First SA Mitchell Map to show Idaho Territory
Samuel Augustus Mitchell Jr.'s 1864 "Map of Oregon, Washington and Part of Idaho" is a masterful representation of the Northwestern United States at a time of considerable territorial change and exploration.
One of the most notable aspects of this map is the depiction of the newly created Idaho Territory. The map presents Idaho in its original, oversized configuration, extending far beyond its present-day boundaries to include what would later become the western parts of the territories of Wyoming and Montana. This vast, sprawling territory, as it appears on the map, reflects the initial optimism and ambition of the period, before practical considerations led to the carving up of Idaho into smaller, more manageable territories.
The evolution of Idaho Territory is an interesting case study in the fluidity of boundaries in 19th-century America. Initially established by Congress in 1863, Idaho originally encompassed all of present-day Montana and most of Wyoming. However, the discovery of gold in Montana led to a population boom in the northern part of the territory, and in 1864, just a year after its creation, Idaho was dramatically reduced in size with the formation of the Montana Territory. Similarly, the creation of the Wyoming Territory in 1868 further diminished Idaho's borders to their current configuration.
In addition to the fascinating representation of Idaho Territory, the map also details early routes of exploration, military roads, towns, forts, rivers, lakes, mountains, mines, Indian lands, early counties, and other important features. The inclusion of these elements reveals the map's dual purpose as both a political document and a practical tool for settlers, explorers, and military personnel.
The early routes of exploration and military roads traced on the map offer glimpses into the pioneering movements of the time. These include the paths taken by fur traders, gold prospectors, and soldiers, all contributing to the gradual unveiling and settlement of the American West.
Another striking feature of the map is its depiction of Indian lands, a sobering reminder of the original inhabitants of these territories. The map also provides insight into the region's rich natural resources, with the locations of mines and mountain ranges indicating areas of mineral wealth.
Samuel Augustus Mitchell Jr. inherited the Mitchell Company from his father in 1860. For over thirty years, the company had specialized in the production of school atlases and wall maps of America. They were one of the pioneers on engraving on steel plates. In 1860, Samuel Jr. released the New General Atlas, which had been compiled in house and replaced a previous atlas by Tanner. The elder Mitchell died in 1868 and Samuel Jr. continued the business until the 1890s. At its height, the Mitchell Company employed 250 people and sold 400,000 publications annually.