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IN 1932, IF YOU WERE LOOKING for an uptown night club or speakeasy that was open all night, an illustrated map by E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971) would have been a valuable resource. Today, it is a valuable treasure. The original artwork for the map sold for $100,000 (including fees) at the Printed and Manuscript African Americana sale at Swann Auction Galleries on March 31.

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University purchased the map.

“It might seem like the literary movement that made Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston household names and Harlem’s night club scene in the 1920s and 30s are unrelated, but they are in fact both essential features of the tremendous cultural outpouring we call the Harlem Renaissance,” said Melissa Barton, curator of Yale’s James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection.

“We are delighted to add E. Simms Campbell’s gorgeous and playful rendering of this era to the collection. The map will augment Beinecke’s noted strength in materials relating to the Harlem Renaissance.

The library is announcing the acquisition tomorrow and says that the map will be featured in a spring 2017 exhibition the library is presenting on the Harlem Renaissance.

“We are delighted to add E. Simms Campbell’s gorgeous and playful rendering of this era to the collection. The map will augment Beinecke’s noted strength in materials relating to the Harlem Renaissance.”
— Melissa Barton, curator of Yale’s James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection

RICHLY ILLUSTRATED, “A Night-Club Map of Harlem” was featured in the first issue of Manhattan magazine (Volume 1, Number 1, 1932) and, nine months later, was published in Esquire magazine. Campbell’s map is rife with images of Harlem night life, both the lively characters and the storied hot spots. It also features engaging copy—pithy descriptions and insider tips.

The Radium Club, Log Cabin, Tillie’s, and Club Hot-Cha, were open all night, according to the map. The Radium Club hosted a “Big breakfast dance every Sunday morning 4 or 5 a.m.” and at Club Hot-Cha “Nothing happens before 2 a.m. ask for Clarence.”

Stars mark several locales on the map. The key indicates they symbolize places such as the Radium Club and Club Hot-Cha that are open all night. Spots with more familiar names, such the Cotton Club, Savoy Ballroom, and Small’s Paradise apparently kept more respectable hours.

The Radium Club hosted a “Big breakfast dance every Sunday morning 4 or 5 a.m.” and at Club Hot-Cha “Nothing happens before 2 a.m. ask for Clarence.” — Harlem map

Simms included a lighthearted disclaimer near the Harlem map’s title, noting “The only important omission is the location of the various speakeasies but since there are about 500 of them you won’t have much trouble.”

A GROUNDBREAKING CARTOONIST, Campbell was a regular contributor to Esquire magazine. According to Swann’s catalog, he “started drawing regularly for Esquire in 1933, and was the magazine’s resident illustrator until the end of the 1950s, becoming famed for drawings that often featured pin-up women—his ‘Harem Girls’—and had a satirical take on upper-crust culture. He was the creator of Esquire’s mustached, bug-eyed mascot Esky and of the Cuties comic strip series, which went into national distribution and as well as book form. Crossing color lines, Campbell became the first African-American illustrator to be syndicated and whose work was featured regularly in national periodicals.”

“Crossing color lines, Campbell became the first African-American illustrator to be syndicated and whose work was featured regularly in national periodicals.” — Swann Auction Galleries

READ MORE about E. Simms Campbell and his illustrations.

 

ESTIMATED TO SELL for $40,000-$60,000, the map sold for nearly twice the expected price. Executed in pen and brush on Whatman drawing board, the map was the auction’s top-selling lot and set an auction record for Campbell.

Responding to an inquiry about the map’s provenance and purchaser, Swann reported the map was gifted by Campbell to a private New York collector in the 1960s or 1970s. The collector’s heirs consigned the drawing. The auction house also indicated a “major research library” purchased the map,” but was unable to disclose the institution’s name.

Given the map’s subject matter, two institutions came to mind. I reached out to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to determine whether the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library system had purchased the map. The center’s press rep confirmed it is not the new owner. Next, I contacted the Yale’s Beinecke Library and was able to confirm the acquisition.

In addition to the map, the Beinecke purchased a few other items at the Printed and Manuscript African Americana sale, including a pair of early 20th century periodicals, 19th century theater advertisements, a James Van Der Zee photograph, and 1922 almanac of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.

All of the materials will be brought into the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters, a world-class archive documenting African American arts and culture. CT

 

IMAGE: Lot 47: E. Simms Campbell, “A Night-Club Map of Harlem,” 1932 (pen and brush). | Estimate $40,000- $60,000. Sold for $100,000 (including fees).

 

Update (April 14, 2016): Beinecke Library Press Release