Authored by Raquel Parrilla
The year 1929 when this Kew Gardens Round Robin map is copyrighted, ushered in not only the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., but also the Great Depression, and the Stock Market Crash. While the specifics of the origin of this map are obscure, its preservation and examination have importance to both Kew Gardens and U.S. history in general. Everard Jean Hinrichs was born 1905 in New York City and began his career as a sign painter and letterer before advancing to his well-known rural landscapes and paintings of clouds and sky (Smith 2010). He sought to preserve Americana, a way of life he felt had disappeared (McGill 1985). This ideal agrarian society was giving way to urbanization thanks to President Roosevelt’s New Deal (Yarce 2021).
This artifact signals popular businesses of the time in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, NY. Kew Gardens has had its share of famous residents, some saluted by this map. Humor can be found too; between Union Turnpike and Park Lane read “Woods and Necking…” Center right, the L.I.R.R. reads “Very Noisy Trains” and elsewhere “Late Trains” (Hinrichs 1929). Queens Boulevard has a “cop” and written on the road is “At Last They Are Fixing This” (Hinrichs 1929). It is truly fascinating the ways humans have not changed, from complaining about city life to making innuendos about necking. Yet, in this mostly lighthearted map, one image contrasts sharply.
At the top is a caricature of a black man in the exaggerated and racist “coon” style (Pilgrim 2012). This image is not listed in the description in Ballenas’s book, and so its significance is mentioned here. The word “MACK” (Hinrichs 1929) on the trucker hat provides some points of inference. According to dictionary.com this word dates back to the 1800s as slang for “flirt” or “pimp.” It also can refer to Mack trucks or truck drivers. This depiction makes common assumptions about black people of the time that are now problematic. William Ripley’s Races of Europe with its exposition on skulls and facial features inspired many articles and influenced racial discourse (1899). His racial theories fueled ideas about aspirational white beauty and white supremacy (Staples 2019). Unlike the other images, this one is not given a name, precisely why it is important to amplify.
The Vincentian mission of St. John’s University compels us not only to be a voice for the voiceless, but advocates for the marginalized working toward justice and equity. (Angel, n.d.) Amplifying the histories of people of color in the United States assists in this endeavor. History informs the present and learning from it can move us more wisely into the future. Preservation of the histories of neighborhoods is important; changes over time reveal the ebbs and flows of progress. The Great Depression was followed by industry of the 1930s and facilitated infrastructure projects like the Triborough Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Interboro Parkway, and the 1940s LaGuardia Airport (Yarce 2021). Infrastructure changes neighborhoods, Kew Gardens looks quite different today. Visually going around the perimeter of this artifact reveals the important fixtures of the neighborhood and possible ideas about “Mack” (Hinrichs 1929). Preserving such historical artifacts is a way we can both reckon with history and cultivate wisdom.
Angel, Christine. n.d. Information Representation through the Vincentian Lens of Transparency: Providing the Under and Misrepresented with a Voice within Our Cultural Heritage Records. https://drive.google.com/file//1qcJMPP6N6Mxq07J4ifsaWe4VQQ14JvgU/view
Ballenas, Carl. 2014. Images of America Kew Gardens. Arcadia Publishing.
Dictionary.com. 2018. Pop Culture Dictionary: Miss Mary Mack https://www.dictionary.com/e/pop-culture/miss-mary-mack/ Accessed: October 7, 2022.
Hartman, David, Lewis, Barry. 2004. A Walk Through Queens. https://www.thirteen.org /queens/history3.html. Last modified in 2004.
Hinrich, E.J. 1929. Kew Gardens Round Robin Map.http://kewgardenshistory.com /index/guestbook0707-OL.html.
McGill, Douglas. 1985. Eric Sloane Who Celebrated Americana in Paintings. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/03/08/arts/eric-sloane-who- celebrated-early-americana-in-paintings.html
Pilgrim, David. 2012.The Coon Caricature, Jim Crow Museum. https://www.ferris.edu /HTMLS/news/jimcrow/mammies/homepage.htm.
Ripley, William. 1899. The Races of Europe. New York D. Appleton and Co.
Smith, Marshall. 2012. A Short Biography of Eric Sloane. https://www.ericsloane.com/
Staples, Brent. 2019. How Blackface feeds White supremacy. https://www.nytimes.com /2019/03/31/opinion/blackface-white-supremacy.html, 2022.
Yarce, Julio. 2021. FDR’s Legacy: 5 New Deal Infrastructure Projects in New York City. https://untappedcities.com/2021/04/20/new-york-new-deal-infrastructure/.