An Emil Fischer Southwest Colorado Rarity
Rare large format map of Southwestern Colorado, centered on Silverton and covering San Juan, Ouray, San Miguel and Dolores Counties with exceptional detail.
This is the second of two maps by Emil Fischer to cover this region, the first published in 1886, This second map is of tremendous importance, published shortly after the arrival of the railroad and thereby vividly illustrating the rapid changes in this part of Southwest Colorado during its boom period.
The coverage of the two maps is nearly identical, with this 1891 map extending a bit further to the west, reaching Uncapahgre Peak. However, the second map includes significantly more topographical detail and also illustrates the growth of the region, explosive growth of the mines, new towns, The evolution of the two maps can be demonstrated by tracing the route from Leopard Creek at the top left of the two maps to Telluride. In the 1886 map, the Mears Toll Road from Telluride to Montrose is illustrated, via Vogelsangs, Placerville, Wheelers, Sargent, Keystone and San Miguel. In the 1891 map, the same route is now traversed by the Rio Grande Southern Railway, Vogelsangs is replaced by Brown on the far side of Leopard Creek, and at Sargent, the Railroad veers sharply south to the new town of Ilium, before making a U-turn through Vance and continuing on through Keystone and San Miguel to Telluride, all along the way with dramatically improved topography.
The map shows the topography and hydrography of the region in excellent detail, along with the newly arrived Railroads, along with Wagon Roads, Trails, Mines, Mills, Concentrators Blockhouses, Bridges, etc. The heights of many mountains are shown. Includes three inset / Plat maps showing:
- Plat of the Red Mountain mines
- Plat of Mines at Silver Lake Arrastra Basin
- Plat of Newman Hill at Rico
The new railroad lines shown include:
- Denver & Rio Grande Railway
- Rio Grande Southern Railway
- Silverton and Red Mountain Ry.
The details of the map is extraordinary for the period, on scale of 1 inch to 1 mile. The details in Fischer's maps would be unsurpassed for many years and no other map of the region during this period provides as much information. Fischer's copyright notices states:
The author claims Ten years original topographical field work of this section. Silverton, Colorado, May 1891. Sketches from Nature in Pencil, Ink and Watercolors executed by Emil B. Fischer.
As a pairing, the 1886 and 1891 Fischer maps provide a remarkable time line for the growth of the region in these boom years. Fischer's 1886 map can be seen here: https://www.raremaps.com/gallery/detail/28015
This map clearly reflects Fischer's artistic talents and individualism, being carefully hand-drawn, including all text elements, and faithfully lithographed by Rand McNally & Company., thus giving the map a wonderful, almost folk art appearance. During the 1880's and early 1890's, the Red Mountain Mining District was one of the richest and most productive in the world, yielding millions of dollars of silver, gold, lead, and other minerals. The famous Million Dollar Highway from Ouray and Silverton Railroad from Silverton were built to service the mines. County boundaries are colored with mining district boundaries both colored and numbered. Large numbers of named mine sites, mills, towns, and other cultural features are set within a finely drawn hachure network illustrating mountain ranges and stream valleys. Of the several San Juan regional maps produced by Fischer, this was the first to emphasize and capitalize on the frenzy of activity generated by the discovery of rich ore deposits at Red Mountain.
Fischer was a Silverton-based artist and mapmaker active from 1880 to his death in 1898. During the 1880s and early 1890s, the Red Mountain Mining District was one of the richest and most productive in the world, yielding millions of dollars of silver, gold, lead, and other minerals. The famous Million Dollar Highway from Ouray and Silverton Railroad from Silverton were built to service the mines. County boundaries are colored with mining district boundaries both colored and numbered. Large numbers of named mine sites, mills, towns, and other features illustrated with remarkable detail. Fischer produced several San Juan regional maps which during the frenzy of activity generated by the discovery of rich ore deposits at Red Mountain.
The map is exceptionally rare. We note only a single example at auction and no dealer records.
Obituary of Emil Fischer, transcribed from the Montezuma Journal, September 30, 1898
On his arrival from Silverton yesterday evening, Judge Russell informed a Democrat reporter that Emil Fischer, the noted mapmaker and artist, had fallen dead at Silverton just a little while before time for the Durango bound train.
Mr. Fischer had been in the First National bank in that city and had just stepped upon the sidewalk when without a word he fell dead.
A short time ago Mr. Fischer told B. W. Rittler that he was suffering greatly and would have to go to a lower attitude. Mr. Ritter encouraged him to do this and said he would assist him if required. Poor Fischer waited to long; he clung to the mountain heights sketching, to earn money to go on, but alas, this very good and useful man will not be with us to serve the San Juan longer.
Judge Richard McCloud has a letter from Fischer, written on the 17th. It is very pathetic. He said he was then a physical wreck; there had been no sale for his excellent maps recently issued and he expressed the regret that there was so little to do in his line to earn money. He told a sorrowful story of his condition of health.
Fischer had just arrived in Silverton from one of his mountain sketching tours, and probably had little idea of how soon he was to die.
George Freund of the Colorado Armory, knew Prof. Fischer well during the time he lived in San Juan, dating from the early part of 1881. They were quite close friends and the Prof. often discussed his early life with Mr. Freund, who thinks Fischer was born in Saxony, Germany, as his father was for a long time a government survyor for the state of Saxony. In 1872 or '73, Fischer came to America, coming direct from New York to Omaha, where he was employed for two or three years by Keuntz Brothers in mercantile and banking pursuits. Prior to locating in Durango, Fischer visited California and later resided in Denver. When the building of the Rio Grande railway to the San Juan attracted widespread attention, Fischer came to Durango. Since his residence here he has, in his labors to earn a compentency by map making and sketching, rendered the country many valuable services which haved been very poorly paid.
Prof. Fischer was unfortunately one of the great class whom God had richly endowed with talents, but to serve the public for a miserable existence, a pittance now and then and some crumbs.
Fischer was a genius who could have shone in comparison with the world of genius. He was unfortunate not to have a found a niche in his life career which would better have enabled him to his last hours to enjoy life a little longer--Durango Democat.