It’s not Thanksgiving in Canada (or “appalling ignorance”)

In hono(u)r of the turkey slaughter taking place across the United States on this festival occasion, let’s talk about some good old fashioned American* ignorance. (It’s almost not worth remarking on, since this topic is so old and tired, but I find the longevity of US ignorance about Canada mildly noteworthy. Plus, it’s not a national holiday without some [cranberry] sauciness.)

Those attentive to internet uproars may have noticed the inaccuracies in an Apple map released back in September 2014:


It’s kind of not our fault. I mean, these are the maps we are usually dealing with:

weathermapIt our national forecast. We can’t be bothered about the rest of the weather on the planet, let alone the proper placement and / or spelling of Canadian cities.

The New York Times caught on to the problem back in 1892:


In our defense, Canada does this with weather maps, too (along with other places):

weather network oct 12 2012

However, as Alfred Leroy Burt wrote on the first page of his 1949 treatise, A Short History of Canada for Americans, this pervasive phenomenon has drastic consequences for geographical and political knowledge of Canada in the United States:

American geographies have long shown maps of the United States in full color with a blank white space north of the Great Lakes and the forty-ninth parallel. Nearly as blank were the minds of some twelve hundred high school seniors in the United States when, not so long ago, their knowledge of Canada was tested. Their ignorance, said President Hauck of the University of Maine, who conducted the inquiry, was appalling. One of these students confessed, “I am terribly ignorant in regard to Canada, and all I think of is fish, snow, cold, ice.” And another, “Canada is so close and yet so far away from me. I know less about it than almost any other place in the world.” The plain fact is that most Americans have known little and cared less about their northern neighbor. [It was actually on page 3, but that was the first page of text, so calm down.]

You may be amused (or unhappy, or chaotic neutral) to learn about the longstanding laments over American ignorance about Canada. Such sentiments date back to earlier than 1884, but this cartoon succinctly sticks it to Uncle Sam / Brother Jonathan:


Bengough, Grip, 1884

In conclusion, you can keep on being ridiculous, America-land. Another option is to, you know, educate yourself. You do you!

Also, in case my American readers are feeling salty about getting called out before the turkey’s done, allow me to showcase some Canadian geographical ignorance:



In case you’re worried that this is only a recent phenomenon, following are some historical gripes about “appalling ignorance” and other shortcomings in Canadian knowledge, geographical and otherwise, found in the journal Diogenes.

The issue of Diogenes from 8 January 1869 includes the following complaint:

Education in Montreal is for the most part limited to what is, in reality, mere elementary instruction; and the public show but little inclination to copy the example of ‘Oliver Twist,’ and ‘ask for more.’

It is not long since a writer in the Evening Telegraph asserted that: ‘The University of McGill and… High School are barely solvent, or at least, they cannot maintain a sufficient staff of highly-educated men for the proper education of their under-graduates and scholars.’


Diogenes, 8 January 1869, page 80

Furthermore, on the topic of GEOGRAPHY, Diogenes notes:

Answers to questions in half-year’s work on the Unites States, Scotland, and Ireland:

United States is very subject to earthquakes, and all the houses are built low in consequence. Its population is 20,000, and its capital is Mexicon. Each State manages its own affairs, and has a Consul-General appointed by the People, and a Governor by the Queen. […] One quarter of the globe lives in Scotland. Its climate is in a thriving condition, and oats are their favourite food.

This cartoon offers an example of people talking past each other:

"Shocking Ignorance"

Diogenes, 30 December 1869, page 46

Thank goodness that never happens anymore ever.

[* By “American” throughout this post, and most of ‘em for that matter, I mean residents of the United States, which I like to refer to as “America-land” to emphasize the artifice of the Settler Colonial claims to the territory. Ya know, like Disney-land or Chicago-land.]

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Canada: America’s Hat?

Most of my favo(u)rite variations on perspective are the funny ones:

america's hatcanada's shorts








As one of my favo(u)rite tweets of all time may suggest, I really like using these images in talks:


13 July 2012 tweet from San Diego Comic-Con after my talk about Alpha Flight fan letters, “So that’s what an angry Canadian sounds like!”

For quite a while (since 2010ish), I thought these carto-caricature pieces were INSPIRED GENIUS. Now, I still think they are inspired genius, but I have also managed to trace the trajectory of “Canada: America’s Hat” back a bit:

"Another little touch of store throat" by Paul Plaschke, Louisville Times, 1924, as seen in  Latin America in Caricature (1980: 61).

“Another little touch of store throat” by Paul Plaschke, Louisville Times, 1924, as seen in Latin America in Caricature (1980: 61).

"The trouble is as close to him as his own coat tails" by Billy Ireland, Columbus Dispatch, 1927, as seen in 231

“The trouble is as close to him as his own coat tails” by Billy Ireland, Columbus Dispatch, 1927, as seen in Latin America in Caricature (1980: 231).

"New Map of the United States" by John Collins, Montreal Gazette, 1964, via the McCord Museum.

“New Map of the United States” by John Collins, Montreal Gazette, 1964, via the McCord Museum.

There are also some new-fangled variations on the hat theme:

america's hat2 america's tuque canada americas hat2





And some take-offs (tehe) on Canada’s pants:

canada's underwear canadas-pants






And, sometimes, America is Canada’s hat:

"Free Trade" by Serge Chapleau, 1985, via McCord Museum

“Free Trade” by Serge Chapleau, 1985, via the McCord Museum.

Plus there’s this image file that I found in the same folder called “foster parents,” which I don’t understand particularly well (and I’ve managed to misplace the citation, so I may remain ignorant about its provenance):


There’s also Colbert’s take on North America:


And here’s Lillian Lancaster’s more (equally?) colo(u)rful “Cartoon Map of North America,” featuring a few more hats:

cartoon map of north america by lillian lancaster

I haven’t found “America: Mexico’s [Hateful?] Hat” or other variations on that theme, but if you’ve come across such a thing, I’d really like to see it!

In preparing this post, I did come across “Mexico: America’s Beard.”

america's beard

That seems to match up with this “Map of the United States” (citation needed / much sought after), where Mexico seems to be Uncle Sam’s beard / lower lip as he goes after Cuba:

ND2In conclusion, as ever, there’s not really a conclusion – just food for thought (poor Cuba) and lots of graphic aids for thinking about North American politics, policies, and attitudes.

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It depends on how you look at it… (Part Four of Many)

We’ve looked at absences on maps before. Here are some examples of hyper-presencing (surprisingly, not all featuring global domination of the United States):










Surrealist map of the world, 1929

Surrealist map of the world, 1929


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Swipes #43: Me-ow

The United States represented as a predator in political cartoons? No way…

"Who'll bell the cat?" Clifford K. Berryman, 29 July 1898

“Who’ll bell the cat?” Clifford K. Berryman, Washington Post, 29 July 1898.

"Looking our way," 1911, in Hou & Hou, Great Canadian Political Cartoons (Volume 1), page 182

“Looking our way,” 1911, in Hou & Hou, Great Canadian Political Cartoons (Volume 1), page 182

"One Less Rat," Randy Bish, Tribune-Review (Pennsylvania), in Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year: 2007 Edition

“One Less Rat,” Randy Bish, Tribune-Review (Pennsylvania), 9 June 2006, seen in Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year: 2007 Edition.

Macpherson, Toronto Star, as seen in The Hecklers p 175b

“Thirsty of Hungry?” Duncan Macpherson, Toronto Star, seen in The Hecklers (1979: 175).

Hmm, I guess that trope does date back to at least 1898.

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It depends on how you look at it… (Part Two of Many)

Some people argue that Toronto is the center of the world / universe:


Of course, we all know that Chicago is really the center of the world:


(Although, ODT Maps sells these maps with other cities at the center, noting: “Such maps might help us understand there are many ways to see the world, but none of them will to provide a world map that meets the needs of any specific individual or set of individuals who, by definition, are found in particular places.”)

And then we have the U.S. at the center/e of “Capitalism” by Jean-Claude Suares:

14 March 1973

14 March 1973

This image dump brought to you by me cleaning up all of the folders called “DISSERTATION EXTRAS” on my desktop. :-)

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Remembrance Day

Clifford Berryman, 6 June 1945

Rudyard Kipling adapted by Clifford Berryman, 6 June 1945

UPDATE: See also “This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time” by Harry Leslie Smith (via EZH), particularly:

Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector.

And, from Dorothy Parker:

Unhappily, the poppies, those flowers for forgetfulness, turned out to be predominant in the pattern.

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Happy Birthday, A.J.M. Smith


They say the Phoenix is dying, some say dead.
Dead without issue is what one message said,
But that has been suppressed, officially denied.

I think myself the man who sent it lied.
In any case, I’m told, he has been shot,
As a precautionary messure, whether he did or not.

by: A.J.M. Smith

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It depends on how you look at it… (Part One of Many)

Sometimes, if you turn a urinal on its side, you get art (now in the Tate Modern in London, England):

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

“Fountain,” Marcel Duchamp, 1917. (How did they lose the original?! Who are “they” anyway?!)

Here’s an excerpt about turning maps on other sides from “Dreaming Upside-Down” by Tom Peterson (sorry I didn’t include a link to the original – it seems to have been on a now-defunct geocities page):

I dreamed the other night that all the maps in the world had been turned upside down. Library atlases, roadmaps of Cincinnati, wall-sized maps in the war rooms of the great nations, even antique maps with such inscriptions as “Here be Dragons” were flipped over. What had been north was now south, east was west. […]

In my dream, a cloud of anxieties closed around me. The United States was now at the bottom. Would we have to stand upside-down, causing the blood to rush to our heads? Would we need suction-cup shoes to stay on the planet, and would autumn leaves fall up? […]

Other things troubled me more. Now that we’re at the bottom, would our resources and labor be exploited by the new top? Would African, Asian, and Latin American nations structure world trade to their advantage? […]

It was just a bad dream. I drifted back to sleep, thinking, “It’s all right, I’m still on top.”

(The longer form asks a few more questions, most of which disregard existing inequalities within the United States to make a broader point about lived social injustices and how they may be reinforced through cartographic representations.)

As seen on tumblr.

What happens when you turn the map on its side, so to speak? (As seen on tumblr.)


Arguably, all maps present a perspective. Some present (or offer) non-standard (or unexpected, or uncanny) perspectives on the world.


canada 150c

I credit RB with bringing this image (and quiz) to my attention.

I credit RB with bringing this image (and quiz) to my attention.

Pictorial Maps, Nigel Holmes (1991: 145)

Pictorial Maps (1991: 145)

In Pictorial Maps, Nigel Holmes suggests that readers “[t]ake a different look at the world: new relationships are noticed when the map is turned upside down” (1991: 145). (Then something about how scissors don’t have a fixed “mental viewpoint,” hence the scissors in the image above.)

The New Yorker, 1992

Leo Cullum, New Yorker, 20 April 1992

Joaquín Torres-García, 1943

Joaquín Torres-García, 1943


Also known as "An Australian's View of the World," "McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World"

Also known as “An Australian’s View of the World,” “McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map of the World,” Stuart McArthur, launched on Australia Day in 1979

"U.S. as seen from Canada," Russell Lenz, Christian Science Monitor, 1968

“U.S. as seen from Canada,” Russell Lenz, Christian Science Monitor, 1968

"Inuit view to the south," as seen in "Playing Dead" by Rudy Wiebe, 1989

“Inuit view to the south,” as seen in “Playing Dead” by Rudy Wiebe, 1989

Then again, some “new” perspectives are just selling you something (be it a copy of the map or books or cigarettes or academic journals or magazines! And that’s not to say that the images above aren’t selling you something, too.):


Journal of Northern Studies, 2011

Alternative North Americas via the Canada Institute

Alternative North Americas by David T. Jones via the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center

The Dominion

The Dominion: News from the Grassroots


The Map as Art by Katherine Harmon

more curious

ricky linn

  Ogden’s “Guinea - Gold” Cigarettes, Have Turned England Upside Down Through Pure Enjoyment, The Illustrated London News, 1899

“Ogden’s ‘Guinea – Gold’ Cigarettes Have Turned England Upside Down Through Pure Enjoyment,” The Illustrated London News, 1899

Indeed, the 1925 Surrealist manifesto (as seen in You Are Here by Katharine Harmon, 2004, gift from Jim Jim) warns:

Even more than patriotism – which is a quite commonplace sort of hysteria, though emptier and shorter-lived than most – we are disgusted by the idea of belonging to a country at all, which is the most bestial and least philosophic of the concepts to which we are all subjected… Wherever Western civilization is dominant, all human contact has disappeared, except contact from which money can be made – payment in hard cash.

(The images, as astute readers may have noticed, link to sources and / or further reading.)

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Dress Codes, Round 2

A while back, I posted about codifying attire at Hooters, Playboy Club, and Disneyland. Today, I’d like to share something amazing (as in, I am amazed) on a similar topic that I came across while researching the cartoons of Clifford K. Berryman.

Cartoons about gender norms and expectations interest me, so while I was looking for national representations in Berryman’s collected works, I saved this cartoon to investigate further:

"News Note: A decision has been reached by the board of education that in future the graduating dresses of high school girls must be built on more simple lines than in the past," 16 March 1911, Clifford Berryman

“News Note: A decision has been reached by the board of education that in future the graduating dresses of high school girls must be built on more simple lines than in the past,” 16 March 1911, Clifford Berryman

Little did I know that it would lead me down a rabbit hole of research (oh, wait, I kind of knew that might happen – see THIS ENTIRE BLOG), with scintillating results (if reading about board of education debates fits your definitions of “scintillating”). Here is a newspaper article explaining the school board’s decision:

1 2 3 4

From The Washington Herald, 15 April 1911.

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Happy Halloween!

In hono(u)r of the holiday, here are some variations on Frankenstein’s monster.


Bob Krieger, The Province, 19 July 1992

Irish Frankenstein in The History of the Nineteenth Century in Caricature

Irish Frankenstein in The History of the Nineteenth Century in Caricature

"Meech Lake Monster," Aislin, 1988

“Meech Lake Monster,”
Aislin, 1988

Cartoon Movement

Cartoon Movement

"Now To Rebuild," Bruce MacKinnon

“Now To Rebuild,” Bruce MacKinnon


Eric Allie, 20 February 2013

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