Monday, September 21, 2015

The origins of the Nebraska Territory

With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the United States essentially doubled its territory with the addition of the lands drained by the Mississippi to the west of that river. This area was mostly unknown, so the federal government tried to learn more about this new American territory by sending out a number of exploring parties, including those of Lewis & Clark in 1804-1806 and Stephen H. Long in 1820, and these expeditions did provide some understanding of the geography of the Louisiana Purchase.

One of the main reasons for acquiring the area was so the United States would eventually be able to open up an outlet for the nation on the Pacific Ocean, but also to provide new lands for emigrants from the east. Americans soon moved into the areas just to the west of the Mississippi, for instance into what would become Missouri and Iowa. By the 1820s, there was considerable settlement in the Louisiana Purchase lands near to the Mississippi River from New Orleans up to St. Louis, but beyond that there little American presence.

There was little incentive at the time for Americans to move into the western parts of the original Louisiana Territory. Reports from the western expeditions had not been glowing in their descriptions of region-—Stephen Long described the High Plains as a “desert”-—and it was already extensively occupied by Native American tribes. And on to top of this, it was far removed from the center of economic and political life in the U.S., bordered beyond by seemingly impenetrable mountains and then Spanish territory.

This made it the ideal place to help solve one of the vexing issues Americans were facing at the time, viz. what to do with the Native Americans in the East. Unlike the western tribes, those in the East occupied lands which were coveted by the Euro-Americans and in the 1820s, the federal government began a policy of moving the Eastern Indians to lands west of the Mississippi, culminating in the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This seemed a perfect solution-—to the Euro-Americans-—for they would gain lands they desired and gave up lands that were deemed essentially useless for civilized folk. An additional benefit was that this would set up a buffer between the United States and the Spanish, protecting the countries back door.

So, in 1834, an Indian Intercourse Act set aside for Native Americans "…all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri and Louisiana, or the territory of Arkansas…" This Indian Territory was steadily reduced over the years, but by 1845 in what had been the Louisiana Purchase, other than a single row of states and territories strung along the Mississippi River, the rest was unorganized Indian lands.

The out-of-the-way, practically useless character of this region, which made it such a perfect place to stick the Native Americans, was soon to radically change. With the increased emigration of Americans to the Oregon Country and California beginning in the 1830s, there was concern in Washington of the need for the development of the lands through which the emigrants would have to pass on their way from the Mississippi River to the Rockies. The need for a military presence for protection, a formal government structure for laws, laws for economic development, and new settlements to help feed and house the emigrants, all made it evident that there had to be some sort of governmental presence crossing the Indian Territory.

Then with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War, the urgency of this was made even greater. By the Mexican Cession, the United States gained another huge swath of territory, now extending the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The Indian Territory was now no longer at the inaccessible, back-end of the country, but was smack-dab in the middle, between “the States” and newly gained California. The Indian Territory now separated the population, money and power of the East Coast from the golden lands on the Pacific. What had been a buffer was now a barrier. Travel by sea, either around the tip of South America or by way of a land crossing at Panama, was possible, but it was quite clear that a land route across the Indian Territory-—preferably by railroad-—was something that was an economic, social and political necessity.

The need for some sort of U.S. government control over a land bridge between the territories and states along the Mississippi River and California and Oregon was clear. Between 1844 and 1854 there were 8 proposals for a new territory spanning the Indian Country. The name for this proposed territory was to be "Nebraska," a name first used by Frémont to refer to the Platte River, which was for much of its length the main route for the emigrants heading west. "Nebrathka," was an Otoe word for ‘flat water' and was used by them as the name for the Platte.

The first official proposal was by Secretary of War William Wilkins in his annual report of Nov. 30, 1844. This was taken up by Stephen Douglas with House bills in December 1844. The idea was to create a territory along the Platte River Valley with a string of military posts from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. These bills failed. Another bill was put forth in 1848, and others in 1850 & 1852 & 1853, but all failed.

A number of maps in this period show these tentative Nebraska Territories. The reason none of these acts were passed was because of sectional tensions over slavery. Southerners continued to stonewall the creation of a Nebraska Territory in this region, for any such territory would, by the Missouri Compromise, have to be a free territory.

It wasn’t until Stephen Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that a Nebraska Territory was finally created spanning the Great Plains and allowing for the building of a trans-continental railroad. The final territory was quite different than those previously proposed, for not only was it joined by another new territory to the south, Kansas, but it encompassed about half of what had been Indian Territory. By this act, the territory set aside for specifically for the Indians shrunk to just what is today’s Oklahoma (actually, the panhandle of today’s Oklahoma was not then included in the Indian Territory).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mapping your Marriage in the 1850s by Vince Szilagyi

We see maps of all sorts in our line of work, but recently the shop acquired one that had even us shaking our heads in amusement. The map in question is a marvelous and charming 1850 lithograph by Philadelphia printmaker Augustus Kollner which examines and charts one of the most important and difficult areas of the human experience, marriage!

At the top of this map, an appropriately solemn wedding is being conducted in front of a crowd of earnestly praying guests. Beneath this scene lies “The Great Ocean of Love.” This ocean, according to the text on the map, “represents a period of life that all persons are supposed at some time or another to pass. By an examination of the chart voyagers will be enabled to avoid the dangers that beset them, and arrive safely at the haven of felicity."

The aforementioned dangers are graphically illustrated in the map by the numerous islands, bays, straits, gulfs, harbors, rivers and other geographic features which dot the Ocean of Love with names like “The Rocks of Jealousy”, “Mountains of Deceit” and “Divorce Isle”. The left and right sides of the map are filled with text detailing the various locations in the Ocean of Love, and how they are to be traversed safely in order to reach a happy and loving marriage. The dangers presented range from the serious, [“River of Abuse”, “Mountains of Hatred”], to flippant [“Silly Isles”] to memorable [“Hymen’s Light-House”]. Guiding the would-be lovers is a compass rose in the bottom left corner, on which the cardinal directions are Hope, Love, Despair and Hatred.

My personal favorite of the obstacles and descriptions is Port Desire. “Port Desire, From what cause we are unable to explain, is not visible on any of the Charts. Yet it affirmed to by many, that from time immemorial, it has been a place of great resort, by all classes. The tides about the coast are very rapid, so much so, as to rise and fall almost beyond the power of imagination. In running for the harbor, it is necessary to bear up betwixt the rocks of Philosophy and Prudence. After passing them, the traveler may be considered clear of danger, always taking care never to bring too at shallow water.” While Bachelor Fort, is a strong contender, Port Desire neatly encapsulates the unique combination of 1850’s American culture, artwork and humor that make this map so charming.

This print is exceedingly rare, with the only other extant example we could find being a copy at the Library of Congress. However, as seen above, this copy lacks the descriptive text along the left and right of the image. The Library of Congress states that this space was for recording marriages but we disagree. We feel that the blank columns indicate that this version of the map was sent to the Library of Congress before the print was finished as a copyright copy, designed to guarantee Kollner ownership of the image itself. With the copyright secure, Kollner finished the map and began to sell copies with descriptive text in the columns, like the one the shop now holds.

Although this particular map is rare, there are some other matrimonial maps in private collections and in the hands of particular dealers. Matrimonial maps originated in late 18th century in Europe, and became fairly popular in the 19th century in both Europe and the United States. Maps like this were used both as décor and as a tool to help preserve the virtue of young men and women and help guide them into happy, stable marriages. Using these maps people could avoid obstacles like the “Sands of Inconstancy” and the “Floating Isles of Flattery” and eventually reach the promised land of “Lake Affection” and “Baby Fort”. Some struggles really are timeless.

Matrimonial maps faded in popularity but some examples of 20th century maps do exist. A British collector and antiques dealer named Rod Barron has a wonderful collection of matrimonial maps on his website Thanks to the Library of Congress and to Ella Morton at for putting us on to Mr. Barron’s collection.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

American State Exclaves: The Dakota Thump

One of my favorite exclaves is the Dakota Thumb, which existed for five years in the Bitterroot Mountains, where a part of the Dakota Territory lay separated from the main part of Dakota by about 365 miles!

In 1838, the northeastern part of the original Louisiana Territory, those lands lying between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, north of the state of Missouri, became a very large Iowa Territory.

Eight years later, the southeastern part of the territory was admitted as the state of Iowa, with the remainder of the region—those lands between the Mississippi and Missouri River north of Iowa, becoming the Minnesota Territory in 1849.

In 1850, the vast lands north of Texas between the Missouri River and the Continental Divide were unorganized, with no formal government. The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act created two large territories in this area, with a vast Nebraska Territory consisting of all the lands north of the 40th parallel that lay west of the Minnesota Territory and east of the continent divide.

Four years later, the eastern part of the Minnesota Territory was made into a state, with the western part being left legally unorganized, though a provisional government for a territory to be called Dakota was set up.

It wasn’t until 1861 that the Dakota Territory was officially created, but when it was created it was much larger, encompassing not only what had been the western part of the old Minnesota Territory, but also that part of Nebraska Territory north of the 43rd parallel.

At about this time, gold was discovered in the eastern part of Washington Territory (which basically surrounded the state of Oregon in the northwest) and as new emigrants moved into the area, it was decided in 1863 to create a new territory—-called Idaho-—which included not only the eastern part of Washington Territory, but extended well to the east, as far as the 104th degree longitude. This included what had been the western part of the very large Dakota Territory, leaving Dakota encompassing what is today North and South Dakota.

Within a year, miners in the eastern part of the vast Idaho Territory requested that a new territory be created for them. They were located on the eastern side of the Bitterroot Mountain Range and felt cut off from, and ignored, by the Idaho government located on the far side of the Bitterroots. Thus in 1864, the Montana Territory was created. Its eastern border was the old Idaho Territory with Dakota down to the 45th parallel. The southern border followed this line of latitude to 111 degrees west, then turning south for half a degree (44°30’), where it turned west again until it ran into the Continental Divide in the Bitterroots. From thence it ran along the crest of those mountains until it intersected the 116th degree line, which it then followed to the Canadian border.

Idaho’s border was also redrawn south of the 44°30’ line. It followed the Bitterroot range as far as the 100th degree, at which point it dropped straight south until it intersected with the Utah border. This left an almost-rectangular shaped section of land south of Montana—-which had been part of Idaho Territory-—which now was attached to Dakota Territory, giving it a strange butterfly-like shape.

The re-enlarged Dakota was not only very large, but its strange shape was impractical, so in 1868, the southwestern block was separated to become Wyoming. This territory was created as a rectangle, with the eastern border simply continuing the Montana border down to Colorado, thence running along the 41st parallel to the 111th meridian, which the border then followed up to the Montana border at the 45th parallel.

This all sounds very reasonable, but a small exclave was created because of how the borders of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana were defined.
  • Wyoming’s western border was the 111th meridian
  • Idaho’s border followed the Continental Divide until it intersected with the 111th degree line
  • Montana’s border followed the 111th meridian to 44°30’, whence it turned west until that line intersected the continental divide.
The map above shows how Wyoming would have looked if Congress had not determined to make it a rectangle. That little pointed bit at the left is the area which would have been included in Wyoming, but was not.

That little wedge of land was actually left out of all the territories because the Continental Divide runs into the 111th degree line south of 44°30’. As it had been part of the Dakota Territory previously, and the new borders didn’t change its status, this little “thumb” of land remained part of Dakota, detached and well west of the rest of that territory. Very few maps show the thmub; the detail above comes from the 1868 GLO map of the United States. The thumb remained as part of Dakota until 1873, at which time it was given to Montana.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

American State Exclaves: The Kentucky Bend

An exclave is a section of land which is not conterminous with a larger political entity to which it belongs. That is, an exclave is physically separated from the main part of its political unit by one or more other political entities, so that is would be impossible to get by land from the exclave to the main part of the political entity without crossing territory belonging to a foreign entity. An example of such an exclave in the United States is Alaska. (Note that, strictly speaking, an exclave has to be surrounded by alien territory, but in this discussion we will include pene-exclaves, or practical exclaves, such as Alaska, which are partially bordered by their own territorial waters.)

There are quite a number of exclaves in the world, most of them of very local character (for instance as part of a county or city). Over the years, however, there have been some interesting exclaves as part of American states. One of the earliest was what is today the state of Maine, which from the seventeenth century until 1820, when it was admitted as as state, was part of Massachusetts. Another was the Western Reserve, in present-day Ohio, which was an exclave of Connecticut until the year 1800.

Those exclaves were the result of political claims, but there are three interesting U.S. state exclaves which were created becaue of maps, which of course is of particular interest to me. In today’s blog we’ll look at the 17 square miles called the “Kentucky Bend” (also the “New Madrid Bend” or “Bessie Bend”).

In 1663, King Charles II created the Carolina Colony, establishing it to the south of the Virginia Colony with their mutual border being set at 36 degrees, 30 minutes. (This border is one of the most significant borders in the United States, playing a huge role in the history of slavery and the American West, as explained in my blog on “Shaping the Trans-Mississippi West”). In 1792, Kentucky was created as a state out of the western part of Virginia, retaining the same southern border. Its western border was set as the Mississippi River where 36°30’ intersected it.

Initially, this seemed to be unproblematic, as the 1795 map of Kentucky by Mathew Carey shows. However, surveyors did not actually lay the border on the ground that far west until well into the 19th century (and, indeed, the surveying of the border between Kentucky and Tennessee further east was also problematic, creating anything but a straight line along the 36°30’ border).

As better surveying of the region of western Kentucky, southern Missouri and the Mississippi River around New Madrid was gained, the realization came that the Mississippi River came awfully close to the 36°30’ line in the area, as Anthony Finley shows in his 1824 map.

By the beginning of the next decade, it was discovered that the Mississippi River, on one of its meander loops, actually crossed that line of latitude three times, creating a small peninsula which stuck up north of the border line, which made it part of Kentucky, but which was not connected to the main part of the state to the east. This is nicely shown on Henry S. Tanner’s map of 1833. According to Kentucky, that peninsula, though unattached to the rest of the state, belonged to her, as it has been since accepted. Tennessee, however, initially claimed the peninsula as well, only giving up its claim in 1848. The Kentucky Bend is an exclave, as you cannot get from it to the rest of Kentucky without crossing either into Missouri or Tennessee.

Some have claimed that the river originally did not drop south of the 36°30’ line until it flowed past New Madrid, but that its course was changed by the large earthquakes centered on that town in 1811 and 1812. That would have meant that this exclave was originally attached to the rest of the state. However, it does not appear that this shift in the river ever happened (though the Mississippi did, in effect, flow backwards in the region at one time because of those quakes). This unusual exclave, shown on the map above by Jim Efaw, was simply the result of borders being defined on maps before those maps were truly accurate.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Antiques Roadshow: the 20th season

I just returned last night from the second city of filming, Spokane, for the 20th year of Antiques Roadshow. The show films in the summer (this year in six different cities around the country), the takes are edited and episodes put together and finally aired beginning in January of the following year.

This anniversary season certainly got started with a bang, for just before we opened our doors for the thousands of clients to bring in their objects to be appraised, a small fire was discovered on set!

The first stop was in Tuscon (on May 30th) and as I was about to jump on the van to take me to the convention center, at 6:15 in the morning, a producer rushed up and told the van to take her to the set right away, leaving me stranded behind. I soon learned that a battery had started a fire on the set, Luckily, it was discovered almost immediately and, because of the quick thinking of our head of security, Sean Quinn, was put out with relatively minor damage to the set and no harm to any people or priceless objects.

Still, the fire made a mess, with smoke and ashes covering the set. The crew of the Roadshow and the convention center did a remarkable job of clearing things up and we got started only about 2 hours late. Of course, since we are usually filming for about 12 hours, we were on set until 9:30 that night, but everyone was amazed at how well the day went after that rather unusual start.

Last weekend we moved on to Spokane, Washington, where the filming went on in a more normal way. As at every stop, the crew and appraisers did an amazing job of running thousands of people with objects of every age and size through the process of, first, getting to the right appraiser, then getting their appraisal, and in the case of those few "special" items selected for possible airing, having their appraisals filmed.

Looking back on my 19 years of working as a print and map expert for the show, I am amazed at how it is still fun and often exciting to do the show, despite the extensive travel and long hours. After all these years, the show now has a stable of regular appraisers and we have gotten to know each other very well, spending a "fair bit" of time together in the bar and restaurants after the show finishes. It is also remarkable at how patient and friendly are all the guests, many who have to wait hours to see us, only to be told that their items have mostly "sentimental" or "decorative" value.

The people I spoke with in both Tuscon and Spokane were terrific and I saw a good number of interesting and wonderful prints and maps. I was filmed in both cities, so if the segment comes out well, you'll be able to see the result sometime next year. In the meantime, however, keep watching this year's shows (filmed in the summer of 2014). In Chicago I saw some great stuff and those episodes will be run for the first time this coming fall.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Poor Utah: The Black Sheep Territory

Mormons have been controversial since their founding in 1830. This was in part because of the peculiarities of their religion, in part because of the insularity of their social lives, and—perhaps as important as any of these factors—because of their practice of polygamy. Due to local conflicts, the Mormons were forced to move a number of times from places they tried to settle, culminating in 1839 in an attempt to found their Zion on the banks of the Mississippi at what became Nauvoo, Illinois.

Tensions continued, however, with those in the surrounding region harassing the Mormons and in June 1844, with a mob actually murdering the sect’s founder, Joseph Smith. Violence against persons and property continued in the following year, so that finally Brigham Young, the new leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, decided that he would lead them west to a place where they could be practice their religion without interference, free from the prejudice and violence they had always faced.

In February 1846, the Mormons crossed the frozen Mississippi and over the next year moved slowly across Iowa, finally settling in what became known as “Winter Quarters” in the Nebraska Territory, across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. Young’s ultimate goal, though, was further west, in the Great Basin which at the time was part of Mexico. This remote area was essentially unpopulated and was far away from any government or other settlers.

In April 1847, the Mormon’s headed west along the California Trail, arriving in July of that year. They immediately beginning to build their new community by the Great Salt Lake. In 1847, about 1,600 Mormons arrived there, followed the next year by 2,500 more, and then thousands more in the next decades.

Brigham Young wanted to create a wide spread Mormon community, sending out settlers throughout the Great Basin, and he wanted the entire Great Basin to be politically run by the Church. His plans became more difficult when, as a result of the treaty which ended the Mexican War, what had been Mexican territory because U.S. territory in 1848. In 1849, Young sent a petition to Congress to create a territory of Desert (the name derives from the word for “honeybee” in the Book of Mormon), which would have extended to all the lands lying between the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains, from Oregon Territory in the north and Mexico in the south.

At that time, the citizens of the other areas acquired by the United States as part of the Mexican Cession of 1848, California and New Mexico, were applying for their admission as states, so Young soon modified his application to Congress for Desert to become a state instead of just a territory. He and the elders of the Church meanwhile drafted a state constitution and set up a provisional state government, so that they would have the wheel of power when the new state was created.

Congress definitely had an unfavorable view of the Mormons, with most Congressmen finding the religion heretical and polygamy reprehensible. This anti-Mormon feeling meant that there was no chance that Young’s proposed Desert would be realized. Instead, in 1850, Congress broke the Mexican Cession into three parts: the state of California, and the large territories of Utah and New Mexico. Utah extended from the continental divide to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, separated from New Mexico at the 37° parallel.

Interestingly, Young did not give up on his hope for a Mormon state of Deseret even after the new territorial government was set up. Young and the elders met for almost ten years in a shadow government, which ratified all the laws passed by the territorial legislature, so theirs could be created as the official government if the state were ever created. Young petitioned for the state again in 1856, 1862 and finally in 1872, but it never came to pass.

Despite this disappointment, Brigham Young and the elders did dominate the Utah territorial government and this began to lead to new tensions as non-Mormons moved into the territory. There were complaints about the theocratic rule of Utah and also about the continued practice of polygamy. This spurred the U.S. government to send troops to Utah, causing the Mormons to react as though they were being invaded.

The upshot of this was the “Utah” or “Mormon War,” which lasted from May 1857 to July 1858. There was considerable posturing and some skirmishes, with the greatest loss of life occurring when a party of California-bound emigrants were killed by a group of Mormon militiamen in what is now called the Mountain Meadows massacre. Eventually an agreement between the Mormons and the federal government led to Young giving up his governorship, though the Mormons were able to retain their operative control of the territorial government.

All of this set the scene when events began to create a need for the division of the large southwestern territories into smaller units. The Utah territory, effectively run by the Mormons, was definitely not popular with Congress, which was able to show its displeasure over the next decade. Utah and New Mexico were huge territories and as new populations moved into them, the new settlers began to demand regional divisions so they could control their own affairs with a local government. Between 1861 and 1868, Congress did create new territories out of parts of Utah and New Mexico. Not surprisingly, as Utah was apportioned, none of the divisions favored the Mormon-led government of Utah.

The division of Utah was a direct result of the movement into the region of gold and silver seekers. In 1859, a major discovery of silver—what came to be called the Comstock Lode—was found on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in far western Utah Territory. Miners poured into the area and these were definitely dissatisfied with being under the control of the Utah Territorial government. Not only was the center of the government located almost at the other end of the territory, in Salt Lake City, but these miners were for the most part strongly anti-Mormon. They soon petitioned for the creation of their own territory out of the western part of Utah.

Though many in Congress were favorable towards the notion, the creation of such a new territory was at first impossible. A new territory created out of western Utah would almost certainly prohibit slavery, both because it was north of the original Compromise of 1850 latitude line of 36°30’, but its citizens were also anti-slavery. The southern Congressmen were unwilling to allow such a new free territory and so an impasse was reached. However, when all the southern Representatives and Senators left with the beginning of the Confederacy in early 1861, the remaining Congressmen were easily able to create the territory of Nevada on March 2, 1861. This territory was created out of all that part of Utah west of the 116th meridian, about one third of the original area of the Mormon-run territory.

This, though, was not the only land which was taken from the Utah Territory in 1861. The silver rush in Nevada was paralleled on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains when gold was discovered in 1858 near the confluence of the Platte River and Cherry Creek in far western Kansas Territory. This led to the “Pikes Peak Gold Rush” and a heavy influx of miners in such new communities as Auraria, Denver City, and Golden.

Similarly to the miners in what became Nevada Territory, the settlers along the Front Range were unhappy with what was their very distant government, located at the other end of the Kansas Territory, well to the east near the Missouri River. They also petitioned to Congress for a new territory; one group tried to create the territory of Colona and one to create the territory of Jefferson. For the same reasons that Congress was unable to act on the petition of the settlers on the east slopes of the Sierra Nevadas, it was also unable to act on the petitions of either of these Front Range groups until early 1861, when the new territory of Colorado was created.

Colorado mostly was created out of the western part of Kansas, but it also got some land from the northern part of New Mexico, the southwestern part of Nebraska, and, naturally, the eastern part of Utah. Kansas Territory had extended west as far as the continental divide and many of the initial proposals for breaking off a new territory also were limited to that western border, but when Congress did create Colorado on February 28, 1861, it was extended well west of the divide, taking up all of eastern Utah as far as the 109th meridian. Just to add insult to injury, the small northeastern triangle of Utah—between the 110th meridian and the continental divide, north of 41° latitude—was given to Nebraska Territory.

Things didn’t end here for poor Utah. In 1862, silver was discovered in the western part of the shrunk-down territory, in what would be the Reese River Mining District. Congress didn’t hesitate in deciding to move the border of Utah one more degree east, so these new mines would be in Nevada. On March 1863, the Utah western border was moved one degree further east, to the 115th meridian (note how on the bottom map above the border runs right next to the "U" in "Utah," as compared to the map above).

Just three years later, essentially the same thing happened again. Beginning in 1865, a rumor appeared concerning new mineral riches, including perhaps the legendary silver mountain, located in what was then western Utah, in an area which would become the Pahranagat Mining District. It was not known at the time whether this area was located in Nevada or Utah, so in order to be sure, in 1866 Congress once again shifted Nevada’s border one degree further east, to the 114th degree line.

Not done with their work, that same year, another chunk of the northeastern part of Utah was bitten off—the lands lying north of the 41° and east of the 111th meridian—and given to the new Territory of Wyoming.

So, from 1861 until 1866, Utah Territory lost well over half of its land through acts of Congress. It was too large to be governed practicably when first created, but much of the reduction in size had to do with Congressional bias against the Mormons. This bias is further evidenced by the fact that Nevada Territory, created in 1861, became a state only three years later in October 1864, whereas Utah Territory, created in 1850, didn’t become a state until almost half a century later, in 1896! This, naturally, happened only after polygamy was renounced in the territorial constitution that year.

Monday, May 11, 2015

20th Century Pictorial Maps

Maps have long had a pictorial element to them. Maps can, of course, be fairly “cartographic” in appearance, using lines, dots, contour lines, and other symbols, but for centuries other maps have been more illustratively graphic.

Pictorial images have been scattered about their surface from as early as fifteenth and sixteen century portolan maps, with vignettes of walled cities, to the putti of Dutch seventeenth century maps, to the elaborate title cartouches of the eighteenth century.

Other maps have been themselves pictorial, for the image was designed to look like some object such as a person or creature. The Leo Belgicus maps from the seventeenth century are among the most famous of these, but there are many others were made over the years.

A new type of pictorial map, though, made its appearance about the second decade of the 20th century. These pictorial maps added a pictographic element to the underlying cartographic rendering, adding a visual narrative onto the geographic background. Rather than having small, illustrative images as an adjunct to the main map, the vignettes became much more the heart of the maps.

These maps were produced not so much to present a topographical image, but provide an informative and amusing picture of a place with the cartography providing the stage for the main roles played by the pictorial illustrations. These maps were usually drawn by illustrative artists for commercial or commemorative purposes. They were used to promote tourism, advertise products or companies, illustrate news events, or other similar non-geographic purposes. These maps were designed to appeal to the eye and mind, adding colorful vignettes, text and often a humorous element.

While issued in large numbers, these maps were ephemeral and so they are often quite uncommon. Many important American graphic artists, such as Ernest Dudley Chase and Jo Mora, created these maps, each developing his own style. Since the turn of the millennium, these maps have become increasingly collectible, with some maps reaching the four figure mark, though on the whole they remain much less expensive. For those interested in collecting maps which are still surprisingly affordable, these are a great choice.

The Rocky Mountain Map Society is featuring 20th century maps, including pictorial maps, as part of its 2015 Map Month. This year, the RMMS is working with both Denver Public Library and the University of Denver, both of which are holding major exhibitions of these maps through the end of June 2015. The exhibit at Denver Public Library focuses on 20th century maps from the collection of the Western History Department and the exhibit at University of Denver is exclusively about pictorial maps, showing wonderful images from a local, private collection. Both are well worth a visit if you are in Denver between now and the end of June.