Gropper's America

Gropper's America is a sister site to the William Gropper's American Folklore Lithographs digital Omeka exhibit curated by Dr. Andrew Wasserman and his Fall 2018 ARH 347: American Art class at UNC Greensboro. The purpose of this site is to host the Exhibit Companion Map, which uses geospatial technologies to create a visualization that connects selected figures from William Gropper's America, Its Folklore pictorial map to lithographs by Gropper depicting the same figures. Additionally, the original map and the individual lithographs are featured here to provide context for the visualization.


Start with the Exhibit Map

Exhibit Companion Map

The Exhibit Map is simple project that uses the Leaflet open-source JavaScript library in order to render a simplified version of Gropper's 1946 America, Its Folklore pictorial map. In contrast to the original map that features dozens of folk figures, the Exhibit Map shows just the nine figures that overlap with Gropper's 1950s American Folklore lithograph series. Each figure appears as a marker mapped to the approximate geographical coordinates where the figure appears in Gropper's original map. Clicking on a marker produces a pop-up bubble with a thumbnail image of the corresponding lithograph, which is in turned linked to the record for that image in the Omeka digital exhibit (with the exception of Joe Magarac; that lithograph is missing from the Weatherspoon's collection, so the thumbnail links to the Indiana Museum of Art's catalog).

America, Its Folklore

In 1946, Associated American Artists began to sell mass-produced 34-by-23-inch printed reproductions of a painted pictorial map Gropper completed in 1945. The map, titled America, Its Folklore, depicted dozens of folk figures and legends from American history as well as its literary and oral traditions, superimposed over a map of the continental United States. The map was widely purchased via mail-order for use in school classrooms and municipal libraries throughout the United States in the late 40s and early 50s. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State bought and distributed over 1,700 copies of America, Its Folklore to its libraries and information centers across the globe as part of the Overseas Library Program, a post-war propaganda initiative aimed at spreading "facts and solidly documented explanations of the United States, its people, geography, culture, science, government, institutions and thinking" (source), between 1946 and 1953. However, in 1953, Roy Cohn travelled to a number State Department libraries in order to identify Communist-directed works in the libraries' possession; because of Gropper's leftist political leanings and history of publishing cartoons in Socialist periodicals, America, Its Folklore fell squarely in this category according to Cohn. As a result, Gropper was called to testify in front of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations where he was questioned about the map and his political affiliations by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Despite not being a member of the Communist party, Gropper was subsequently blacklisted, and the State Department destroyed all of its copies of the map (source). Placing your mouse on the map allows you to zoom in and pan across the map to see each figure in detail. The high-res map image comes from the Map Collection of the Library of Congress's Geography and Map Division (which also holds copies of other maps in the AAA's America map series) and has been widely distributed as a public domain image.

American Folklore Lithographs

The images below represent the nine lithographs from Gropper's American Folklore series in the collection of the Weatherspoon Museum at UNC Greensboro. The lithograph of the Headless Horseman, pictured below, is not represented on the Exhibit Companion Map because the Horseman did not appear in Gropper's America, Its Folklore pictorial map. Additionally, while the figure of Joe Magarac appears in the Exhibit Companion Map, an image lithograph is not included below as it is missing from the Weatherspoon's copy of the American Folklore prints. Click on each image to read its object label from the Omeka exhibit.