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Description

One of the Finest Early Maps of The Missouri Valley & American Plains

Nice example of this remarkable map illustrating the account of the travels of Prince Alexander Phillip Maximilian, of Wied's, in the Plains and Rocky Mountain regions, in the early 1830s.

This extraordinary map charts one of the greatest 19th Century journeys of American discovery, documenting the expedition of Prince Maximilian of Wied and the young Swiss Artis Karl Bodmer, through the American West & Plains, between 1832 and 1834. Maximilian of Wied's account of his travels in the American West with fur trappers, is one of the most important ethnographical works of the period. His description of the Indian Tribes along the Missouri River is of extraordinary importance, occurring shortly before most of the Tribes of the region were decimated by a smallpox epidemic, which had nearly wiped out entirely, populations in the Northern Plains by 1840. Moreover, the illustrations by Swiss Artist Karl Bodmer, who accompanied Prince Maximilian of Wied on his expedition, are generally regarded as the most important contemporary graphical depiction of the West in first half of the 19th Century.

This seminal travel account included a remarkable large scale, highly detailed map, which extends west to the Rocky Mountains and provides one of the best delineations of the Missouri River and Upper Mississippi River watersheds, along with the Great Lakes. The map includes large insets of the Missouri River and Mississippi River, along with a striking cartouche, showing an elaborate scene of Native Americans hunting buffalo on horseback.

The Prince's map can be tracked back to a copy of a map "of the course of the Missouri, by Lewis and Clark, on a large scale," given to the Prince by Major Benjamin O'Fallon. Major O'Fallon was William Clark's nephew, who had joined Clark on the frontier in 1808. Major O'Fallon would become one of the most prominent Indian Agents in the west and an important member of Stephen Long's Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1819-1820. O'Fallon was one of the most experienced and knowledgeable travelers in the region between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains in the 25 years following the Louisiana Purchase. The map and information he passed on to Prince Maximilian would have included significant improvements and updates available to him during his long service in the Transmississippi West.

The Prince is believed to have made significant additions and corrections to the map provided to him by Major O'Fallon. These additions and corrections are almost certainly incorporated into the present map, which illustrates not only Maximilian's expedition, but also Stephen Long's route of 1819-1820 along the Arkansas River to Colorado and the route taken by J.R. Bell, leading a detachment from the main Long Expedition, on the same trip. Wheat refers to the map as "an excellent map" and "a beautiful piece of engraving."

The identity of the maker of Prince Maximlian's map has been a subject matter of some dispute. Early writers, including Carl Wheat, have written that Karl Bodmer himself was the author of the map. However, in recent times, the source of the map has been determined to be Lt. Col. (later Sir) William Thorn, who utilized H.S. Tanner's 1837 Map of the United States of North America, as his base map.

Prior to his travels to the western parts of North America, Prince Maximilian, a disciple of Alexander Von Humbolt, was already a well respected naturalist, who previously had researched Brazil's Indian tribes, plants and animals. Prince Maximilian travelled first to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburg, beginning in July 1832, before turning westward. The Missouri River portion of the expedition commenced from St. Louis in March 1832, with the party travelling up the Missouri River on the American Fur Company steamboat "Yellowstone," stopping at forts built by the Company and meeting their first Indians at Bellevue. The travelers continued on another steamboat, "Assiniboin," to Fort Union, where they met the Crees and Assiniboins. They wintered at Fort Clark, then continued by keelboat to Fort Mackenzie, the Westernmost point of the expedition. After visiting the Blackfeet for several weeks, Maximilian returned using a southward route, reaching St. Louis in May 1834.

The production of Prince Maximilian's travel account would take an additional 5 years, before the final publication of his Reise in das Innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834 . . . in Coblenz (1839-41), a work which is now highly sought after by collectors.

Condition Description
Several minor fold splits, repaired on verso. Old tape repair on verso. Minor toning.
Reference
Wheat #445; Rumsey #3839; Allan, Northern American Exploration, Vol III, pp 181-83; Checklist of printed maps of the Middle West to 1900, 1-1530.