British Land Speculation in New Mexico?
Rare early map of New Mexico Territory, lithographed in London by Whiteman, Hicks & Whiteman.
New Mexico is colored showing early counties, with the earliest proposed railroads illustrated, including a line from El Paso to Colorado (with a spur running to Santa Fe) and and Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe line running across the top of the map. Many early roads and proposed roasd are also located, along with several "Water holes." Fort Sumner is shown, listed as "sold".
The first of the General Land Office township surveys are shown, but far from complete, with divisions outlined as follows:
- Military Reservations (pink)
- Indian Grants (blue)
- Private Grants confirmed and surveyed (brown)
We suspect the map was likely associated with the solicitation of British investors. As noted in the Appendix to Land Grant Speculation in New Mexico during the Territorial Period (p. 934-935)
Spanish and Mexican land grants, with extensive resources in timber, minerals, and rangelands, proved attractive investments. A flood of investment in New Mexico, accommodated by railroad extensions in the late nineteenth century, involved a variety of legal and extralegal tactics of land speculators to consolidate titles to the vast community land grants spread through the northern stretches of the Territory . . .
William Blackmore was one of the first to employ this tactic. As early as 1872, Blackmore was soliciting investors in grants he claimed either to partly own, or could acquire with sufficient capital. In one such solicitation, Blackmore offered five grants for investment, including the Maxwell, Mora, Cebolla, and Los Luceros Land Grants. In his sales pitch, he described the unusual investment potential that New Mexico offered British investors:
An interest in either of these properties can not be acquired for a few shillings an acre, whilst I believe that from the rapid development and opening up of the country by means of Railways now in course of construction, the price now paid will be tripled and quadrupled and in some cases increased tenfold in the course of a few years. As a rule, large tracts of land in a body are only rarely met with in the United States and in almost all cases the title to these large tracts of land is derived from an early French, Spanish or Mexican Grant made prior to the acquisition of these portions of the territory by the United States Government.
We note only the examples in the Huntington Library and Museum of New Mexico Library.