Pictorial Map of the Great West

Changing perceptions of the American West in the mid-19th century.

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A high-resolution image is available for purchase. Email me for inquiries.

This scarce and spectacular broadsheet was published in New York by Ensign & Thayer in 1848. The timing and title are notable, since the victory that year in the Mexican-American War would eventually fulfill the American dream of Manifest Destiny. The very notion of the West would change drastically after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo established U.S. territory from coast to coast – just two years after Iowa was admitted to the Union as a state.

Its fascinating composition, apparently created using separate woodblocks with hand-colored highlights, identifies seven states that were established from the previously unorganized Northwest Territory. Multi-colored overprinting in red and blue displays early county configurations in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri & Iowa. Place names, geographic features, and prominent transportation routes like railways and the Old National Road are identified in standard black.

The top of the sheet shows four scenes from the important economic centers of Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chicago. These may have been submitted to the publishers by local cartographers Rufus Blanchard, Joseph Ward, and D. Needham, credited in the lower right. Directly above are representations of the seven state seals and images of the Old Statehouse at Chillicothe and Harrison’s Residence at North Bend (both in Ohio). The entire image is surrounded by a decorative floral border with bold hand color.

The broadsheet is rare – apparently more so than other similar issues published contemporaneously by Ensign & Thayer. I was unable to identify another example in WorldCat, though the Library of Congress is in possession of an example (condition unknown). I’ve found one other copy available on the market at Arader Galleries for $9,500.00.


Map Details

Publication Date: 1848

Author: Ensign & Thayer

Sheet Width (in): 22.3

Sheet Height (in): 30.6

Condition: A-

Condition Description: The sheet measures approximately 22.3" x 30.6". It appears to be a compilation of multiple woodblocks highlighted with original hand color. Printed on strong paper that has moderately, but evenly toned with age. Minor wrinkling throughout, with some faint damp stains and small tears visible around the outer edges of the sheet. One small stain, about the size of a quarter, visible in the lower right margin. Very good overall.

Out of stock