Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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October 26, 2007

Manifest Destiny Rolls on
Rare Wall Map with California Gold Rush Iconography

104. [MAP]. JOHNSON, D. G[riffing] & A[lvin] J[ewett] Johnson. A New Map of the Union with the Adjacent Islands & Countries, from Authentic Sources. Published by D. G. & A. J. Johnson Trinity Buildings 111 Broadway New-York. 1857 Entered According to Act of Congress in the Year 1856 by D. G. Johnson in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York. New York, 1857 [lower left: untitled inset map of portions of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska]; [vignettes of Sutter’s Saw-Mill; Gold Rocker; Smithsonian Institution; U.S. Capitol; Patent Office]. Lithograph wall map with original black wooden rollers, full hand color, pictorial border with vignettes of famous persons and allegorical figures. Border to border: 109 x 129 cm. Several areas of light to moderate staining, some abrasions and cracks to image area with some small losses. Professionally stabilized and laid down on new cartographical linen, new selvage, and reattached to original rollers. This map is very rare, and like most wall maps, difficult to find in fine condition. Wheat (Mapping the Transmississippi West, Vol. IV, p. 48 & #895) comments that Johnson and Johnson’s maps were doubtless much used as wall hangings in schools. This perhaps accounts for their rarity.

            Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West #925; the one location Wheat gives for the present map is in the Library of Congress. OCLC also locates only the Library of congress copy, and RLIN has no copy. The present map is so little known that the cartobibliographical sequence is difficult to determine. The Library of Congress lists an 1856 map of the same name and approximate dimensions, but LC attributes the map to James P. McLean (see LC online catalogue). McLean is not in Tooley, nor does he seem to have been part of the Johnson & Johnson map enterprise, but rather served as a draftsman in preparing maps of public lands for the U.S. government in the 1850s.

            This large map, with its vignettes of a gold rocker and Sutter’s Mill, reflects the lingering effects of the California Gold Rush. Wheat (Maps of the Gold Region #241 & Mapping the Transmississippi West #789) states that the map on which the Sutter Mill vignette first appeared was Johnson’s Illustrated & Embellished Map and Chart of the New-World (1853). Wheat remarks that the Sutter vignette is “the most notable feature of this map” and indicates that some of the other vignettes found here also first appeared on the 1853 map. Wheat lists only a privately held copy of the 1853 map and does not mention the present map at all in Maps of the Gold Region. D. G. Johnson, as the legend on the Sutter’s Saw-Mill image states, was apparently in California during that exciting time, as the caption here reads: “Drawn on the spot by D. G. Johnson in 1849 & engraved by him in 1853 exclusively for his Map of the New World.” The image seems to be a little-known eyewitness contemporary view of Sutter’s famous mill, where gold was first discovered in California. We have not been able to pinpoint Johnson as being in California in 1849, although a person by the same name attempted to travel to California in 1839 and joined an American Fur Trade Company caravan to Oregon.

                                         This map, however, demonstrates a changed focus, reflected by a greater emphasis on the larger West, as opposed to the Gold Fields of California, by both Johnson and the country at large. For example, the fact that railroad routes are clearly featured, although they are all labelled as “proposed,” helps to illustrate this shift. The critical jumping-off point for overland travel from western Missouri is detailed in the inset, and the large map shows the vast areas of New Mexico, Kansas, Utah, Nebraska, Washington, and Oregon, much larger than the states that would eventually be formed from them.

            This fine map shows the country between the crucial eras of the Gold Rush and the Civil War and embodies the results of the Army’s western explorations. Wheat (Mapping the Transmississippi West Vol. IV, pp. 64-65) specifically comments: “It carries the route of the ‘Proposed Northern Pacific Rail Road,’ coming up the Missouri to the Medicine River, crossing the Rockies by an unnamed pass, and continuing down Clark’s Fork to Fort Colville on the Columbia. There it branches.... Farther south, on Lieutenant Whipple’s 35th parallel route, is a line marking a railroad headed ‘Proposed Central Rail Road to the Pacific’ from the Mississippi to Fort Riley and thence west, near the Santa Fe Trail, to Santa Fe, and due west from there to Walker’s Pass.... Still further south is the ‘Proposed Southern Pacific Rail Road Route’ crossing the Rio Grande north of El Paso, running due west to Tucson, crossing the Colorado near Yuma, which is not named, and branching at San Felipe.... How the cartographers did want to construct railroads!”

            Tooley found the connections among the permutations of the Johnson and Johnson firm so confusing that the editors concluded: “The editors have been unable to clarify the relationship between D. G. Johnson and A. J. Johnson and associated companies.” Tooley does indicate that A. J. Johnson was heavily involved with Colton, and that the two traded maps over the years for their respective publications. ($500-1,000)

Sold. Hammer: $3,200.00; Price Realized: $3,760.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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