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A Manifest Destiny Map - One of the Earliest Maps of The United States Extending To The Pacific Ocean

Fine example of John Thomson's coast to coast map of the United States, published in Edinburgh in 1820.

Thomson's map of the US is one of the earliest obtainable English language maps to show the United States from Coast to Coast, reflecting the information derived from the expeditions of Lewis & Clark, Zebulon Pike, John Long, Alexander von Humboldt, Alexander MacKenzie and other early explorers of the Transmississippi West. The map provides both an early snapshot of "Manifest Destiny" and an insightful look at just how little was understood about the great expanse of land which would become California and the American West, just 29 years prior to the California Gold Rush.

Beginning around 1820, Thomson expanded his map of the United States to include the region west of the Mississippi River, extending to the Pacific Ocean. The detail in the Transmississippi West is truly outstanding, including the details of Lewis & Clark's expedition, Pike and Long's explorations to the Rocky Mountains and information from other western explorers. Several of the routes through the Rocky Mountains are shown, as is excellent detail in Texas and the Missouri Valley regions. Most notable is the location in California of the "supposed course of a river" which Wheat notes "extends . . . from a Salt Lake (Laguna de Miera) to San Francisco Bay, while the (unnamed) Multnomah flows from Lake Timpanogos and its headwaters nearly touch those of the "Rio Nanesi or Napese" (the Arkansas) and the Rio Grande.

The map emphasizes the progress of the exploration of the American West. Most of the States to the east of the Mississippi River are firmly established, although, Illinois is still shown as a Territory and the region to the west of Lake Michigan is designated "Northwest Territory". Most of the Louisiana Purchase lands are now called "Missouri Territory," with the map depicting in great detail the river systems and finely hachured mountain ranges. Further west, pre-dating the epic surveys of Fremont, much of the interior of California is left blank.


The map appeared in a scarce late edition of Thomson's Atlas and rarely appears on the market.

Wheat 320.
John Thomson Biography

John Thomson (1777-ca. 1840) was a commercial map publisher active in Edinburgh. He specialized in guide books and atlases and is primarily known for his Atlas of Scotland (1832) and the New General Atlas, first published in 1817 and reissued for the next quarter century. The New General Atlas was a commercial success—it was also published in Dublin and London—and it compiled existing geographic knowledge in compelling ways for a wide audience.

His Atlas of Scotland introduced new geographic information and was the first large-scale atlas of Scotland to be organized by county. It provided the most-accurate view of Scotland available before the Clearances. Work on the atlas began in 1820 and led to Thomson’s bankruptcy in 1830 due to the high costs of gathering the latest surveys and reviewing the required materials. Despite the publication of the atlas, Thomson declared bankruptcy again in 1835.