Catalog Archive
Auction 174, Lot 207

Uncommon Handkerchief Map of DC Based on Original L'Enfant Plan

"A Map of the District of Columbia and the Surrounding Country",

Subject: Washington, D.C.

Period: 1933 (dated)


Color: Printed Color

25.9 x 25.9 inches
65.8 x 65.8 cm
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A native of Portland, Maine, Mildred Giddings Burrage was the eldest daughter of a local minister, Henry S Burrage, who later became official historian of the State. Encouraged by her mother Ernestine to pursue her interest in art, much of Mildred's youth was spent painting abroad. At the outbreak of World War I she returned to the United States with her family who settled in Kennebunkport in 1915. Burrage received commissions from a network of wealthy US clients to design maps as decorative interior pieces for their homes, apartments and yachts. She also held a number of exhibitions of her paintings and maps, notably in Boston, Bar Harbor and Washington between 1926 and 1931, which brought considerable attention and several further commissions.

It was at one such exhibition in Boston in 1927 that the well-known railroad magnate, Frederick A Delano [1863-1953], uncle of the future President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, acquired a gilded map of Cape Cod. The following year, Mrs. Delano commissioned Burrage to design a map of the Hudson River for the library of their family home, Algonac, in Newburgh, New York. Indeed when FDR became President in 1933, the previous connections between Delano and Burrage would prove invaluable following Delano's appointment as Head of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission. The Commission's goal was to raise funds for the building of the George Washington Memorial Parkway to connect Mount Vernon and Great Falls, VA.

Reflecting on the fact that two of the earliest late 18th Century maps of Washington had themselves been handkerchief maps advertising the sale of plots of land in the newly surveyed metropolis, Delano fell upon the idea of an updated handkerchief map, modeled on the 1791 L'Enfant Plan. He commissioned Mildred Burrage to produce this handkerchief map design to raise funds for the construction of the new road link. The map was printed on paper as well as linen; the linen version was offered in six different colors (red, blue, green, plum, brown and terra cotta). The design of the handkerchief shows the area of the 1791 L'Enfant plan and extends as far as Mount Vernon in the south and Great Falls in the north. It is surrounded by border views of prominent Washington landmarks, such the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, Mt. Vernon, the Lincoln Memorial, the Supreme Court, and others. Around the edges of the design, Burrage includes a quotation from Daniel Burnham [1846-1912], the renowned American architect and urban planner, whose 1909 scheme for Chicago's future development Delano had enthusiastically endorsed. The quotation reads: "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty."

Printed by F Schumacher & Co, the Washington DC handkerchief map was promoted for its multiplicity of uses: not only handkerchief but scarf, necktie, apron and, when stitched together, effortlessly transformed into decorative curtains, interior wall hangings, tablecloths, bed coverings, kimonos and even handy and versatile work bags. The First Lady herself actively promoted the sale of these maps and Burrage in turn gifted Eleanor Roosevelt a large patchwork quilt made up from different examples of the colored maps. Copyrighted by the American Civic Association Inc., which was established in DC in 1910 to improve living conditions in America through urban planning and development.


Condition: A

Overall very clean and bright with a few small, faint stains and a small snag along the stitched hem at lower right. There are small pin holes in the corners of the handkerchief.

Estimate: $550 - $750


Closed on 9/11/2019