism is not a mere theory can be seen in one moment by a look at our map of New York City, which, although the centre of plutocratic lawlessness in America, shows that nearly one-half its surface is administered by the public, by means of City, State, and National Governments, for the common benefit of all the people. Although much of the very surface of the earth is claimed by individuals of that city as their private property, we have about 575 miles of public streets on which all the children of men have an equal right to walk or ride…” (p. 8)

Incidentally, Vrooman’s Government Ownership also included a small “Map of the World Showing in Red the Countries Which Own Their Railroads Wholly or in Part,” not offered here. The map shows perhaps half the world’s surface, with the notable exceptions of the United States, Africa and Southeast Asia, as given over to socialism.

Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1122. As of May 2019 OCLC gives but a single example of the book, at the U.S. Dept. of Labor, though makes no mention of the maps). Not in Augustyn & Cohen, Manhattan in Maps or Haskell, Manhattan in Maps.