A New General Chart of the West Indies and the Coast of America, 1840

A New General Chart of the West Indies And the Coast of America, From East FLorida to Guayana, Including the Gulf of Mexico & Bay of Honduras AND The Caribbean Sea, Correctly Drawn From the Lastest English, French and Spanish Surveys. And from Various Original Documents. Corrected 1840.2
J.W. Norie, Author
Black and white engraving
Professionally restored
Professionally cleaned and mounted on archival blue backing. Some staining remains.One missing piece of the chart near right border as found filled with blank archival paper. Chart shows signs of use at sea.
Dimensions: 
48 × 32.25 inches
Sale Status: 
For Sale
Price: 
$4,950.00

In this considerable 1840 undertaking J.W. Norie, Hydrographer published the latest version of his New General Chart of the West Indies and the Coast of America that captures the geography and political identity of what would five years later become the east coast of the American State of Texas.  Florida's southern arm is shown. The commercially important islands of Cuba, Saint Domingo, Bermuda, Porto Rico and what is labeled "Central America" and the north coast of South America are also shown. The waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and Sea of Colon are labeled. Sea depths are noted, shore conditions such as "gravel, ouze and sand"  are identified as well as navigational risks such as rocks or small islands labeled "doubtful". Advice to the mariner includes: "Crooked Island Passage is the safest of the Windward Passages. The most prevalent winds are from the N.E. so soon as you have entered the passage you will have smooth water and good sea room. Should it blow strong from the North or N.N.W you will find good anchorage under the south end of Fortunes Island in 5 or 6 fathoms, 3.4 of a mile from shore. Also at Bird Rock, though there the ground is rocky; wood, water and stock can be obtained." A large fort is shown on Samana or Atwood's Kay, part of Haiti and near Crooked Island.

This scarce chart shows the region during a pivotal time of Texas history. This chart was published while armed battles were fought among pro-slavery ranch owners who had left the United States to purchase land in the Mexican state of Texas, native Tejanos and the Mexican military ruler Santa Anna to settle land rights, political power and the status of slavery under Mexican law. Under Mexico's Constitution, Texas was a safe haven for anyone fleeing slavery from any one of the Caribbean islands. A separate political battle was being waged by major Texas landowners, many of whom had come from the United States to the Mexican state of Texas, later the Independent Republic of Texas to convince the U.S. Congress to provide them with economic protection and political stability by accepting Texas as a State and  permitting slavery to continue.  After nine years (1836 to 1845) the unstable political condition of the Independent Republic of Texas was resolved on December 29, 1845, when the Independent Republic of Texas joined the United States as the 28th state. Texas later seceded and joined the Confederate side during the U.S. Civil War.

Norie's 1840 nautical chart therefore contributes to our understanding of American territorial growth from a maritime point of view and portrays the region at a moment of 19th century political transition, when updates from the latest authorities were essential to navigators engaged in delivery of the mails from England and maritime trade for whom the political lay of the land was as important as marine navigation.

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The Back Room