Sunday, January 22, 2023

Wynn's dandy endpapers illustration for 1933's "Incredible Land"

These are the dazzling endpapers of Basil Woon's 1933 travel book Incredible Land, which is subtitled A Jaunty Baedeker to Hollywood and the Great Southwest. (Karl Baedeker published a series of guidebooks for tourists in the 1800s. They were so popular and respected that, well into the 20th century, Baedeker served as a synonym for any travel guide.)

My copy of the book doesn't have Wynn's equally dazzling dust jacket illustration, but I've included an online image of it here for posterity. I can't find much information about Wynn; having only a common four-letter moniker doesn't help much with the search engines. Any information sent via the comments would be appreciated!

This travel guide — with its hedonistic focus on finding women, food, beds and bootleggers in the West — was written during the late years of Prohibition and then essentially hit the booksellers' market just in time for Prohibition's repeal on December 5, 1933: Rotten timing for an author who had worked hard to let people know where to find illicit booze.

As The New York Times noted on December 10, 1933: "The lapse of time since this book was written has been less than a year, yet so much alcohol has flowed under the bridge during that period that many of Mr. Woon's pages have a distinctly historical flavor. This fact he himself acknowledges in a last-minute chapter of 'Addenda and Errata' in which he points out that repeal alters 'the entire entertainment map of the United States.'"

Here are a few tidbits about Arizona from Woon's book:
  • "The city of Tucson, once capital of Arizona, has of late been adopted by Eastern fashionable folk, many of whom have built fine homes there. The climate is said to be a cure for sinus trouble."
  • "During the rainy season in late summer the Arizona section of the road is sometimes impassable, due to cloudbursts transforming the desert arroyos into sudden torrents."
  • "From Roosevelt [Reservoir and Dam] one may continue southeast to Miami and Globe, copper smelting towns, and on through the Apache reservations to the Mormon colonies near Safford."

Other posts with endpapers illustrations (for your online browsing pleasure on a rainy or snowy day)

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