The 1873 edition of Colton's Georgetown and The City of Washington, The Capital of the United States of America, is an exceptional exemplar of 19th-century cartography, offering a vivid, hand-colored depiction of the burgeoning capital city, replete with large vignettes of iconic landmarks such as the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Institution.
This map serves as a window into the urban landscape of mid-19th-century Washington D.C., an era marked by significant growth and development in the United States' capital. During this period, Washington D.C. was evolving into a center of political power and cultural significance, with key government buildings, military facilities, and hospitals taking shape alongside its foundational infrastructure. This map, therefore, provides an important historical snapshot of a city undergoing rapid change and emerging as the national symbol that we recognize today.
The map, a creation of the esteemed cartography firm G.W. & C.B. Colton, is distinguished by its striking use of hand-coloring by wards. This technique, while not unique to the map, significantly enhances its aesthetic appeal and its value as a historical document. The deliberate delineation of streets, railroad lines, bridges, and the careful annotation of key buildings and facilities positions it among the most thorough and informative representations of Washington D.C. during this era.
G. W. & C. B. Colton was a prominent family firm of mapmakers who were leaders in the American map trade in the nineteenth century. The business was founded by Joseph Hutchins Colton (1800-1893) who bought copyrights to existing maps and oversaw their production. By the 1850s, their output had expanded to include original maps, guidebooks, atlases, and railroad maps. Joseph was succeeded by his sons, George Woolworth (1827-1901) and Charles B. Colton (1831-1916). The firm was renamed G. W. & C. B. Colton as a result. George is thought responsible for their best-known work, the General Atlas, originally published under that title in 1857. In 1898, the brothers merged their business and the firm became Colton, Ohman, & Co., which operated until 1901, when August R. Ohman took on the business alone and dropped the Colton name.