• U.S.

A Letter From The Publisher, Dec. 14, 1942

3 minute read

Ever since the war started to put as many as seven maps into a single issue of TIME, subscribers have been asking to know more about our maps and the men and women who make them.

Right now this department is keeping five people very busy. Chief Cartographer is Robert M. Chapin Jr., who started his career as an architect and still has the architect’s gift of helping people to visualize a plan. On Chapin’s staff are James Cutter, TIME’S specialist in chart-making, and Polly Sell, a fabric designer turned cartographer. The map department also has its own researchers—Margaret Quimby and “Murph” Williamson, who were picked on the recommendation of geography-conscious Clark University.

Among the tools that help Chapin make TIME’S maps so different are (1) the air brush—a sort of highpower atomizer with which he sprays paint over his maps in an infinite number of shadings that give mountains and valleys and plateaus and river beds their three-dimensional height and depth … (2) two large floating globes —one political, one physical—which are suspended from the ceiling by pulleys and counterweights in such a way that they can be turned, lowered and photographed from any angle. Maps in the new global perspective so important in air and naval strategy can then be traced from the photos … (3) a library of celluloid stencils —bomb splashes, flags, jeeps, sinking ships (see below). This fascinating collection of tiny symbols saves Chapin and his staff hours of tedious work by making it unnecessary to draw the same symbols over again week after week.

Among the department’s 1,500 reference maps, charts and photographs are some from the U.S. Hydrographic Office that show Truk and Guadalcanal in such detail that coral reefs and buildings as small as Chapin’s office are visible—and a set of very detailed Admiralty charts of the French, Spanish and Italian coasts that Chapin dug up in anticipation of an Allied invasion practically anywhere. This week’s TIME map of Tunisia was based on the French automobile blue book and the very hard-to-come-by Atlas des Colonies Francaises.

To keep ahead of the news Chapin and his associates have built up a “bank” chock full of maps they have drawn to illustrate events that might erupt into the headlines—maps they could fill in and finish at a few minutes’ notice. For example, three years ago they prepared a basic map of the invasion of Britain, which needs only the direction arrows and the names of the beachhead battlefields to be ready for the plate-maker. I hope (pretty confidently) that we shall never have a chance to use this one.

Maps from TIME have been borrowed for the Book of Knowledge and numerous other reference works. Many are now being reprinted in platform-sized enlargement and used by hundreds of educators, lecturers and Army and Navy officers all over the world. (They were the first maps, incidentally, ever broadcast by television.) And Dr. Wallace W. Atwood Jr. of Clark University says that TIME’S cartography has helped revolutionize teaching from maps in schools and colleges the country over.

In one respect, however, Chapin’s map-making has helped him not at all. He still gets lost every time he takes the subway to Brooklyn.

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