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Promotional for a Topolobampian Utopia

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349.     [MAP]. OWEN, A[lbert] K[imsey]. Nuevo mapa, estadístico de México, en que se marcan los productos de las diferentes zonas, las lineas de ferrocarriles actuales y proyectadas las lineas telegráficas cables, alturas, y poblaciones. Por A.K. Owen, I.C. Formado con apuntes reunidos en diez años de estudio y viajes en la República y en la Frontera. Published by J.L. Smith, Philadelphia, U.S.A. 1884. Copyright, 1883, by J.L. Smith; [above title: untitled large pictorial representation of Mexican eagle with snake perched on a cactus in a lake, background landscape with sun and snow-covered mountains, foreground with guns and weapons placed on Mexican flag] [lower right above neat line] Drawn by W.A. Wansleben [overstamped in red ink] and J. Edelman [table at upper right showing telegraph lines and offices] Cuadro de la Red Telegráfica Mexicana, formado por el C. Cristóbal Ortiz, Jefe de la Oficina Central de Telegrafos Federales. México, febrero de [lower center, table of Mexican states] States. Capitals. Population of States, 1882 [lower mid-left, key to types of rail lines, i.e., standard gauge, horse-car, etc. and pale blue watercolor to indicate “Not Built” and with scale below] ExplanationsEscala. Philadelphia, 1884. Lithograph map on heavy paper, showing Mexico, the U.S. from San Diego to Montgomery, Alabama (Texas from Llano Estacado to Texarkana), and northern Central America (Belize and northern Guatemala and Honduras), original shading of coastlines in blue, boundaries in pink, products of states in red lettering (corn, sugar, logwood, cacao, coffee, tobacco, gold, copper, etc.), sectioned and mounted on contemporary cartographical linen (32 sections), contemporary tan and black marbled paper on verso of two sections, neat line to neat line: 117.3 x 174.2 cm (small portion of Southern Mexico and northern Guatemala extends below lower neat line); overall sheet size: 123.8 x 183.5 cm. Some folds split (a few minor voids at folds with minimal loss), patches of mild to moderate staining (heavier along some sections of horizontal centerfold). This was a working wall map, as evidenced by its old tack holes along upper margin and lower corners of margins (not affecting neat line or image).

     First edition. Not in standard U.S. or Mexican sources. Phillips (America, p. 415) lists a similar map of approximately the same dimensions dated 1882, with title Nuevo map estadístico y ferrocarillero de México y la frontera del norte…by A.K. Owen and Albert von Motz. We locate copies of the present map at the University of Arizona, Northwestern University, and the British Library. Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition, Vol. III, p. 367) lists A.K. Owen and records only this map; Tooley lists J.L. Smith as a map publisher in Philadelphia noting maps from 1870 to 1898 (Vol. IV, p. 176).

     This map is a beautiful, enthusiastic representation of everything progressive and enlightened that Mexican President Porfirio Díaz sought to develop in his country. The detailed renderings of multiple areas of progress give indications of sustained development; examples include real and projected railroads, extensive telegraph lines, a developed system of roads, and steamship lines to Europe and the United States. The map also served Owen’s interest, as well, and he probably created it more for his own use than as a tribute to Díaz, as is indicated by the fact that all names of minerals, natural resources, produce, etc., are in English and printed in red. Nevertheless, this map would have neatly served both purposes.

     Railroad projector and colonizer Owen (b. 1847) was a native of Chester, Pennsylvania, but passed his youth in Robert Owen’s New Harmony colony in Indiana, where he was imbued with idealistic principles he sought to establish in Mexico. Albert and his older brother, by their father’s arrangement, were orderlies to the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War, took a trip through Apache and Navajo country, and spent over a year traveling through Europe, mostly on foot. Albert was a mathematician and engineer, working both in railroad construction and as a city planner in Pennsylvania and Colorado. In early 1872, he was hired by William J. Palmer and William J. Rosencrans to survey Mexico’s west coast. There he encountered the present-day area of Topolobampo, on the Pacific coast in Sinaloa. Immediately grasping the many advantages of a settlement there, he made plans to construct a railroad from New York to that terminus and to found a colony. Díaz soon cooperated with his scheme and in 1881 gave him permission to proceed with his plans. Owen’s business, the Texas, Topolobampo, and Pacific Railroad, floated bonds and raised money both for the railroad and for a colony.

     Owen intended his colony to be an idealistic, communitarian society with all things owned in common and governed by what he termed “Integral Co-operation.” In 1889, several hundred colonists arrived at the site, where they were met with somewhat unfavorable conditions and a certain degree of disorganization. The following year, Owen himself arrived, but conditions did not improve. Attempts by some colonists to settle elsewhere were thwarted by obstacles such as a lack of a dependable water supply for agriculture and drinking. Proper financing for the enterprise was lacking. By the early 1890s, dissatisfaction with the colony caused it to go into decline, and by the end of the century it was totally gone. The railroad, on the other hand, proved more viable, and by 1909 the Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient Railway Company had finished a line to Topolobampo.

     This map reflects Owen’s grand plans as they were developing on the ground. The colony at Topolobampo (named González City) is indicated, and the railroad runs from Galveston almost to La Junta. The rest of the projected route is indicated by a blue watercolor line, as the key indicates. This production is a classic example of the use of maps as a primary element in the schemes of many nineteenth-century emigration agents, speculators, and railroad promoters, designed to lure population to their little corner of the world and to ensure financial success for their plans. For more on Owen and his utopian-entrepreneurial schemes, see Robert S. Fogarty, All Things New: American Communes and Utopian Movements, 1860-1914. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2003).


Sold. Hammer: $2,400.00; Price Realized: $2,880.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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