Map of the Month: November 2021

Our November Map of the Month is this illustrated map titled “Grand Canyon” by Uruguayan-American artist Jo Mora. The map depicts approximately one fourth of the Grand Canyon, focusing on the portion most frequented by tourists. It features a variety of insets and illustrations highlighting the main tourist attractions in the Canyon, narrating Indigenous culture and ties to the area, and poking fun at the tour opportunities available to visitors as well as the visitors themselves.

Illustrated map of the Grand Canyon showing canyon detail, tourist attractions, Native American cultural icons of Northern Arizona, and various related comics
Grand Canyon, Jo Mora, 1931





















Although the Grand Canyon was first explored by a Spanish conquistador in 1540 (Native tribes living there for hundreds of years previously aside), it would go mostly undisturbed until 1857 when Joseph Ives made his famous trip up the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon would steadily be brought back into the public eye, culminating in1919 when it became a National Park. Nowadays, it is one of the most famous and visited tourist attractions in the country. 

Originally settled by miners and trappers, the towns near the Canyon’s rim quickly turned to tourism when they discovered the wealth it could generate and focused on developing tourist accommodations to make the tricky terrain easier to navigate. By the time this map was created in the 1930s,  there were over 45,000 visitors to the Grand Canyon each year and the number was quickly rising. This map’s creator, Jo Mora, was a multi-talented artist regarded as “The Renaissance Man of the West” whose most popular works included his maps of American landmarks and cultures, all of which featured the same rich illustration as seen on this map.

Magnified images showing the illustration of a ghost next to the Phantom Ranch camp and an informational inset of dancing skeletons that describes the rustic features of the camp
Phantom Ranch Images magnified

One of the most prominent tourist attractions highlighted on this map is the Phantom Ranch (named after the nearby Phantom Creek and Phantom Canyon), a collection of cabins and dormitories at the bottom of the canyon available for visitors to stay overnight. The area’s prime location led it to be frequented by multiple Native American populations as early as 4000 years ago and when European American explorers came across it, they began using it as a campsite and eventually went on to build a more permanent settlement. Phantom Ranch opened in November of 1922 and was quickly expanded to include more cabins, a dining hall, and other accommodations in response to the large number of visitors interested in staying there. The rustic conditions of the camp (described in above right image) intrigued tourists in the 1930s and continue to intrigue them in the present, albeit with a few more modern additions. 

Illustrations of Hopi and Navajo craftsmen and women, featuring Hopi basket weavers and Navajo silversmiths and blanket weavers
Hopi and Navajo communities and crafts magnified

This map also includes depictions of Native American art and culture of the Southwest. There are depictions of several gods from Hopi mythology as well as an insert that tells the Hopi creation story in which the first Hopi were created below the earth and led to the surface through the Grand Canyon. There are also references to the abandoned cliff dwellings that are located throughout the Grand Canyon. Finally, there are panels like those pictured above depicting members of the Hopi and Navajo communities and encouraging tourists to buy the crafts made by these communities. 

3 comic squares magnified to show caricatures of tourists unimpressed by the Colorado River, riding mules down steep cliffs, and a statue honoring the mules as the “Canyon’s unsung heroes”
Humorous Tourist Images magnified

In addition to the more serious notes and explanations on this map, Mora included a number of humorous insets, most of which poke fun at tourists and their habits while visiting the Grand Canyon. As the Canyon grew more popular every year, inexperienced and unprepared visitors made up most of the tourist population, leading tour guides to implement the ever-infamous mule rides to the bottom and other similar methods. These methods were especially humorous to experienced hikers who visited and even to many of the visitors themselves. As a result, cartoonish illustrations of tourists like those shown above made jokes out of their habit of underestimating the Canyon’s size as well as the prominent role of mules in their journeys into the canyon. 

Jo Mora’s dedication/note reading “Dedicated to those unfortunate souls who through ignorance, apathy, or misfortune, have never seen the abysmal silent climax this carte humorously depicts.
Map Dedication magnified

We hope you enjoyed our November Map of the Month! To request a high resolution scan of this highly detailed map or to schedule an appointment to explore the collection in person, submit a service request to the Map and Geospatial Hub. Keep an eye out for December’s Map of the Month and follow us on Facebook for all Map and Geospatial Hub updates!

- Kelsey Kerley, Map and GIS Assistant