The First Large Map of Texas to show all of Texas to the Arkansas River (Streeter)
David Burr's map of Texas, one of the two most important maps of Texas on the eve of its independence.
The Burr map of Texas is the first large scale map of Texas, as distinguished from a general map, to show all of Texas to the Arkansas River and also includes all of the Texas Panhandle.... The Burr map, like the Austin map, is one of the landmarks of Texas cartography" (Streeter).
The significance of Burr’s landmark map of Texas cannot be underestimated. Burr’s "early map of Texas remains a standard view of the area on the eve of the Revolution" (Contours of Discovery), and greatly increased emigration to the area. As noted in Martin & Martin:
Anglo-Americans in the early decades of the nineteenth century reacted quickly to the opportunities to settle in the rich lands made available to them through empresario contracts in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. Stephen F. Austin's 1830 map of Texas, showing his two grants and one to Green DeWitt, aroused great interest in Texas, both on the part of potential settlers as well as in the American government itself.
In 1833, the Geographer to the United States House of Representatives, David H. Burr, updated Austin's earlier effort with a new map of Texas showing seventeen land grants. … With the inclusion of the new land grants, his map documented the explosion of immigration into Texas.
The following is excerpted from the description of the Frank Holcomb copy of the 1833 edition of Burr's map, written for the Texas General Land office:
Burr’s map depicts new additions to the empresario colonies in Texas. He delineates Texas as its own entity, despite it being part of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. The map shows grants in the Texas Panhandle, a “Grant to the Shawnee Indians” on the Red River, and a navigational chart of Galveston Bay.
David H. Burr (1803–1875) worked extensively as a cartographer, topographer, and surveyor. He was named Topographer to the U.S. Post Office in 1832. Around 1838, he became the Geographer to the House of Representatives of the United States. He subsequently served as state surveyor for Florida and then for Louisiana, as Geographer to the United States Senate, and finally, as the first surveyor general of the Utah Territory.
The empresario colonies of Texas, grants contracted between individuals and the Mexican government to bring settlers into Texas, are shown as color-shaded regions with accompanying text. Information includes the name of the various colonies, the date of the grant, and the number of families to be included. The Dominguez and Padilla & Chambers grants shown in the panhandle are examples of unsuccessful colonization projects — Dominguez failed to introduce any families before his contract expired, and the Padilla & Chambers grant was found to be located outside of Mexican territory.
The shape of Texas on Burr’s map may look unfamiliar to viewers today, as portions of modern-day Texas are part of the Mexican states of Santa Fe, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila. Several key features are recognizable, however. The Red River on the northern border and the Sabine River on part of the eastern border separates Texas from the United States, and the Rio Grande (Rio del Norte or Rio Bravo) is prominently shown winding through Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas. Several towns are placed, including Bexar, San Felipe de Austin, Gonzalos [sic], Galiod or Bahia [sic], and Nacogdoches, the latter appearing to be written in by hand subsequent to the map’s printing.
In the northeastern area of Texas alongside the Red River, a small grant is noted for the Shawnee Indians. GLO records indicate that the Shawnee petitioned for a land grant in 1824. The petition was routed through several levels of the Mexican government and eventually recommended for approval after the correct location for the site was determined.
A plan of Galveston Bay appears in the lower left corner of the map. The inset includes labels of various features, including Galveston Island, Pelican Island, the San Jacinto River, Buffalo Bayou, and the town of Anahuac, as well as depths at points throughout the bay. The chart was made by Alexander Thompson of the Mexican Navy in 1828.
The 1834 Edition
In this 1834 edition, Burr for the first time shows Texas extending west to about the 106th meridian and north to the Arkansas River, wheras the prior editions up to 1833 show Texas extending west only to the 103rd meridian.
Another significant difference is along the Sabine River, which has apparently been re-surveyed south of Natchitoches, with Cantonment Jessop located and a note identifying the point 100 miles up river from Sabine Lake, The course of the Sabine has been significantly modified.
Among the other significant differences in the two maps are:
- Addition of the Wilson & Exeter Grant
- Addition of the Trader's Road from St. Louis to Santa Fe
- Zavalla's Grant extends further north on the 1834 edition
- Details are added for the Stephen F. Austin Grant of November 20, 1827 - 100 families
- Beal's Grant is added
- A Table of Distances is added above the Galveston Bay Inset
- The reference to Chihuahua to the right of the Galvenston Bay inset is removed
- The Beal's & Grant's Grant of 1832 is added
- The City of S. Fernandes P(opulation) 2800, Peotas P(opulation) 2200, S. Juan and Morilas are added south of the Rio Del Norte and southwest of Presidio de Rio Grande and several additional towns and populations are added further south
- Aransaso Inlet is added above Copano on the coastline
- San Patrick is added on the Nueces River
- Corpus Christi and Aranzas Inlets are added
- Sounding details are added at the mouth of several rivers
- Williams is added on the Trinity River
- Altascacello appears east of Williams
- Taylor's Bayou is added west of Sabine Lake
- Ballou appears on the Sabine River
OCLC locates only 3 copies of the 1834 edition of the map (Yale, Harvard, Texas State Archives).
We note no examples of the 1834 edition of the map at auction going back more than 50 years. By contrast, we note 4 examples of the 1833 edition of the map reported at auction in the past 50 years. (Source: Rarebookhub.com )
David H. Burr studied law, passing the New York Bar Exam, and then surveying under Simeon DeWitt in New York. His first atlas was an atlas of New York State (1829), the second state atlas to be issued in the US (after Mills’ Atlas of South Carolina in 1826). In the 1830s, he served as the official topographer for the US Post Office, producing a series of rare and highly sought-after large-format state maps. He also created a map of the country’s postal routes, which features roads, canals, and railroads. Burr traveled to London to work with John Arrowsmith; together, they produced the American Atlas in 1839.
Upon his return to the States, Burr was appointed as a draftsman for the House of Representatives, where he worked until ca. 1841. He later worked for the Louisiana Survey and the Florida Survey. By 1850, he was back in Washington D. C., working on the census. In 1852, the Senate named Burr as the draftsman to compile maps from the Federal Surveys. In 1853, Burr traveled to San Francisco, perhaps as part of his work for the Senate. He was then named as the Surveyor General of Utah in 1855. However, he was unpopular there and returned to Washington D. C. by 1870. Burr is widely regarded as one of the most important names in the nineteenth-century American history of cartography.