Map of the Surveyed Part of Iowa Exhibiting the Sections, Townships & Ranges [with] Iowa with Topographical Map

“This book and map will furnish the possessor with more information concerning Iowa than can be obtained from any other source.” [Front flyleaf]

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Though the first American settlers had arrived across the Mississippi River some five years prior, the Iowa Territory wasn’t first officially organized by the U.S. Government until 1838. This map shows the results of the first two years of township surveying performed by the General Land Office and is affixed to one of the earliest printed descriptions of the newly incorporated land.

Meridians and notable boundary lines are identified, facilitating the framework in which the subsequent surveys were performed. Bright original color distinguishes the border of each county, with individual sections and townships outlined therein. A legend in the center-left notes the various symbols used to label geographic features, roads, lead mines, and more.

Two inset plans are present. One just above the legend shows the Des Moines rapids in the Mississippi River between Old Fort Des Moines and Keokuk. A second inset near the upper right shows the Rock Island Rapids, near Davenport. The map was designed by surveyor Jessee Williams and published in New York by J.H. Colton in 1840. It is the second edition (the first was issued in 1839) and is one of the earliest representations of the Iowa Territory in print, both textually and cartographically. According to Iowa scholar Jack Johnson;

“During the time he was Territorial Auditor, and because of his experience with land affairs, Jesse Williams compiled A Description of the United States Lands in Iowa. The one-hundred-eighty- page book, published by J. H. Colton in 1840, was bound in blue paper and contained a detailed map signed by Jesse William, “late a Clerk in the Surveyor General’s Office, Cincinnati”. According to the author, the volume included “a minute description of every section and quarter section, quality of soil, groves of timber, prairies, ledges of rock, coal banks, iron and lead ores, water-falls, mill-seats, etc.”

The skill in compiling the information from the records of the United States survey testifies for Williams’s training. There was truth in the statement by the author that the “book and map will furnish the possessor with more information concerning Iowa than can be obtained from any other source.”

This example varies slightly in that the accompanying text is a physical description of the land and its organization, rather than a guidebook through the Iowa Territory, but it remains a scarce representation of early settlement in the Iowa Territory.

Map Details

Publication Date: 1840

Author: Jesse Williams

Sheet Width (in): 21.25

Sheet Height (in): 32.5

Condition: B

Condition Description: Large folding map affixed to original 182 pp. guidebook to Iowa. Original gilt brown cloth boards are moderately worn and soiled, but contents are generally good or better, with light wear and scattered staining. The map is also in good condition, with numerous old repairs on the verso for spots of separation along fold lines. Minor toning also visible along fold lines and a few scattered spots can also be seen within the image, mostly in the negative white space. Vibrant original color.

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