Gallery Chats: What Is the Midwest, Anyway?

In a series of gallery videos, Newberry curators discuss the major themes of our current exhibition, What Is the Midwest?

A New Yorker's Idea of the U.S.

In 1922, the Chicago Tribune published a cartoon by John T. McCutcheon titled "A New Yorker's Idea of the Map of the United States." With a Second City chip on his shoulder, McCutcheon skewered what he viewed as New York's imperious attitude toward the rest of the country--particularly the Midwest. In the cartoon map, the Great Lakes appear as the New Yorker's "fish pond," Detroit his "garage," and the rest of the region his "cornfield," "orchard," and "food warehouse."

Alice Schreyer, Vice President for Collections and Library Services, describes the item.

Map of the "Western" States

If you actually fly over "flyover country," it looks a lot like this. The checkerboard pattern was conceived in the 1780s as a system for organizing land and facilitating the westward expansion of the United States. By the 1850s, when this map was produced, you can see the grid spreading west. And while the map notes the presence of Indigenous peoples (marginally), it ultimately served to write over earlier geographies of Indigenous land.

Jim Akerman, the Newberry's curator of maps and co-curator of our What Is the Midwest? exhibit, analyzes this map.

Stand! With Wounded Knee

Analu Lopez, co-curator of What Is the Midwest?, discusses a 1973 handbill that represents one of the key themes of the exhibition: Indigenous resistance to settler colonialism in the Midwest.

On February 27, 1973, Lakota activists and followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) initiated a 71-day protest, accusing the Oglala tribal chairman of corruption and the U.S. government of failing to fulfill treaty obligations.

The activists staged their protest at Wounded Knee, the Pine Ridge Reservation town that was the site of a massacre in 1890.