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Mapping Global War: Los Angeles, the Pacific, and Charles Owens's Pictorial Cartography

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Writing on popular geographies has emphasized the shaping role of media. Newspapers and magazines, school texts, and atlases, had particular impacts on the twentieth century American geographical imagination, notably during World War II when news cartography became entwined with geopolitical mapping. The wartime mapmaker Richard Edes Harrison has been cited as exemplary of the role graphics played in promoting and popularizing an “air-age” geographical imagination. But Harrison was only one of a number of innovative mapmakers whose work reflects broader graphic traditions in mid-twentieth-century America. The Los Angeles Times artist Charles Owens, whose dramatic color maps of the World War were published weekly between 1942–1945, offers a West Coast perspective on the emerging spatiality of the air age in the context of wartime geopolitical mapping. Images that were powerfully influenced by Southern California's modern cultural landscape—specifically by air photography, automobiles, and the movies—provide insight into a more general association of mass media, popular culture, graphics, and geopolitical “imagination” in mid-twentieth-century America.
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Keywords: Charles H. Owens; Pacific; World War II; geopolitics; mapping; popular geographies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of California, Los Angeles

Publication date: 2005-06-01

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