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Mexican-American War Pocket Map—“Very Rare” (Rumsey)

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362.     [MAP]. SINCLAIR, T[homas S.] (lithographer). Map of Mexico Showing the Seat of War [lower right below neat line] Lith: of T. Sinclair 79 So. 3rd. St. Philadelphia. Philadelphia, n.d. [1846?]. Lithograph map with original hand coloring (Mexico in brown, borders of Texas and U.S. in bright rose, map border yellow), showing railroad routes from San Francisco to New Orleans and Napoleon, Arkansas, neat line to neat line: 48.5 x 45.5 cm; overall: 49.5 x 47 cm. Folded into pocket covers, 12mo (15.5 x 9.5 cm), original elaborately embossed purple cloth covers (faded to brown), lettering on upper cover: Map of Mexico Showing the Seat of War. Washed, stabilized and backed with archival tissue, fold tears consolidated, a few small voids, minor staining at upper and lower left blank areas of map. Covers faded. Fair copy only, but comparable to the Rumsey copy described below.

     First edition? Rumsey 5536: “Very rare map with no reference to it found in any of the normal bibliographies. The date is estimated… The map has been distorted severely with San Francisco much too far east. Napoleon, Arkansas, now defunct, according to Baldwin and Thomas’ Gazetteer of 1854, was the capital of Desha County. It was situated on the Mississippi at the mouth of the Arkansas. The population was about 1,000 people, and steamboats ran three times a week to Little Rock. Why it was placed so prominently on the map is unknown. Perhaps it was vying to be a terminus for the railroad.” Not in Day (Maps of Texas), Garrett & Goodwin (The Mexican-American War), Phillips (America), Tutorow, Wheat (Transmississippi West), etc. We found copies at Huntington (Wagner copy) and Yale (Sterling Library, with Beinecke bookplate).

     No real battles are shown on this imprecise map, although a mysterious battlefield is indicated west of Laredo. This suggests that it may have been rushed to press to pander to the Manifest Destiny-obsessed masses hungry for war news. The map is fascinating for its inaccuracies, some of which Rumsey notes above. Texas is shown in a fairly warped configuration, as is western California. In the former case, the southeast coastline and the Rio Grande are compressed northward, and the Big Bend area is completely nonexistent. Texas pretensions to a western border of the Rio Grande are outlined in pink, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, is shown as a border town. Otherwise, the detail of southeast Texas is quite good. In the case of California, little detail is shown except for the area around San Francisco, which is compressed too far to the east, apparently to fit the exigencies required by the size of the lithographic stone. On the other hand, parts of Mexico are shown quite accurately, especially central Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, and Chihuahua.

     One curious feature of this map is the depiction of two fanciful railroad routes to San Francisco, one of which originates in New Orleans, and the other of which originates in Napoleon. At the time, the latter was a somewhat important river port at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers. The two routes shown are totally impractical and not based on any geographical reality.

     Scottish lithographer Thomas Sinclair, active between 1839 and 1889, studied lithography in Edinburgh and other European cities. After coming to the United States, he won Franklin Institute prizes for his lithographic work in the 1840s and 1850s, and later for his chromolithography. Peters (American on Stone, p. 369) comments: “While Sinclair did not get started with the interesting early group that were active from 1830 on into the 1840 period, nevertheless there is a very refreshing variety to all his work; also, it has a certain crisp touch that raises it above many. While he is not one of the outstanding figures, nevertheless his work has real interest…. To a certain degree he had the news sense of Nathaniel Currier.” See Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, revised edition, Vol. IV, p. 166. See also: Peter C. Marzio, Chromolithography 1840-1900: The Democratic Art… (Boston: Godine & Amon Carter Museum, 1979), pp. 31-33.


Sold. Hammer: $4,000.00; Price Realized: $4,800.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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