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American Southwest, Texas and Plains Section of Arrowsmith's Map of North America

One section of Aaron Arrowsmith's map of North America, one of the seminal maps for the early history of the Transmississippi West.

The map extends from the lower Missouri River (with just a bit of the Mississippi River north of St. Louis Shown) to Vermillion Bay on the coast of Louisiana, to Mission San Gabriel and Point Loma in Southern California, including all or most of Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas.

The present section is 1 sheet from an example of Arrowsmith's map is the second 1802 edition (6th State overall). This is the first state after the state of Arrowsmith's map which was brought on the expedition and consulted by Lewis & Clark at various points in the first leg of their journey in search of the headwaters of the Missouri. Three journal entries of Merriwether Lewis in early June 1805 specifically reference the expeditions attempts to reconcile the contents of the Arrowsmith map with the information provided by the local Indians, in order to determine which of the branches of the Missouri might provide the best possible portage through the Rocky Mountains.

The 1st and 2nd 1802 Editions of Arrowsmith's Map

The additions and corrections present in the fifth and sixth states of the map, coming from Peter Fidler and the Hudson Bay Company, were the result of Fidler's extensive contacts with the indigenous tribes on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and contributed greatly to the geographical knowledge of the region prior to the return of Lewis & Clark in 1806. The information was transmitted through the Hudson's Bay Company channels back to England and very quickly delivered to Arrowsmith, who was then the primary mapmaker for the HBC.

The map renders a depiction of the Rocky Mountains and the sources of the Missouri River, which must have originated with Indian sources, including those taken from Peter Fidler's reports to the Hudson Bay Company and other sources not identified.

On this sheet, there are two major changes which were not present on the 5th state of the map. First, there are two notes at the northernmost part of the Rocky Mountains, the first stating "Hereabouts the Mountains divide into several low Ridges" and "Pearl Shell Lake is here About according to the Indian Accounts nearly 100 Miles long S.W. and N.E. The Water is Brackish."

Second, the various unnamed rivers shown north of Teguayo and Taos are extended much further north than in the 5th state.

These changes are most likely drawn from Fidler.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson owned the 1802 map, as well as an 1802 edition of Arrowsmith's map of the United States. Arrowsmith's 1802 map of North America was the most comprehensive map of the West available to Jefferson and Lewis and it was probably the most important map used in the planning of the expedition and the map which inspired Jefferson's visualization of what would become known as American manifest destiny.

The information on the map also fed Jefferson's misconceptions of western geography, most notably is a depiction of the Rocky Mountains as a single long chain, along with a depiction of source of the Missouri River at the eastern edge of the Rockies, suggesting the prospect of an easy portage across through the mountains.

This is the first time we have ever seen a single sheet of the map offered for sale.

Condition Description
1 Sheet from Arrowsmith's Map of North America, with neatlines added in manuscript.
Aaron Arrowsmith's Map of North America and the Lewis & Clark Expedition, The Map Collector, Spring 1987, pp 16-20; DeVoto, Westward the Course of Empire, p. 328 (1953).
Aaron Arrowsmith Biography

The Arrowsmiths were a cartographic dynasty which operated from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth. The family business was founded by Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), who was renowned for carefully prepared and meticulously updated maps, globes, and charts. He created many maps that covered multiple sheets and which were massive in total size. His spare yet exacting style was recognized around the world and mapmakers from other countries, especially the young country of the United States, sought his maps and charts as exemplars for their own work.

Aaron Arrowsmith was born in County Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith had five premises in his career, most of which were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer.

Through his business ties and employment at the Hydrographic Office, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and others entities. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King.

Aaron Arrowsmith died in 1823, whereby the business and title of Hydrographer to the King passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John. Aaron Jr. (1802-1854) was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and left the family business in 1832; instead, he enrolled at Oxford to study to become a minister. Samuel (1805-1839) joined Aaron as a partner in the business and they traded together until Aaron left for the ministry. Samuel died at age 34 in 1839; his brother presided over his funeral. The remaining stock and copper plates were bought at auction by John Arrowsmith, their cousin.

John (1790-1873) operated his own independent business after his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith Sr., died. After 1839, John moved into the Soho premises of his uncle and cousins. John enjoyed considerable recognition in the geography and exploration community. Like Aaron Jr., John was a founder member of the RGS and would serve as its unofficial cartographer for 43 years. Several geographical features in Australia and Canada are named after him. He carried the title Hydrographer to Queen Victoria. He died in 1873 and the majority of his stock was eventually bought by Edward Stanford, who co-founded Stanford’s map shop, which is still open in Covent Garden, London today.