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  • Writer's pictureWes Hazard

how to have fun in harlem (in 1932)

What an awesome piece of history that I stumbled upon while stumbling upon the MLK editorial from earlier this week. This is an intricate and informative (and funny) map of Harlem nightlife drawn up by trailblazing Black illustrator E. Simms Cambell in 1932.

  • This map (showing the location of various notable nightclubs with pictures of liquor being served), talking about a "gin shorty" as the "national drink" of Harlem, and referencing the over 500 speakeasies that were to be found in Harlem at the time was published originally in Manhattan Magazine in 1932 before being reprinted in Esquire in 1933. Since Prohibition was on the books through December 5, 1933 I'm not sure how that was legal, but I'm glad it happened.

  • Cambell worked at Esquire for decades and was the first Black illustrator to be published in the most prominent national magazines. He actually invented the "Esky" character for Esquire. I had never even heard of that before but it was interesting to find out that Esquire had an off-brand version of what Eustace Tilly is for The New Yorker.

Here's a National Geographic article from a few years ago about the map that I found and below is a picture of Campbell.

Here's Earl "Snake Hips" Tucker, one of the entertainers mentioned on the map doing the dance movements he innovated and from which he earned his nickname. You don't need to have seen too much vintage James Brown and Michael Jackson and breaking and popping and locking to recognize his influence.

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