In favor of a fully-socialized city

TitleMap of New York City Showing Concrete Socialism in Red, and Private Enterprises in White, 1895
CreatorWalter Vrooman
Year1895
Dimensions101 × 38 cm
LocationLeventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library
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Red is often used to draw attention on maps. See another example of how the color is used in a 1920 map of Irish nationalism.
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This map appeared in the book Government Ownership in Production and Distribution by the socialist activist Walter Vrooman. Vrooman was an advocate for public amenities like parks, playgrounds, and educational institutions, and he believed that the government had a crucial role to play in creating a fairer economy. ()

This map uses a clever technique to argue that New York City was already mostly socialist by the end of the 19th century. It uses just two colors: red, the printing color, and the negative white space of the paper color. The red area shows the parts of the the city that were putatively “socialist” already—things like roads, parks, bridges, and wharves that were owned and managed by the public. Only the leftover space was devoted to private enterprises. If the government could already handle so much of the infrastructure that made city life possible, this map seems to argue, couldn’t its role be expanded into a full socialist control of the economy?

Watch a conversation with P.J. Mode and Garrett Nelson in Angles on Bending Lines.

Read our copy of Government Ownership in Production and Distribution:

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Bibliography

Paulson 1968
Ross Evans Paulson, Radicalism & Reform: the Vrooman Family and American Social Thought, 1837-1937 (University of Kentucky Press, 1968).