This rare Japanese-language map of New York City and vicinity was issued in the 1920s, before the 1929 Black Tuesday stock market crash, by the Japanese-American Prosperity Company, a real estate developer catering to Japanese-Americans.
A Closer Look
The map, which is based upon an earlier American map, is intended to promote investment in several real estate projects in the New York City area. Four of the company's projects (shaded red) are highlighted and discussed at length on the verso:
- Kingsland (キングスランド) in Hudson County, New Jersey
- Hamilton (ハミルトン) in Somerset County, New Jersey; not to be confused with today's Hamilton, New Jersey, this was instead a development in or near Hillsborough Township. (The description on the verso mentions huge farm and park complexes built by 'American tobacco king Duke' - that is, Duke Gardens and Duke Farms.)
- Hackensack (ハッケンサック)
- Buena Vista G District (ボナヴィスタG區); not to be confused with today's town of Buena Vista in southern New Jersey, this was instead a development in Bridgewater, west of New York City.
Additional developments where the land and building stock were completely owned by Japanese (邦人, which could mean Japanese national or Japanese-Americans) are shaded purple.
The map covers a radius of approximately 45 miles from lower Manhattan. It includes all of New York City as well as substantial parts of New Jersey and Long Island. The overprinting features red concentric rings spaced at intervals of 5 miles radiating from City Hall. The Woolworth Building (233 Broadway), New York's first skyscraper constructed between 1910 and 1912, is featured at bottom-center as an illustration of the city's impressive building style and investment opportunity. Frank Winfield Woolworth himself in 1910 described the building as the 'greatest income producing property in which I could invest my money'.
Text on the verso is divided into multiple sections. The first, at top, discusses general opportunities in real estate investment in the U.S., reflecting a sophisticated understanding of international finance, including the fallout of the World War I (1914 - 1818). Interestingly, it points out that in many U.S. states, foreigners have the same legal rights as U.S. citizens to own property, though this was not actually the case in California, where the Alien Land Law (passed in 1913 and expanded in 1920), aimed primarily at Japanese immigrants, forbade Asian immigrants from owning property. Oregon, Washington, and a number of other states passed laws in the 1920s and 1930s modeled on the California Alien Land Law.
The second verso section provides information on the Japanese-American Prosperity Co.'s capital, profits, and the like. The following section discusses land prices in different areas, insurance (including several companies with their capital and deposits listed), and opportunities in New York City's suburbs. The section at bottom focuses on the four developments highlighted on the recto, giving, among other information, the distance of each from the center of New York City.
Japanese-Americans in New York City
The Japanese population of New York City and the Tri-State Area has historically paled in comparison to that of the West Coast and Hawaii, and has been of a wealthy, elite, and professional background, although working-class immigrants did labor in the shipping and restaurant industries at the time this map was made. Unlike several other ethnic communities in New York, there has never been a clear and consistent Japantown, though in the pre-World War II period there were pockets of Japanese residents along the west side of Manhattan from Lincoln Square up to Morningside Heights.
The first Japanese immigrants to New York arrived in 1876, but soon afterwards Japanese immigration was tightly restricted and the population of first- and second-generation immigrants (Issei and Nisei) did not exceed 5,000 until the post-World War II period. Still, prominent Japanese-Americans in the city aimed to establish institutions to foster community support, in particular the chemist Takamine Jōkichi (高峰譲吉), who helped found both the Nippon Club and the Japan Society.
Publication History and Census
This promotional map was prepared by the Japanese-American Prosperity Co., Ltd. (日米興業株式會社), using an earlier English-language map as a basis (likely by Hammond or Rand McNally). This thematic map is quite rare and we are aware of only one other example in private hands.
Japanese-American Prosperity Co., Ltd. (日米興業株式會社; c. 1917 - 1937) was a real estate developer that sought Japanese and Japanese-American investors for projects in the U.S., particularly in the New York City area. The company appears to have flourished in the wake of the First World War despite restrictions on Japanese immigration to the U.S. (and on land ownership by Japanese-Americans in California), but appears to have gone bust in the late 1930s after years of economic malaise and Japanese-American tensions. Newspaper databases show that while the company did advertise in newspapers in the Japanese home islands and Korea, their main focus was on the Japanese-American community in Hawaii and California. More by this mapmaker...
Very good. A few minor verso reinforcements along original fold lines on verso.