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“The best general map of the American West published by the Topographical Engineers until the Emory and Warren maps of 1857”—Rumsey

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367.     [MAP]. UNITED STATES. ARMY. CORPS OF TOPOGRAPHICAL ENGINEERS. Map of the United States and Their Territories between the Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean; And Part of Mexico. Compiled in the Bureau of the Corps of Topogl. Engs. under a Resolution of the U.S. Senate. From the Best Authorities which could be Obtained. 1850. Engraved by Sherman and Smith, New York. [Washington, D.C.: Corps of Topographical Engineers, 1851]. Copper-engraved map of the Transmississippi West and Northern Mexico, on two joined sheets, neat line to neat line: 107 x 98 cm. Except for slight wrinkling, very fine. Matted, framed, and under Plexiglas. Not examined outside frame. Very rare in commerce.

     First edition. This is a separately issued map and was not published with a book or government report. Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 158-159. Graff 4302 (John R. Bartlett’s copy, sectioned and mounted on linen). Holliday 1114. Rumsey 5142: “ A large and imposing production, the map shows the new political divisions of California, Utah and New Mexico and is engraved in the best style by the well known Sherman and Smith firm of New York.” Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 279: “At mid-century the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers published a composite map of the trans-Mississippi West which graphically summarized their geographical knowledge of the regions.” Streeter Sale 3880. Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region #177. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West #696, Vol. III, pp. 110-113, in Chapter XXVI, “Maps of Personal Experience, 1850-1852”; plate opposite p. 110 (detail):

The onset of the Gold Rush in 1848-1849, with the resultant intense concentration of the commercial mapmakers on California, tends to obscure what is increasingly apparent as the 1850s come in, that truly pioneering maps by the commercial cartographers are an ever more rare occurrence. The dominant role in advancing geographical knowledge is now assumed by the United States government, with a few outstanding contributions by individuals still working in the West’s old and honored cartographic tradition.

An enlightening beginning may be made by examining the beautiful “Map of the United States and Their Territories between the Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean, and Part of Mexico…,” compiled in the Topographical Bureau under the orders of the Senate, and ostensibly published in 1850, though it could not have gone to the engravers, Sherman and Smith of New York, until early in 1851…. On this single map we find a synthesis of the many and varied cartographic activities of the U.S. Army carried on in the West since the onset of the Mexican War, with numerous individual maps subjected to correction and enhanced by new data. In the Southwest we find depicted old and new roads to Santa Fe, the thickly settled valley of the Rio Grande, the Navajo country, and the southern routes to California…. Farther to the north, the Frémont-Preuss maps of 1845 and 1848 were fully utilized, especially their major contributions regarding the Great Basin and adjacent regions…. The map is interesting in the Pacific northwest, where it synthesized the work of Wilkes and Frémont…. The Wilkes map is updated by the addition of Dalles and Oregon City to Astoria among the Oregon settlements, and there is a very striking advance in the coast river geography of Oregon and California—an advance so marked as to raise puzzling questions about the source of the data.

The Rogue River appears in its proper position as a separate stream, no longer confused with the Klamath…. The present Smith River appears on the map, perhaps for the first time as such, and below it the Klamath is correctly shown entering the Pacific in California, with the Trinity a southern fork…. The Central Valley [of California] is enriched by all the new cartography of the mapmakers who had roamed the region since 1848; and there are many new and interesting towns located…. Also notable is the forthright showing of unnamed Humboldt Bay and “Mendocino or Eel R.” on the coast, with the new towns Humboldt and Union Town….

Much more could be said in description of this map, but we must be content to mention its showing of the West’s new political subdivisions, Oregon, Texas, and the Indian Territory we should have expected to find on it, as well as the State of California and the territories of Utah and New Mexico, all of which came into existence September 9, 1850, but a surprise is the application of the name Nebraska, the Dakotas, and much of present Wyoming and Montana—Nebraska Territory was not created until 1854.

The best analysis of the cartographic work of the U.S. Army Topographical Engineers in the West and the Mexican-American War is: William H. Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West, 1803-1863, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1991.


Sold. Hammer: $3,600.00; Price Realized: $4,320.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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