Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"This Map is Made With 'Artistic License,' Pop!"

Pictorial Map of Schenectady, N.Y. and Union College, 1931.

We see a lot of interesting documents in the library's collections, and some of them are just plain fun! The library recently received a map entitled Pictorial Map of Schenectady, N.Y. and Union College, copyrighted 1931 by J.D. Barstow. The map, in five colors, depicts Schenectady with warmth and detail. Prominent businesses, public buildings, and other features are highlighted, and humorous cartoon images are peppered throughout.

This detail shows the Stockade neighborhood, part of downtown, and the Mohawk River.

This depiction of an exchange on Watt Street
captures the playful nature of the cartoons
included on the map.
A bit of research provided some more information about the map and its creator. An article in the July 15, 1931 Schenectady Gazette announces that the map was on view in one of the display windows at the Barney Company department store on State Street. Copies of the map were for sale and were promoted as guides to the city.

The map was drawn by James D. Barstow, a commercial artist and cartoonist for the General Electric Company. Born in Peekskill, Barstow attended the Pratt Institute. After serving in World War I, he worked as a surveyor for New York State and as an artist for a catalog company. He came to Schenectady in 1923 to work for General Electric. He wrote and drew the "Hopeless Hector" industrial safety comic strip that appeared in the GE Works News, as well a comic strip titled "G.E. Josie" syndicated to GE office employees.

Union College is depicted in this detail. Notice the puzzled cows encountering a student in the pasture.
Fun and games in Central Park.

Along the bank of the Mohawk River: "This map is made with 'artistic license,' pop!" -- "You say you forgot your fishing license, son?"

Fairgrounds in the upper Union Street area.
In addition to his work for General Electric, Barstow was known as a cartoonist and watercolor painter in the area. His work was exhibited at the Schenectady Museum and at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse. He also drew caricatures at local schools, fairs, and hobby shows, and gave talks on cartooning at the Schenectady Museum, schools, fraternal organizations, veterans' organizations, church groups. He also offered art lessons for children at local day camps, through the local Boys Club, and from his home.
Barstow was the first industrial cartoonist to gain membership in the National Cartoonist Society of America. He was cited for his work in creating cartoons promoting the sale of war and savings bonds and three times received awards from the Freedom Foundation for his work. Barstow died in February 1960.

The General Electric Company, featuring a gigantic monitor-top refrigerator, radio announcers, and tennis players.


  1. What a treasure...and to think I came upon it 'backdoor' when Joan Hitt Schindler who grew up in Scotia but had made Switzerland her home for many years offered me a copy. Just from what I see here it is a delight!
    Betty Pieper

  2. I hope that a poster print of this map is available to purchase! I love this!