This map, by social realist artist William Gropper, was created to showcase the diversity of national myths and folk stories and was distributed abroad through the U.S. Department of State starting in 1946. (You can see it up close by clicking on the image below to arrive at a zoomable version, or by navigating to the map’s page on the website of the Library of Congress.)
The “folklore” on display in this richly illustrated map is a soup of history, music, myth, and literature. Frankie and Johnny are cheek-by-jowl with a wild-eyed John Brown; General Custer coexists with “Git Along Little Dogies.” Utah is simply host to a group of “Mormons,” in which a bearded man holds up stigmata-marked hands to a small group of wives and children, while a figure labeled “New England Witches” flies over New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
Rebecca Onion’s insightful article on William Gropper and the map can be found here.
I will forever be grateful that I was introduced to the utility and beauty of hand crafted products early in life - from the symbolic motifs sewn into the coarse linen fabric of Croatian traditional wear to the colorful Kilim carpets that decorated the parquet floors in my grandmother's living room.
I treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," the smell of the flower stalls in the open air market where my grandmother bought produce early every morning for the day’s meals and the summers spent at my great grandmother's where the village wags would come to gossip over thick, black Turkish coffee in her cool stone kitchen.
Someone noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world - one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.