How Many Liquor Bottles Can You Find in This 1931 Map of Chicago?

ON FEBRUARY 14, 1929, AROUND 10:30 a.m., Clark Street in Chicago was rattled by gunfire. The city’s most powerful gang leader, Al “Scarface” Capone, had finally sent some hit men after a rival gang. When the shots subsided, seven people were dead. It was, the Chicago Tribune later put it, “the most infamous of all gangland slayings in America.”

In the years since, the killing—now known as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”—has been recreated in films, plays, and television shows. But in 1931, a Chicago cartographer gave it an unconventional treatment. In the northeast corner of a map of the city, in between carefully labeled streets, is a tiny cartoon version of the massacre: four gunmen, two disguised in policeman blue, wearing wide-brimmed hats, shooting at their victims. Next to it, an account of the slaying is written neatly on a scroll held aloft by two cherubs.

This is just one of the many events depicted in A Map of Chicago’s Gangland—a cynical, hyper-detailed portrayal of a city gripped by chaos. Sometimes hilarious and always gruesome, the 1931 map shows a Chicago riddled with corrupt police, incompetent detectives, and hiccuping bootleggers.

Rumors swirl around the map like gin in a decanter. For one thing, it’s unclear exactly who drew it. “We don’t know who the artist was,” says Lucy Garrett, a gallery assistant at Daniel Crouch Rare Books. (The dealership is currently selling a copy of the map, and will be displaying it at the London Map Fair on June 9 and 10.) It was published by a Chicago-based company called Bruce Roberts, which, she adds, is similarly shrouded in mystery: “We haven’t been able to find any more information about them except for a few other books they published,” which include a bridge strategy manual and a guide to marital sex. “It seems that they had a very wide remit.”