Cartoon Maps of Canyonland


Friday, March 1, 2019


Memorial Union, Arizona Ballroom (Room 221)
301 E Orange St, Tempe, AZ 85281


Dori Griffin, PhD

Presentation Abstract

Shortly after the Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919, commercial artists began mapping the region for tourist audiences. Beginning around 1930, many of these maps used a cartoon style, populating the landscape with natural wonders, talking animals, cheerful tourists, quirky locals, and timeless “natives” (in the language of their day). These illustrated maps facilitated only the most basic navigational tasks, but they performed a great deal of work as cultural narratives, shaping viewers’ concepts and expectations of the Grand Canyon as a tourism destination. From reinforcing a standardized menu of iconic sites to perpetuating popular mythologies of indigenous culture, cartoon maps dealt in stereotypes. Yet they also offered a surprising level of detail and most were based in careful research. Several of the artists who made cartoon maps of the Grand Canyon were well-known as commercial cartographic illustrators, including Ruth Taylor White, Jo Mora, and Arizona Highways art director George Avey. They brought their own signature styles to a geographic region made famous by John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition and the Fred Harvey Company’s popular tours. “Cartoon Maps of Canyonland” showcases the rich visual history of mapping the Grand Canyon for tourists and unpacks the complex, evolving stories told by these engaging but imperfect maps.