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October 26, 2007

The Separately Issued Sage Map
Early Depiction of the Oregon Boundary & California Emigrant Trails

125. [MAP]. SAGE, Rufus. Map of Oregon, California, New Mexico, N.W. Texas & the Proposed Territory of Ne-Bras-Ka. By Rufus B. Sage. 1846. F. Michelin’s Lith. 111, Nassau St N.Y.... New York, 1846. Lithograph map, title ornately lettered, line symbol with name alongside indicates trails, battle locations (Snively expedition), Native American tribes, major settlements, forts, and annotations (such as that at present-day Nevada and Utah: “This region has never been explored, and is supposed to be impassable on account of its immense plains of sand, alike destitute of vegetation and water”). Neat line to neat line: 44.7 x 60.7 cm; overall sheet size: 49.5 x 68.4 cm. Very faint staining (including a quarter-size tan stain at lower left), a few inconsequential pinhole-size voids where formerly folded into four quadrants, professionally washed and restored, overall a very good to fine copy, with generous margins and no traces of ever having been bound up with a book.

            First printing of a rare and noteworthy overland trail map used by Mormon, California Gold Rush, and other western emigrants, and among the earliest printed maps to show the final Oregon Territory boundary. Ellis, Colorado Mapology, p. 41 (illustrated). Littell 904: “One of the rarest maps of the western country.” Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 527 & Vol. II, pp. 40-43 (illustrated); Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 30. This map was lithographed to be included in Rufus B. Sage’s book Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Texas and Grand Prairies; or Notes by the Way, During an Excursion of Three a New Englander, published at Philadelphia by Carey and Hart in 1846. This map is usually lacking in Sage’s book, according to Wheat (Transmississippi West II, p. 41), LeRoy R. and Ann W. Hafen (Rufus B. Sage: His Letters and Papers, 1836-1847, Arthur H. Clark, 1956, Vol. II, p. 266), and others. Based on Sage’s papers at the Coe Collection at Yale, it is believed that the map was not issued with the cheaper copies in wrappers, but was included with the more expensive cloth-bound issues. Copies were also available separately. This map is based on Frémont's 1845 version, which the publishers offered to have redone for fifty dollars. A few copies of the Syracuse 1847 edition of Frémont’s report (Plains & Rockies (IV:115:9) have been found with the Sage map, which Wheat (Mapping the Transmississippi West Vol. II, p. 41 (footnote 12) conjectures was “probably a reminder inserted in lieu of re-doing the Frémont original” (see Item 53 herein).

            For references to Sage’s book see: Bauer 429. Bradford 4774. Cowan I, p. 197. II, pp. 548-549. Field 1345. Fifty Texas Rarities 30. Graff 3633. Cf. Howell 50, California 216 (first issue). Howes S16. Mintz, The Trail 402. Pilling 3438. Plains & Rockies IV:123.1. Rader 2870. Raines, p. 1818. Rittenhouse 502. Sabin 74892. Saunders 3141. Smith 8929. Streeter Sale 3049. Vandale 148.

            Ellis, Colorado Mapology, p. 41 (illustrated): “It is interesting to note the two broken lines, one running due north from the headwaters of the Arkansas River to the 42nd parallel and the other from the headwaters of the Rio Grande to the same parallel. This is reminiscent of the boundaries of the Republic of Texas, but the significance of the line from the headwaters of the Arkansas had faded in 1845.” Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 527 & pp. 41-43 (illustrated p. 40): “One of the earliest [maps] to depict the finally-determined Oregon of the earliest attempts to show on a map the ever-more-heavily traveled emigrant road to California.”

            John Allen states: “While the maps by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers are inarguably the most important maps of the decade of the forties for the West in general, many other distinctive maps were produced during that period, particularly for the area of the plains.... Among the...migrant and traveler maps...the cartographic efforts of Rufus B. Sage are both representative and among the finest examples of the genre. Sage’s map of 1846, drawn to accompany his Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, is outstanding in its portrayal of the territory east of the Rocky Mountains. From the Missouri on the north to the Canadian River on the south, Sage drew as accurate a map of the plains as any mid-nineteenth-century cartographer’s, except for the maps of the topographical engineers. His delineation of the courses of virtually all the major plains streams and their tributaries is nearly without fault; he identified both the Oregon and California trails with care and precision; he located, as accurately as any, the territories of the major plains tribal groups. Like other cartographers of the period, Sage did not have the Black Hills correctly, showing them as a linear chain running northwest from the Sweetwater to the Missouri. In a concession to both the patterns of promise and the pessimism that were evident among mappers of the Plains, Sage’s ‘Great American Desert’ sprawls in flourishing letters across the plains south of the Arkansas, while in the heart of ‘proposed Ne-Bras-Ka Territory,’ straddling the Platte and identified in even more florid style, are the ‘Grand Prairies’” (“Patterns of Promise” in Mapping the North American Plains, edited by Frederick C. Luebke, et al., p. 53 & Fig. 3.8).

            Rufus Sage (1817-1893), frontiersman and journalist, joined Col. Charles Warfield’s unit of Texans later connected with the abortive Snively Expedition (see Handbook of Texas Online). The present map shows the various battles associated with that bizarre, extralegal Republic of Texas-private venture, involvingattempts at piracy, plunder, Texian retaliation against Mexico for perceived wrongs, and taking control of Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Trail trade. The article on “Exploration” in the Handbook of Texas Online gives some insight into Sage’s motives for creating this map: “The great failure of the [Snively] expedition underscored the problems of large groups with inadequate maps trying to make their way among hostile Indians across the unknown plains of Texas.” See also Item 53 in this catalogue for another copy of this map that is included in Frémont’s Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains (New York, 1847). ($4,000-$8,000)

Sold. Hammer: $7,000.00; Price Realized: $8,225.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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