* An update below
Glen Creason, the author of the stupendously grand book Los Angeles in Maps, is the map librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. So when he says on Facebook that this 1942 carte by Jo Mora is "one of THE greatest maps ever" and "one of the true masterpieces of pictorial mapping and my favorite Los Angeles map of all," ordinary schmoes like me have to listen. It has an honored place in the current map exhibition at the Central Library. Well, it turns out that LA Observed has played a small role in making reproductions of the map available for the first time.
Until now, you had to plunk down as much as $4,000 for an original Jo Mora map, or if you were lucky to find one damaged, you might get it for a grand or so. The Jo Mora Foundation has recently reproduced 250 posters of "City of Los Angeles" on the assumption that there is at least that many Angelenos who will pay $45 (plus shipping) for one of their own. I suspect it's a good bet.
The suggestion to reproduce an affordable version of the map was made to Peter Hiller, head of the foundation, by my friend Alison Hewitt. She gives the backstory.
My husband, Heath, and I visited the "L.A. Unfolded" map exhibit at Los Angeles Public Library several years ago, and that's where we were first exposed to Jo Mora's work. We loved all the detail on his Los Angeles carte and wanted to take a copy home. It's a neat map, because there's little drawings of historical events, modern landmarks, and even surfers and Will Rogers. The borders are crammed full of an illustrated history of L.A., like the founding of the city, the water wars and the bombing of the L.A. Times building. There's USC and UCLA, of course, and the airport, tar pits, San Fernando Mission, Angels Flight, and the movie studios, but also weird stuff like a chinchilla farm that used to be near Inglewood? An inexplicable ostrich near Lincoln Heights? A lion farm near Alhambra? Really fun stuff to look at.
We were disappointed we couldn't find it in the gift shop then, and when we looked online, we learned that the first editions sold for close to $4,000! Finally, last March, Heath tracked down the Joe Mora Trust and its director, Peter Hiller, to ask how we might go about buying a poster.
Unfortunately, it had never been reproduced. Hiller explained to us that he was hesitant to turn it into a poster, because he wasn't sure he could sell enough to cover the costs of a print run for the Trust. After checking with you, Kevin, we encouraged Hiller to consider a blog-campaign on LA Observed to drum up interest, and voila! Our grass-roots Mora campaign was born! With the promise of a big LA blog audience, Hiller has printed 250 posters and has already placed it at the LAPL Library store, where we first looked for it several years ago.
You can obtain the map from the store at the Central Library, or directly from the Jo Mora trust via email. Here are a couple of detail shots. (Click them to enlarge.)
Mora is a pretty good story himself. Joseph Jacinto Mora was born in Uruguay in 1876, moved to the eastern United States as a boy, and after attending art school he worked as an illustrator and cartoonist in the Boston area. He moved west and in 1920 settled in Carmel to work on what the foundation calls his masterpiece: the Father Serra Cenotaph in the chapel at El Camelo Mission.
Jo is probably best known publicly for the series of maps - or cartes as he referred to them - that he created. These historically accurate, humorous and collectable prints have entertained viewers for years. His homage to Carmel, the Carmel-By-The Sea carte was printed in 1942 and highlights much of the colorful history of the town.
Here's the website for the Jo Mora Trust.
* Tuesday night update: Hewitt posts on Facebook that the Jo Mora Foundation received 45 email orders today after we posted the story. Hiller is scheduled to be interviewed by KPCC tomorrow. And the library store has sold out its first batch of maps. "It's practically time for a re-reprint already!" Alison says.