This 1931 Chicago Gangland Map Could Be Yours…For Only 20,000 English Pounds!

gangland map 1931 funny

Looking to own a colorful piece of Chicago history? This amazingly intricate and humorous map of Chicago’s 1930s gangland, entitled “A Map of Chicago’s Gangland from Authentic Sources,” is going on sale this June at a London auction house. The bidding will start at a mere 20,000 pounds, or roughly $26,500 U. S. dollars.

Why so much money? Well, it turns out that real vintage copies of these particular maps are actually quite rare. While they were clearly made to capitalize on Hollywood’s glorification of gangsters during the early 1930s (think Little Ceasar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), and Scarface: Shame of a Nation (1932)), most of the originals were destroyed prior to Chicago’s 1933 Century of World’s Progress Fair, and event which is also depicted on the map itself. Unfortunately, Fair promoters saw the map as “not painting the picture of Chicago they wanted,” according to auctioneer Daniel Crouch, who will be auctioning off the map from London-based Daniel Crouch Rare Books. As a result, most were destroyed, which makes the remaining ones worth quite a lot.

It’s a shame that it’s rare, however, since the map is definitely worth a look in spite of the image of Chicago it promotes. It’s a wonderfully intricate piece of illustration, with every inch jam-packed with famous gangsters, nods to famous gangland events like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, tons of cheeky macabre humor (like all the little skulls-and-crossbones that mark where criminals died), plus hundreds of tiny gangsters, bootleggers and coppers running all over the place. There’s even a short glossary of gangland terms!

Check out some of these fun, colorful details in the images below:


empty prison 1931 map

This caption of the city prison, “the only empty jug in Chicago,” offers a pretty solid example of the kind of humor found in this map. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


four deuces at wabash 1931 map

Unsurprisingly, Capone dominates in many parts of the map. Here is a snapshot of The 4 Deuces, where Al got his real start in Chicago. The red lights indicate brothels, while the skull-and-crossbones refer to where gangsters were killed. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangster funeral 1931 map

A small illustration of a lavish gangster funeral, complete with trucks full of flower wreaths. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


st val massacre 1931 map

Al’s massacre is marked as Site 11 of famous gangland slayings. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangster hedge trimming 1931 map

Another wry bit of humor from the map. LOL! 😉 Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangland dictionary 1931 map

While many of these will likely already be familiar to you, dear readers, some were new to me—particularly the term “cold meat” for a corpse. Fairly solid otherwise, though. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangland map title Capone

The full title of this map is a pretty clear indication, I think, that the map makers were mostly just having fun here and not taking this too seriously—too bad the Fair promoters did. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


While these images are certainly fun, in terms of real Chicago gangland history much of the map is woefully inaccurate. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, John Binder, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois of Chicago on organized crime (and author of numerous books on Chicago history, including his latest on Al), explains some of the more blatant mix-ups:

“Gangs are in the wrong territories, territories are mislabeled and despite a label saying the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal was a “favorite” place to dispose of them, there are few recorded instances of bodies being dumped in the river during the era of the map…They’re showing the West Side O’Donnell gang as being around Douglas Park. That was controlled by the Valley gang.”

canal for body dumps nt 1931 map

The canal label that Binder objects to. Source: CARLI Digital Collections

For lovers of Chicago history, however, such discrepancies only add to the charm of the piece—and it’s value.

If you’re not in the mood to hop on a plane to London and take a stab at bidding, however, you can check out the entire map in great detail here at the CARLI digital collections. Or, if you must have your very own copy (and don’t want to fork over 20,000 pounds for the privilege), you can pick up a cheap reproduction for around $20 here at Transit Tees. 

If you’d like more info on the map itself, plus more historical commentary, check out this fun CBS news clip regarding the auction.


About lupachi1927

My name's Megan, and I'm a writer with an interest in history. While I might not be a real historian, I'm a very thorough researcher. This blog is my place to post about all the interesting historical tidbits I find that can't use in the novel I'm working on, which takes place in Chicago in 1927. If you're looking for research help, writing feedback, or just want to say hi, feel free to drop me a line! :)
This entry was posted in 1920s criminals, photo post, resource spotlight and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to This 1931 Chicago Gangland Map Could Be Yours…For Only 20,000 English Pounds!

  1. jazzfeathers says:

    Fantastic! Never known such a mup existed. Inaccurate? I wonder how since it’s based on film lore ;-P


  2. Pingback: Gang Roundup - July 2018 - The Old Shelter

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