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An Early John Melish Map of the United States

Nice example of John Melish's scarce early United States, published in Philadelphia.

This important map by the noted American cartographer John Melish is the uncommon and early issue from the Travellers Directory of 1816. This map should not be confused with Melish's more common and nearly identical "United States of America Compiled from the latest & best Authorities" that was published in several editions between 1818 and 1822.

There is at least one date engraved in the map of "Ceded by the Sac & Fox Indians 3. Novr. 1814. This very early edition has the script title in a simple border of interlocking chains. Later editions of the Travellers Directory replaced this map with the later edition mentioned above, which included the flying eagle vignette with a shield above the title.

The map extends west to include all of Louisiana and part of the huge Missouri Territory. It provides a good view of the first 300 miles of the Missouri River based on information from the expeditions of Lewis & Clark, Pike, Humboldt and others. The only state shown west of the Mississippi is Louisiana. Above Louisiana, Missouri has good watershed detail south of the Missouri River, but is blank to the north and labeled "Unexplored Country."

The early territories of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana are noted as well as the North West Ter. that takes in the area that would become Wisconsin and Minnesota. A notation of Yazoo Speculation in the oversized Mississippi Territory refers to the Yazoo Land Fraud perpetrated in 1789-1796 when the region was part of Georgia. Three companies bribed and intimidated a bill through the Georgia assembly that allowed them to purchase millions of acres of land for next to nothing, resulting in a huge public outcry. The bill's supporters were swiftly voted out of power, and Senator James Jackson took office. He vowed to repeal the Yazoo Act if it cost him his life, saying he would repeal it even if he had to shoot everyone involved in passing it. He didn't have to shoot anyone, and the law was rescinded in 1796. The fact it is shown on a map produced many years later attests to the importance attributed to this fraudulent scheme.  

The map would later be re-issued with Geological coloring for  the Transaction of the American Philosophical Society, to accompany William Maclure's Observations on the Geology of the United States, one of the first geological maps of the United States.  

The map is one of the earliest maps to show the newly formed Alabama Territory and identifies a massive Missouri Territory, west of the Mississippi River. Indiana is directly below Lake Michigan, with Illinois Territory pushed far to the West off Lake Michigan and Chicago shown in Indiana.

Nice Indian detail throughout the newly formed Northwestern Territories and in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

The map is quite scarce on the market, this being the first example we have handled in 20 years.  An earlier state exists, pre-dating the creation of Alabama Territory.

Condition Description
Several repaired fold splits.