Pictorial Map of the United States 1847

Pictorial Map of the United States 1847
J.M. Atwood, Artist
J.M. Atwood, Engraver
New York
color lithograph
Professionally conserved
professionally conserved good condition, complete, highly legible impression, original untouched map colors, paper toned, top margin shows repairs to paper, varnish removed, new linen backing, new silk edges, original wood rods
32 × 44.25 inches
Sale Status: 
For Sale

Ensigns & Thayer's Pictorial Map of the United States 1847 was published when all eyes were on the West.1/ This scarce map is a portrait of the United States on the threshold of its complete national borders. Notably this wall map marks the date one year since the outbreak of the Mexican - American War (1846-1848) and the U.S. Congress' vote (1846) to admit the State of Texas, a slave holding state, as the newest American state. These two political events provided the opportunity for the United States to become a transcontinental nation. Political and geographic novelties abounded: the 1845 United States – Republic of Texas Annexation Agreement, the first of its kind between an independent Republic and the United States; the State of Texas's asserted, expansive territorial boundaries 2/ as shown on this map with Texas' western border crossing an international boundary, namely into Mexico and claiming a disputed portion of Mexican New Mexico, Santa Fe and a section of the Great Spanish trail; and Texas's northernmost "stovepipe" boundary rising along the Arkansas River to the 42nd parallel (above the limits of the Missouri Compromise) to a locus between the Rocky Mountains and Sweetwater Mountains in the unfolding American West.
        On the West coast, Ensigns & Thayer's 1847 map identifies the large region of "Upper or New California" as of 1847 still legally Mexico. Ensigns & Thayer's map also memorializes conditions on the ground: by 1847 New California is occupied by the U.S. Military, who administered local governance in this asserted American jurisdiction over the rapidly increasing population of western emigrants to this region. In the Pacific Northwest, Ensigns & Thayer's 1847 map similarly shows conditions on the ground in "Oregon" to a hatch-lined northern border likely at the 49th parallel, the international boundary set in the 1846 treaty between the U.S. Congress and Great Britain. Cowlitz Farm north of the Columbia River is shown.3/ It was not until 1848 that the U.S. Congress created the Oregon Territory from the former Oregon Country and an elected territorial government was established. 
        What makes this entire wall map "Pictorial" are two national maps drawn and engraved by Atwood and the twelve pictorial vignettes and several images that surround the large United States map. This imagery conveys two kinds of themes:  the first is political geography, mapping a current, and radically new portrait of Mexico and another of the United States on the cusp of fulfilling its transcontinental "Manifest Destiny"; the second theme is America's creation story.  A greatly diminished Mexico is shown in a small inset map with only 45% of its prior national territory. A fully expressed United States is shown on the large map bordered by its international neighbors – Great Britain and Mexico.  Native American tribal names are printed on the map on territorial remnants in the upper mid-west. These Native American lands are surrounded by states or territories of the United States and U.S. Government lands. The wall map uses the title "Indian Territory", a unilateral designation honored more in the breach than observance by the U.S. Congress and private land owners. The designation later ceased to be in late 19th c. maps.    
        The large geographic map of the United States also has literal elements of a traveler's guide. There is a population chart drawn beneath an American Eagle astride a red, white and blue shield decorated with garlands, stars and stripes. The total population, including Texas, is 17,380,267(1840 figures). State population totals do not distinguish "free" or "enslaved" as do some charts of the era. Oregon is last in the list of states but no population figures are given. The nation's segmented railroad network as of 1847 is drawn on the map: the map shows rail lines in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Maryland, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Canals are also drawn. Mountains are drawn and labeled with one mountain singled out: Fremont's Peak  uniquely with its elevation "13,570 ft. high". Historic wagon routes and forts are located and labeled: the Great Spanish Trail from C. Angeles to Santa Fe and the Route of the Santa Fe Caravans among others. Upper California's northern coast shows Yerba Buena. In eastern Upper California, the Great Salt Lake is drawn and labeled and there are no references to Mormons. 4/ To emphasize the new and terra incognita quality of Upper or New California Atwood adds a note on this part of the wall map: "Elevation above the sea between 4 and 5 thousand feet surrounded by lofty mountains : contents almost unknown but believed to be filled with rivers and lakes which have no communication with the sea, deserts and oases which have never been explored, and savage tribes which no traveller has seen or described.'Fremont's Report'."  Gold had not yet been found in California, but the implication of this map note is that treasure awaited those who might emigrate.
        The twelve vignettes and other pictorial elements on the map sheet express America's creation story, America's political philosophy and its democratic institutions.  These vignettes surround the large United States map but not in chronological order. Instead, meaning can be found in both the placement of certain vignettes and in pictorial content. For example, the United States map read as symbol of the new coast to coast nation is supported by a base, the wall map's largest vignette, that depicts while in progress the birth of the nation - America's 48 signers of the Declaration of Independence, gathered on July 4, 1776 in chambers to attest to the world why and by whom America establishes itself as a new nation. There is a key to this multi-figural scene, drawn as a smaller ghost image with a number for each portrait that is accompanied by a facsimile of each signer's signature as it appeared on the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson presents the just signed Declarations to a seated John Hancock. This vignette explains the philosophical foundation of America: a nation created by individuals who voluntarily joined together to promote life, liberty and the individual pursuit of happiness under the law.  For a contemporary viewer, Atwood's map of the coast to coast nation seventy years young attests to the success of this philosophy.
        Flanking the signing of the Declaration of Independence are vignettes of two empty chambers, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. A wide decorative frame containing two figures, a farmer and a blacksmith and oak leaf scrolls frame each chamber. These vignettes express the American political philosophy that a democracy requires institutions of government rather than individuals such as kings or gods. These chambers are the forums to which citizens (at least some citizens) elect their government representatives. A small vignette shows Lady Liberty holding a liberty pole and cap, symbols of personal liberty. Another small vignette shows Justice as a woman in classical robes, sword in hand, with eyes wide open, holding aloft the legal scales of justice and signifying the United States rule of law.
        America's creation story is told pictorially in battles from the American Revolution in 1775 up to the ongoing 1847 war with Mexico. Vignettes of the American Revolution show American Minutemen, citizen soldiers overcoming uniformed British soldiers. The American theme of the citizen soldier, memorialized at the end of the Revolutionary War by the Society of the Cincinnati, finds artistic expression elsewhere in this wall map with matching vignettes on each side of the large United States map.  In one vignette are implements of war and in the other implements of civic life. These large vignettes express the dual role of an American citizen – in war, to defend the nation and in peace by personal industry to create prosperity. Vignettes of recent Mexican American war military battles show formal American military dominance of the Mexican army, the final chapter in the nation's creation story as a transcontinental nation.
        America's origin story is drawn on American soil. Nor do we see any portraits of presidents, heroic individuals or gods descending from the heavens.5/ What might be called America's pre- history is a vignette of Christopher Columbus landing on North American shores October 20, 1492.  The second vignette of early origins shows the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts on December 22, 1620.  The map's combined imagery tells an American creation story about named and unnamed individuals who built the great nation shown on the map. While it is fair criticism that this 19th c. view of "origins" has little if any room for peoples historically living on the North American continent, or who did not arrive from the Western Hemisphere or notably did not arrive by choice, the imagery is unapologetic that the United States was created from its outset by using force, treaty or war.

1. Ensigns & Thayer, publisher is father Timothy Ensign (d.1859) and son Edward H. Ensign and Horace Thayer. For decades, T. Ensign and then E.H. Ensign formed a variety of map publishing partnerships with H.Thayer and Humphrey Phelps.
2. Texas never again had such large boundaries. The Compromise of 1850 reduced the size of Texas by eliminating the "stovepipe" and removing any New Mexico territory as well as some other lands.
3. Cowlitz Farm, in Oregon Country, in 1838 was a 4,000 acre plus farm in the Cowlitz Prairie owned and operated by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a division of the British Hudson's Bay company. Hudson's Bay Company used the farm to provide produce and other food to its northern locations and to other customers. In 1846, the farm had 1,500 acres under cultivation, 11 barns, and 3,300 animals kept as livestock. In 1847, the American flag was flown from the farm's flag pole, the first time it was raised north of the Columbia River. Cowlitz Farm History
4. Mormons had settled at Salt Lake by 1847 as reported in detail by non-Mormons in 1847 letters written home by Western emigrants who passed eastbound or westbound through Salt Lake that were published in 1847 by mid-Western newspapers. New England newspapers the republished the letters. Please see, Andrew H. Hedges, Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 84, Number 3, 2016, "News from Salt Lake 1847-1850". Perhaps this map's copyright date predates that news.
5. Please see www.spackantiquemaps.com A Map of the British and French Settlements in North America, c. 1755 Scots Magazine, vol. 17, 1755, T[homas] Phinn, engraver. English title is derived from the King, whose title is divine.

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