Colton's Map of the United States of America


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Item#: 60506 price:$12,000.00

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SMITH, John Calvin. Colton's Map of the United States of America. New York: J.H. Colton (Sherman & Smith), 1854. Thirty-six separate sections mounted on linen backing, entire map measures nearly 7 by 5-1/2 feet. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $12,000.

1854 edition of Colton’s landmark steel-engraved wall map of the United States. The manuscript cover label reads, “This map hung on the dining room wall of Schuyler Cottage at Nevis —— , N.Y. The U.S. & Confederate forces— advances & retreats marked by rows of red and black headed pins.”

"Beginning with large wall maps of the United States in 1847, Joseph H. and George W. Colton expanded their operations to include gazetteers and atlases" (Schwartz & Ehrenberg, 273). This large hand-colored steel-engraved wall map is representative of the Colton firm's reputation for producing "the best grade of geographical publications and the most extensive house in America for many years for the manufacture of maps of every kind, atlases, [and] school geographies" (Ristow, 315). It was the Coltons' practice to purchase the copyrights to existing maps, rather than produce the maps themselves. First published by Colton in 1853, this wall map of the United States, a revised version of John Calvin Smith's 1843 map (which in turn relied upon Arrowsmith for the American West), also shows parts of Canada and "a large portion of Texas." Colton probably met Smith though the engraver Samuel Stiles, who provided work to both Smith and Colton. Smith was a charter member of the American Geographical and Statistical Society, the organizational meeting of which in 1851 took place in the rooms of New York map publisher John Disturnell, whose seller's stamp appears on the title cartouche of this particular copy. Smith's map shows township lines and state and county capitols according to the latest U.S. surveys, as well as "lands allotted to the Indian Tribes west of the Mississippi," and "various internal improvements… compiled from surveys and various other authentic sources." Florida and North America appear in separate insets. "Indian Territory and the Great American Desert occupy most of the plains country… Commercial cartographers really had very little to go by in the western area, chiefly Lewis and Clark, Pike, Long, and the Fremont of 1843" (Wheat II, 183-84). The wide ornamental border is decorated with 14 vignettes depicting cityscapes of the country's major cities. At the top is a large engraving of the American eagle, surrounded by 26 stars each containing a state seal, with stars for Wisconsin and Iowa emerging from the background. Railroads are outlined in red, canals in blue. Also indicated is the survey grid-work for the U.S. Land Office Survey. A note following the key states, "when surveyed, the lands are offered for sale at public auction, but cannot be disposed of at a less price of one dollar and a quarter per acre." Ristow, 318. See Wheat 471; Schwartz & Ehrenberg, 273.

An extraordinary cartographic production in fine condition, with intriguing Civil War association.

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