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1863 Johnson Map of California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah


Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico Arizona Colorado Nevada and Utah.
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Price: $600.00
Title:    Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico Arizona Colorado Nevada and Utah.

Description:    One of the scarcest and most historically significant of A. J. Johnson's southwest series. Published in 1863 at the height of the American Civil War, this stunning map depicts the state of California and the territories of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Offers superb detail throughout noting mining districts, emigrant trails, the Santa Fe Trail, the Pony Express Route and several proposed railroads, as well as American Indian tribes, geological features, and local political divisions.

This important map went through several different states during its publication period from 1861 to 1870. This critical period of westward expansion saw incredible development and change throughout the region. Collecting the various states of this map has become something of a sub-genre for south-western map aficionados.

Johnson updated the plates for this map annually and sometimes even issued multiple variants the course of a single year. Unlike most maps in the 1863 Johnson atlas, this map was a unique production and therefore not based upon the earlier atlas maps of J. H. Colton. Rather, it seems that Johnson derived this map by dissecting the plates of his 1859 wall map of North America and then incorporating, oftentimes superimposing, more contemporary detail.

Johnson added considerable detail in the mountainous regions of California, Nevada, and Colorado. Arizona and New Mexico appear as independent territories but, for the most part, adhere to the old 'New Mexico' county structure. The southern boundary of Nevada with Arizona is set at 37 degrees of Latitude such that Las Vegas, which is noted, rests firmly within Arizona. The Utah-Nevada Border is set at 115 degrees of Longitude, roughly one degree further west than it is today. Fillmore City is shows as the capital of Utah though Salt Lake City also appears. The Colorado Gold Region, which was first discovered in 1858, is well labeled.

This example also varies from the previous state of the map in that the California Nevada border has been corrected to a straight line between Pyramid Peak (where several Mormon settlements are noted) and Fort Moliare. California, which enjoyed a population boost in the prior decade due to the 1849 Gold Rush, is naturally quite detailed with numerous towns, cities, mail routes, emigrant roads, and shipping lanes identified. This map also includes the routes of several exploratory missions commissioned by the U.S. Government, including Fremont, the Mexican Border Survey, Parke, Gunnison (along with the site of his tragic death), and Fredonyer.

Throughout, this map is full of interesting and sometimes erroneous notations regarding natural features, Native American tribes, proposed railroads, mail routes, explorer's tracks, and treaty lines. In the highly desertous region near modern day Quartzite, Arizona, a note reads 'in the vicinity of this place a tract of country is found which is said by Trappers to be exceedingly and fertile and abundantly timbered and well watered.' Johnson also notes silver deposits in this same region. The famed Pony express Route is delineated as it passes through Nebraska, Utah, and Nevada on its way to California.

All in all, this is an extraordinarily example of one of the scarcest and most desirable 19th century American atlas maps of the southwestern part of the United States. Features the fretwork style border common to Johnson's atlas work from 1863 to 1869. Published by Johnson and Ward as plate nos. 58-59 in the scarce 1863 edition of Johnson's Family Atlas. This is the second edition of the Johnson atlas to bear the Johnson and Ward imprint.


Date:    1863 (undated)

Source:    Johnson and Ward, Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas, (1863 edition).    

References:    Rumsey 0352.044 (1864 edition). University of Nevada, Reno, Special Collections, G4300 1862 J646. Wheat, C. I., Mapping of the Transmississippi West, 1540-1861 (5 vols), #1027.

Cartographer:    Alvin Jewett Johnson (September 23, 1827 - April 22, 1884) was a prolific American map publisher active from 1856 to the mid-1880s. Johnson was born into a poor family in Wallingford, Vermont where he received only a based public education. He is known to have worked as school teacher for several years before moving to Richmond, Virginia. Johnson got his first taste of the map business and a salesman and book canvasser for J. H. Colton and company. The earliest Johnson maps were published with D. Griffing Johnson (no clear relation) and date to the mid-1850s, however it was not until 1860 that the Johnson firm published its first significant work, the Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas. The publication of the Family Atlas followed a somewhat mysterious 1859 deal with the well-established but financially strapped J. H. Colton cartographic publishing firm. Although map historian Water Ristow speculates that Colton sold his copyrights to Johnson and his business partner, another Vermonter named Ross C. Browning (1832 - 1899), a more likely theory is that Johnson and Browning financially supported the Colton firm in exchange for the right to use Colton's existing copyrighted map plates. Regardless of which scenario actually occurred it is indisputable that the first Johnson atlas maps were mostly reissues of earlier Colton maps. Early on Johnson described his firm as the "Successors to J. H. Colton and Company". Johnson's business strategy involved transferring the original Colton steel plate engravings to cheaper lithographic stones, allowing his firm to produce more maps at a lower price point. In 1861, following the outbreak of the American Civil War the Johnson and Browning firm moved their office from Richmond, Virginia to New York City. Johnson and Browning published two editions of the Johnson Atlas in 1860 and 1861. Sometime in 1861 Browning's portion of the firm was purchased by Benjamin P. Ward, whose name subsequently replaced Browning's on the imprint. The 1863 issue of the Family Atlas was one of the most unusual, it being a compilation of older Johnson and Browning maps, updated 1862 Johnson and Ward map issues, and newer 1863 maps with a revised border design. The 1864 issue of the Family Atlas is the first true Johnson and Ward atlas. Johnson published one more edition of the atlas in partnership with Ward in 1865, after which Johnson seems to have bought out Ward's share the firm. The next issue of the Atlas, 1866, is the first purely "Johnson" atlas with all new map plates, updated imprints, and copyrights. The Family Atlas went through roughly 27 years of publication, from 1860 to 1887, outliving Johnson himself who died in 1884. Johnson maps from the Family Atlas are notable for their unique borders, of which there are four different designs, the "strapwork borer" from 1860 to 1863, the "fretwork border" from 1863 to 1869 and the "spirograph border" in 1870 1882, and a more elaborate version of the same from 1880-1887. In addition to the Family Atlas Johnson issued numerous wall maps, pocket maps, and in the 1880s the Cyclopedia. Johnson maps are known for their size, accuracy, detail, and stunning, vivid hand coloring. Johnson maps, purely American in their style and execution, chronicle some of the most important and periods in American history including the Civil War, the Westward Expansion, and the Indian Wars. Today Johnson's maps, especially those of the American west, are highly sought after by map collectors and historians. Click here for a list of rare maps by A. J. Johnson.

Size:   Printed area measures 24.5 x 18 inches (62.23 x 45.72 centimeters)

Scale:    1 : 3424000

Condition:    Very good. Minor wear along original centerfold. Minor spotting at places. Text on verso.

Code:   CaliforniaUtah-johnson-1863 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)

Tags:    Johnson , Westward Migration

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