“Ain’t you heard/ The boogie-woogie rumble/Of a dream deferred?”*…
Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library just acquired this original pen-and-brush version of E. Simms Campbell’s nightlife map of Harlem, from 1932. The map, drawn by an illustrator who frequented many of the establishments he depicted, exudes an insider’s pride in the robust music scene in full swing during the Harlem Renaissance.
When he made this map, cartoonist Elmer Simms Campbell was at the beginning of a decades-long career in illustration and commercial art. (Here’s some of his other work, for advertisers and magazines.) Campbell was “one of first commercially successful African-American cartoonists,” writes Rebecca Rego Barry. “He steadily produced artwork for Esquire upon its launch in 1933, and his work was also published in Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker, and Playboy.” This map first appeared in Manhattan magazine, as a centerfold, and later showed up in Esquire.
Campbell was friends with Cab Calloway, whose band appears at the bottom left-hand corner of this map. Swann Auction Galleries’ Kir Jordan links to this clip from a 2012 PBS documentary, in which Calloway walks viewers through Campbell’s map, remembering how he “bombed” with his first band at the Savoy Ballroom, and how much he always liked to say the name of the club that called itself “The Yeah, Man.”
More– and a zoomable version of the map– at “An Affectionate 1932 Illustrated Map of Harlem Nightlife.”
* Langston Hughes
As we tap our toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that Miles Davis made his first studio recording. Working with his then-boss Charlie Parker and the other members of his octet, Davis backed singer Rubberlegs Williams. Two years later Davis led the same group of musicians in recording music released as from the “Miles Davis All-Stars.”