During Prohibition, Harlem Night Clubs Kept the Party Going | National Geographic

A witty 1932 cartoon map shows where to find famous musicians, gambling policemen, and a guy selling marijuana.

By Greg Miller

UC - Night Club Map of Harlem during Prohibition

MAP COURTESY JAMES WELDON JOHNSON MEMORIAL COLLECTION, BEINECKE LIBRARY

Prohibition may have put a damper on alcohol sales in much of the United States in the 1920s and early ’30s, but it didn’t stop the party up in Harlem. The map above, created in 1932, shows a thriving nightlife centered on New York jazz venues like the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom. The map is filled with caricatures of famous musicians and dubious denizens of the nighttime scene, as well as helpful tips for partygoers.

“It’s pretty fantastic,” says Melissa Barton, curator of drama and prose for the Collection of American Literature at Yale University’s Beinecke Library. “It’s just packed with details.”

The map advises readers that “nothing happens before 2 a.m.” at Club Hot-Cha, and suggests they ”ask for Clarence.” At the Cotton Club, Cab Calloway leads “one of the fastest stepping revues in N.Y.” Nearby, “Snakehips” Earl Tucker practices “that weird dance—the ‘Snakehips.’” Tucker pioneered the kind of fluid-then-halting moves later associated with hip hop (fortunately, they’ve been immortalized on YouTube, so you can see for yourself). A “Reefer man” works the corner of Lenox Ave. and 110th Street. (“Marahuana cigarettes 2 for $.25”).

Read more: During Prohibition, Harlem Night Clubs Kept the Party Going | National Geographic

 

 

 
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