Fine example of this rare 1856 edition of Colton's map of the United States.
This edition includes 2 short-lived western territorial anomalies, the "Unihabited" lands between New Mexico and Chihuahua and the unincorporated block of land between Kansas, Indian Territory and Texas, which would later be split between Kansas.
In the 1850s, J.H. Colton published several separately issued maps of the United States, including his 1-sheet "pocket map edition," the 4-sheet "wall map" edition and this very rare 2-sheet version, which was available either in sheets or dissected and laid on linen (as offered here). The three maps offered one of the most up to date and comprehensive views of the United States and were revised at least annually, often more than once a year, as information flowed in from the early Western Surveys sponsored by the United States Government and as new territories were created and regions opened up to setltement.
The present map shows the region west of the Missisisppi River immediately before the Gadsden Purchase, including the newly formed Washington Territory (1853), Kansas Territory (1854), and Minnesota Territory (1849) and revised configurations for Nebraska Territory and Oregon Territory (which did not gain statehood until 1859). The map is richly updated with the best available information from the west.
The elaborate grapevine borders, including 12 vignettes of various places of interest, Willamette Falls in Oregon, the Capitol Building, an incomplete Washington Monument, Astoria Oregon, Mexicans catching cattle and the valley of Connecticut from Roanoake. While the early editions of the map appear on the market periodically, this mid-1850s example is very rare.
G. W. & C. B. Colton was a prominent family firm of mapmakers who were leaders in the American map trade in the nineteenth century. Its founder, Joseph Hutchins Colton (1800-1893), was a Massachusetts native, born in 1800. Colton did not start in the map trade, rather, he worked in a general store from 1816 to 1829 and then as a night clerk at the United States Post Office in Hartford, Connecticut. By 1830, he was in New York City. That was where he set up his publishing business a year later.
The first printed item with his imprint is dated 1833, a reprint of S. Stiles & Company’s edition of David Burr’s map of the state of New York. He also printed John Disturnell’s map of New York City in 1833. Next, in 1835, Colton published John Farmer’s important maps of Michigan and Wisconsin. Colton’s next cartographic venture was in 1835, when he acquired the rights to John Farmer’s seminal maps of Michigan and Wisconsin. Another early and important Colton work is his Topographical Map of the City and County of New York and the Adjacent Country (1836). In 1839 Colton began issuing his Western Tourist and Emigrant’s Guide, which was originally issued by J. Calvin Smith.
During this first decade, Colton did not have a resident map engraver; he relied upon copyrights purchased from other map makers, most often S. Stiles & Company, and later Stiles, Sherman & Smith. Smith was a charter member of the American Geographical and Statistical Society, as was John Disturnell. This connection would bear fruit for Colton during the early period in his career, helping him to acquire the rights to several great maps. By 1850, the Colton firm was one of the primary publishers of guidebooks and immigrant and railroad maps, known for the high-quality steel plate engravings with decorative borders and hand watercolors.
In 1846, Colton published Colton’s Map of the United States of America, British Possessions . . . his first venture into the wall map business. This work would be issued until 1884 and was the first of several successful wall maps issued by the firm, including collaborative works with D.G. Johnson. From the 1840s to 1855, the firm focused on the production of railroad maps. Later, it published a number of Civil War maps.
In 1855, Colton finally issued his first atlas, Colton’s Atlas of the World, issued in two volumes in 1855 and 1856, but later, in 1857, the work was reduced to a single volume under the title of Colton’s General Atlas, which was published in largely the same format until 1888. It is in this work that George Woolworth (G. W.) Colton’s name appears for the first time.
Born in 1827 and lacking formal training as a mapmaker, G. W. joined his father’s business and would later help it to thrive. His brother Charles B. (C. B.) Colton would also join the firm. Beginning in 1859, the General Atlas gives credit to Johnson & Browning, a credit which disappears after 1860, when Johnson & Browning launched their own atlas venture, Johnson’s New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas . . .which bears Colton’s name as the publisher in the 1860 and 1861 editions.
J.H. Colton also published a number of smaller atlases and school geographies, including his Atlas of America (1854-56), his Illustrated Cabinet Atlas (1859), Colton’s Condensed Cabinet Atlas of Descriptive Geography (1864) and Colton’s Quarto Atlas of the World (1865). From 1850 to the early 1890s, the firm also published several school atlases and pocket maps. The firm continued until the late 1890s, when it merged with a competitor and then ceased to trade under the name Colton.