This scarf has a fascinating history and story. Called an “Escape Map” this scarf is from WWII and was printed in 1944. It is part of a series made by the US government and the AMS (Army Map Service). The government printed maps on cloth for servicemen in the event that they were captured or caught in enemy territory, to help them identify where they were or to aid them in escape. The maps were based on land survey maps from the 1930’s. During WWII over 3 million cloth escape maps were printed.
This scarf is part of the Eastern Asia series and features cities of Japan; Hakodate and Nemuro. The scarves were printed on both sides which was highly unusual and technically complicated to do. This one is printed on acetate rayon as were the bulk of the escape maps, a smaller number were printed on balloon cloth. Apparently after extensive testing, acetate rayon was selected as the base cloth for its light fastness (won’t fade in the sun) and because it isn’t highly water absorbent. Also, it doesn’t mildew or shrink from getting wet. The government chose to print the maps on cloth because the fabric wouldn’t crease or rip like paper, and it can be unfolded silently – all important factors if one is in captive or hiding. The scarves could also be easily hidden in a pocket or even sewn into a jacket.
The detail of the map is amazing; the tinted colors represent land elevations, and tiny symbols indicate roads, railroads, towns and rivers. There is also technical data with wind and ocean currents, as well as sea depths.
The government kept extra quantities of the maps on reserve so that they could be quickly distributed as needed. Apparently so many maps were left over after the war that they were sold to the public as souvenirs.