This scarce edition of Ensigns & Thayer's decorative broadside Ornamental Map of the United States and Mexico, undated, with its large inset map titled Map of the United States and Mexico flanked by two columns of the existing American states 1/, celebrates the 1848 United States victory in the two year Mexican-American War, settled by treaty granting America 55% of Mexico's prewar territory, including California and land that would become New Mexico, Colorado and an expanded Texas.2/ This colorful broadsheet presents America's ultimate coast to coast Western expansion following on the heels of American annexation of Texas in 1845 and the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain in 1846. The broadsheet's profuse imagery expresses America's burgeoning industry and prosperity westward bound and celebrates America's rising status internationally. 3/
The Ornamental Map of the United States and Mexico is composed of at least ten graphic elements in a hierarchy, each created with a separate printing plate that made a three dimensional impression in the paper. Other aspects of the broadsheet are smooth, suggesting the printer's use of multiple techniques. An iconic portrait of George Washington sits at the top center, decorated with two flags, "Justice" and "Liberty", framed with brimming cornucopia and flanked by the seals of the United States and Mexico, his image requiring no subtitle. Generals Scott and Taylor in military dress look on, one straight ahead, the other towards Washington whose portrait expresses the constitutional and civic values of the United States.
Below these portraits are two wide vignettes. The first, framing the top of Map of the United States and Mexico ( 15 1/4" x 14 1/2") a transcontinental expanse of American territory and each admitted state in contrasting colors, a portion of British Columbia to the north, and to the south Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica and a portion of South America is a wide vignette titled "Panoramic View from New York to the Pacific Ocean by the Contemplated Oregon Railroad". This landscape vignette sets the theme of America's ultimate westward geographic goal, a coast to coast nation of independent states. This transcontinental American map is framed below by a political vignette, "An American Exhibiting to the Sovereigns of Europe The Progress of His Country." This political vignette features the large symbolic steam ferry "Union" filled with passengers as it sails forth away from the harbor. The view from the wharf, its cannon now quiet, is of many clipper ships carrying imports and exports. In the nearby hills we see a factory and freight train billowing smoke, in the distance tilled fields, aloft an air balloon and queuing up at the wharf is the audience of the American civilian speaker comprised of the leaders of Europe in full regalia, led by the Queen of England. Each of these monarchs represents a country that has ceded or sold land to the United States now portrayed by the broadsheet's coast to coast national portrait of America.
The hierarchy of the imagery speaks loudly to the theme of the Ornamental Map of the United States and Mexico c. 1851 that America is the subject, and the document's title equally a reference to its aesthetics as to the political theme of the ornamental relationship of the countries that ceded land and political control in North America to the United States. This Boston edition of the Ensigns & Thayer broadsheet, coming after the Mexican American War, represents the settled American claims to North America and celebrates an auspicious and ambitious outlook for America in the second half of the 19th century.
1. I have found one example of this edition of the broadsheet in the David Rumsey Map Collection with curatorial notes dating its publication to 1851 based on the set of Western states admitted to the Union listed in the column to the left of the large inset map. Rumsey indicates there are no references found for this edition.
2.Please see the Office of the Historian of the United States at history.state.gov/milestones/1830-1860/texas annexation for an excellent narrative of American political history and foreign relations during this era, that provides a context for reading this Ensigns & Thayer broadsheet through its many editions.
3. A broadsheet under this title and with different art work was originally published in 1846 during the Mexican American War, and revised graphically after 1848 with several subsequent editions, dated and undated with different copyrights as well.