American Republic, 1863

American Republic,1863
Geo. W. Colton, Author
John A. Atwood, Engraver
W.S. Barnard, Engraver
W.S. Barnard, Border Design
18 Beekman Street, New York, New York, 1863
engraved and lithographed wall map on two joined sheets
Unrestored original condition
crackling, water stains, wear visible in many areas of the map without interfering with the overall graphic impression of a geographic and pictorial composition
40 × 40 inches
Sale Status: 
For Sale

This image rich wall map is an example of pictorial, political and decorative mapmaking. Consisting of two, large joined panels, this wall map functions at several levels. The first is as a detailed, colored map of the continental United States. The second is as a historic and patriotic engraving in the bottom panel  that shows the July 4, 1776 Signing of the Declaration of Independence, alluding to John Trumbull's monumental painting hung in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in 1826.  This scene is flanked by small engraved portraits of the Presidents of the United States including a young Abraham Lincoln. The third theme is the political success of the new American Republic witnessed by  the portraits of its duly elected Presidents. A dense decorative border with vignettes of scenes from coast to coast surrounds the map weaving this scenic imagery into one eloquent composition that expresses America's Manifest Destiny.

Unlike earlier traveler's maps or atlas maps of the United States, the 1863 American Republic is a decorative map that strikes a patriotic pose in the middle of the politically stressful American Civil War. The map's imagery covers land and sea: the trail of the U.S. Pony Express Route, the overland mail route, the Union Pacific Railroad with other transcontinental lines and merchant ships in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans flying their flags and plying the waves. The map also includes a portion of Central America and the Caribbean regions. A fierce American Eagle sits astride the map's title block. Guarded beneath its strong wings are scenes of burgeoning American industry. As importantly, the Eagle's fierce gaze is also directed towards the Signers of the Declaration of Independence to make the connection between their legacy of a stable democracy that gave rise to the American Presidents shown in portrait and to the power of the thriving American Republic.

Information for public consultation and use appears on the map as tables: sailing distances between major port cities, the 1860 U.S. Census, etc.  The decorative vignettes of both American and Mexican locales and important public buildings that surround the central map illustrate two themes: the greatness of the American Republic and the ongoing fulfillment of its Manifest Destiny. Within the elaborate grape and vine border typical of Colton's highly artistic maps are labeled vignettes of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Cathedral of the City of Mexico, Mexicans Catching Wild Cattle, major American battle monuments, rafters at Willamette Falls, Oregon, the settlement with its American flag at Astoria, Oregon, Saratoga Lake, New York and the Valley of the Connecticut from Mt. Holyoke. Within the map itself is imagery of early American historic events, including the meeting of the Pilgrims with Native Americans, whaling scenes, and the first route to California and the Pacific Ocean. The displacement of Native American Tribes and seizing by the American Republic of native lands is expressed as part of the new paradigm of a Coast to Coast American Republic.

The Declaration of Independence is not shown in this map in a legible format. The viewer might well have been familiar with the 19th century Trumbull print  of a facsimile example of the Declaration of Independence itself. Another beautiful 19th century example of the Declaration of Independence was published in broadside by Prentiss Whitney, Boston and stereotyped by The Boston Bewick Company. For a scholar's discussion of the interplay of 19th century political history, text and imagery pertaining to Trumball's painting and broadsides of the Declaration of Independence as interpreted by contemporaries, please see, John Bidwell, "American History in Image and Text", Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, 1989.

Published by Phelps & Watson at a time of great uncertainty  about the outcome of the U.S. Civil War and the nation's fate, this  scarce 1863 map of America is rich with allegory that we read differently than those for whom the outcome of the Civil War was not known.  President Lincoln, a small pictorial presence among the grander imagery of this map,  presides over America's destiny and the mandate to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence.  Such imagery  could only give confidence to the 1863 viewer of American Republic that the Union cause in the ongoing Civil War should and could be won.

Please see the Osher Map Library for a related 1860 Phelps & Watson map titled New Map of the United States.

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