The Magnificent Colton – Burr Map of New York City

Topographical Map of the City and County of New-York

Topographical Map of the City and County of New-York, and the adjacent Country: With Views in the border of the principal Buildings and interesting Scenery of the Island.

When I started my business, this was the map I wanted above all others. I quickly discovered that it was a near unobtainable object with almost no contemporary market history. After nearly 20 years as a rare map dealer, I finally found one, and just as quickly, it disappeared again, passed on to a deserving and enthusiastic collector. (Click on the image above to go out our main website page for the map and double click on that image for a high-resolution zoom.) What I discovered in researching this magnificent map is that very little scholarship was available on the well-known map, so, although the map has been sold, here is what we discovered:

Known as ‘The Colton Map,’ this is an unrecorded state of a 1840 map of New York City (Manhattan) by David H. Burr and John Hutchins Colton considered to be the finest and most decorative map of the city to appear in the 19th century. According to map historian I. N. Phelps Stokes, Colton’s map is

one of the most beautiful nineteenth-century plans of Manhattan, and full of information … the best example of really artistic mapmaking as applied to Manhattan Island


The map covers all of Manhattan Island as well as part of adjacent Brooklyn, Newark, Weehawken, Jersey City, and Hoboken. It starkly contrasts the development in southern Manhattan south of 30th Street with the topographically wild uplands extending northwards and dotted with gentlemanly estates, forests, hills, rivulets, and marshland. The city’s future is iterated by the street grid, which is superimposed upon the topography according to the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan as far north as 155th Street.

Detail of the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811 showing Broadway (Bloomingdale Road) being eliminated.

It is of note that, while the Commissioner’s Plan attempted to do away with Broadway, being offended by its irregular course, Colton and Burr, recognizing the ancient American Indian road as a popular and practical artery, included it on their grand map. The fact that Broadway, here identified as Bloomingdale Road, is represented not as a ghosted path, as on the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan or the 1829 Burr Map, but rather as a major street, leads to the first cartographic indication of several major squares that arose due to Broadway’s awkward intersection with the grid, including Union Square, Madison Square, and Times Square.

It is generally believed that this map was prepared for Colton by David H. Burr due to a promotional advertisement that appeared in the July 16, 1833 edition of the New York Commercial Advertiser, which reads

J. H. Colton and Company, No. 9 Wall Street, publish a new map of the city drawn by David H. Burr form the latest surveys of the city deposited in the street commissioner’s office from information obtained from several of the city’s surveyors.

It does resemble Burr’s 1829 map of New York City from the Atlas of New York in terms of coverage, orientation, and style. Nonetheless, the present map is far larger and grander, both being roughly twice the size of Burr’s atlas map, and far more detailed on every level. There is evidence that Burr began work engraving this map as early as 1832 or 1833, as a partial production proof of the central part of Manhattan, attributed to Burr, survives in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession 24.66.1492). That example curiously lacks the Receiving Reservoir (between 80th and 86th Streets.), which was planned in 1836, following the disastrous Great New York Fire of 1835. The Receiving Reservoir did not begin to function as such until 1842, but all examples of this map, aside from the fragment noted above, show the reservoir as well as the underground route of the Croton Pipeline, then under construction.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a partial steel engraved proof of a portion of this map in their archives. Attributed to Burr.

The map offers much else of interest on nearly every level. It illustrates of the early estates of the wealthy above 30th street. Several early boundary lines, such as between New York and Harlem Commons and the ‘Original Divisions between New York and Harlem’ are shown as drawn from Randal’s surveys. The map identifies public schools, including Public School 9, located on 79th and Broadway. The sites of early roadside hotels, such as the Kingsbridge Hotel, in Marble Hill, where travelers could rest on their way into Manhattan from what is now the Bronx. The modern-day site of Columbia University was a Lunatic Asylum. Just west of the Receiving Reservoir, near 85th Street, some of the buildings and a graveyard associated with the African American community known as Seneca Village are illustrated. In Brooklyn, some of the emerging street structure is ghosted in, giving evidence to the growth of that, then separate, city. Similarly, Williamsburg, also a separate city, is noted on the opposite side of the Wallabout.

The map is surrounded by a host of illustrations both on the map and integrated into the double border. At bottom center, there is a dramatic engraving illustrating ‘Broadway from the Park’, the ‘park’ here being City Hall Park. St. Paul’s Chapel and the American Museum are evident in the background. To this right of this image is a controversial c. 1650 view of New York City under the Dutch West India Company. That view is here dated 1659, but this date is incorrect as it is based upon an earlier anonymous watercolor, now located at the Albertina Museum, from 1648. The view appears on the 1655 Vischer Map, Novi Belgii Novae que Angliae nec non partis Virginiae Tabula, after which it is commonly known as the ‘Vischer View.’

The double border features an inner border that represents a surveyor’s chain, and an outer, far more elaborate border, consisting of acanthus leaves framing engravings of regional fauna, and, from top left, counterclockwise, ‘Windmill, Jersey City,’ ‘Custom-House, Wall St.,’ ‘City Hall, Wall St.,’ sailing ships, the city seal, steamships, the Palisades, Columbia College, St. Thomas Church, the Protestant Episcopal Seminary, a Female Orphan Asylum (Bloomingdale), New York Harbor from the Battery, Cortlandt Street Landing, St. Luke’s Church, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York from Governor’s Island, Castle Garden, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Barclay Street Landing, and The Hall of Justice (the Tombs).

The first printing of this map appeared in 1836, making it one of J. H. Colton’s earliest works. There are at least three states. The first appears to have been issued in 1836 and lacks Madison Square Park, which was commissioned in 1837. A second issue, also bearing the date 1836, features the park, and likely represents the cartographer’s forward thinking. Map historian Daniel Haskell, who identifies it as ‘The Colton Map,’ lists 3 dated issues 1836, 1841, and 1845. The present printing bears the date of 1840, marking it as a previously unknown state. It differs from the 2nd 1836 edition with regard to the track of the Croton Aqueduct from the Receiving Reservoir on 80th street to the Distributing Reservoir on 40th Street. The earlier state, which predates the construction of the pipeline, assumes it will run along 6th Avenue. The later edition routes the pipeline along Middle Road, or 5th Avenue. The aspect of the Distributing Reservoir also changes, as by 1840, when this map was issued, more advanced plans were in place.

It was engraved by Samuel Stiles and Company of New York. Apparently, some of the plates survived at least until 1868, when the northern

1868 William Rogers’s Battle of Harlem Heights for Shannon’s Manual.

plate was reused by William Rogers to create Map of the Upper Part of the island of Manhattan Above Eighty-Sixth Street arranged to Illustrate the Battle of Harlem Heights for Joseph Shannon’s Manual of the City and Corporation of New York. That map stands out from all of other lithograph prints in the manual as it is a steel plate engraving. All issues of the present map, with the exception of the partial proof at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are lithograph. This suggests that the original map was engraved on steel, probably by Burr. Burr probably abandoned the project when he took a position as the head topographer for the United States Postal Service, in 1833. Colton then struck Burr’s name from the plates and turned to Samuel Stiles to complete the engraving and transfer the plates to lithographic stones for publication in 1836.

Today this map is extremely scarce and exhibits no market history in the past 30 years. Intuitional examples are known in the New York Public Library, the Boston Public Library, The New York Historical Society, and the Library of Congress. The Metropolitan Museum of Art owns a partial working proof. One other example is part of the David Rumsey Map Collection. There are numerous citations on the OCLC but all reference the Rumsey digital resource. This is a once in a lifetime collecting opportunity.

Conibus Regnum: A mysterious lake in Northern Central Canada.

Cornelius van Wytfliet's 1597 map of Conibas Regnum

Cornelius van Wytfliet’s 1597 map of Conibas Regnum

The map above is one of Wytfliet’s most enigmatic maps. Cartographically this map covers northern central Canada and the supposed Arctic coast. It extends as far south as New Mexico (Septem Civitates) and includes Hochelaga, the original indigenous site that became Montreal. The map’s most striking feature is the massive inland lake liking to the Arctic via a narrow channel. The lake contains an island, which itself contains a city. Both are identified as Conibas. Considering that this map covers a region that, in 1597, remained fully unexplored by Europeans, we can only wonder, what is this lake and how did Wytfliet dream it up?

1554 Munster America

1554 Munster America

Although Wytfliet’s map above is the first to specifically detail the region, the idea of a great inland freshwater lake extending into the heart of North America from the high Arctic does appear in earlier maps. The first specific printed map of America to show a large inlet from the Arctic is Sebastian Munster’s 1540 Novae Insulae XVII Nova Tabula. Munster is therein rendering Verrazano’s Sea, a speculative inland sea opening to the Arctic or Pacific that Verrazano claimed to have discovered based upon misinterpretations of the Pamlico Sound and the Carolina Banks. Sailing along North Carolina’s Outer Banks in 1524, Verrazano saw the sound on the eastern side of the isthmus and postulated that it must be the Pacific

. . . where was found an isthmus a mile in width and about 200 long, in which, from the ship, was seen the oriental sea between the west and north. Which is the one, without doubt, which goes about the extremity of India, China and Cathay. We navigated along the said isthmus with the continual hope of finding some strait or true promontory at which the land would end toward the north in order to be able to penetrate to those blessed shores of Cathay

Munster’s inland sea is rather vague and formless, but it follows the form of original speculative rendering laid down by Verrazano in his manuscript chart now stored at the Vatican. Other early cartographers followed suit and also began rendering an inlet from the arctic, although, as the region was slowly explored, Verrazano’s Sea grew gradually smaller and smaller and was pushed further north and further away from the Atlantic Seaboard.

Verazzano's Manuscript Map showing speculative inland sea.

Verazzano’s Manuscript Map showing speculative inland sea.

It was Giacomo Gastaldi (Shirley, 107), in his 1561 woodcut wall map of the world, who finally gave Verrazano’s inlet the form we see here, i.e. extending inland via a narrowish channel and opening into a large inland lake with a central island. It was also Gastaldi who first uses the term ‘Conibas'(there spelled Conibaz) and establishes much of the typonomy for the region. Most researchers point to Mercator’s map of 1569 as the source for Conibas, but Gastaldi’s depiction of Conibas (spelled Conibaz), is both clearer and earlier by a considerable margin. Gastaldi develops both the form of Conibas, including its island city, and the lake’s river connection to the Arctic.

From whence was Gastaldi’s revolutionary representation of Conibas drawn? For this information, we can turn to a contemporary of Conibas, Andre Thevet, who claims to have met Cartier personally. Cartier explored the coasts of North America on several voyages between 1535 and 1542. On returning to Europe, he commissioned Gastaldi to compose several maps for his journals. While we have no knowledge of what personal conversations passed between Gastaldi and Cartier, we do have a record of conversations between Thevet and Cartier regarding Conibas. We can assume Gastaldi had access to this same information.

Giacomo Gastaldi's 1561 Map of the World. This is the first map to use the term 'Conibaz'.

Giacomo Gastaldi’s 1561 Map of the World. This is the first map to use the term ‘Conibaz’.

Cartier described to Thevet the American Indian tradition of ‘cornibotz’ a kind of highly coveted wampum-like shell used by certain indigenous tribes as a kind of currency. According to Cartier, the shells were obtained by ‘slashing the thighs and outer fleshy portions of the dead body of a captive then sunk into the depth of waters, when the shells could collect in the wounds’ (Kellog, L. P., The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest, page 42). This, along with Cartier’s description of large inland lakes, may have led Gastaldi to theorize a lake of ‘cornibotz’ or ‘conibaz’ from which all such sells originated. The inclusion of a city there possibly suggests a hope for riches and wealth – for indeed that is what ‘cornibotz’ represented. (Thevet, Andre, The Newfoudword, or Antarclike, (London, 1568).

The Lake of Conibas appeared in various forms on numerous maps printed between 1561 and 1609, including Thevet’s own map, the Mercator/Le Clerc map of the world, Mercator’s North Pole, De Jode’s America, and many others.

Related Maps:

How Good Cartographers Make Big Mistakes: The River of the West in Bellin’s 1743 Map of North America

Bellin’s 1743 Map of North America showing Verendrye’s waterways to the Pacific.

Cartography in the 18th and early 19th century can be understood as a race to reveal the unknown with global political and social consequences. Mapmakers, operating primarily from offices in Amsterdam, London, and Paris, did very little exploration themselves, rather, it was their onerous task to extrapolate from often sketchy reports brought back by mountain men, commercial and naval vessels, gentleman explorers, missionaries, and various other itinerants. These often conflicting and sometimes spurious accounts then had to be reconciled with established cartographic convention, political ideology, and commercial expectations. This short blog post will illustrate one example of how this can easily go wrong – even for master cartographer.

This map was issued by France’s premier cartographer of middle 18th century and one of the most meticulous and conscientious cartographers in the world, Jacques-Nicholas Bellin. The map, Carte de L’Amerique Septentrionale Pour servir a L’Histoire de la Nouvelle France, covers all of North America from the Arctic to the Spanish Main, including modern day Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. Bellin prepared this map to illustrate Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix’s Histoire et description generale de la Nouvelle France. Charlevoix was a Jesuit missionary and traveler commissioned by the French Crown and the Duke of Orleans to reconnoiter French holdings in the Americas. The French had just lost control of the Hudson Bay and were actively in search of a profitable route to the Pacific, which many believed lay in the network of rivers and lakes to the west of the Great Lakes. Charlevoix thus had the secondary commission to ‘inquire about the Western Sea, but [to] still give the impression of being no more than a traveler or missionary.’ While in the Americas, Charlevoix befriended Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Lery, a French Canadian military engineer active throughout French America in the early 18th century. Gaspard passed on numerous manuscript reports and maps, most likely including some of the manuscript maps referenced below, to Charlevoix, who in turn passed them on to Bellin, the official Ingénieur de la Marine.

Close up of Bellin’s use of the Auchagah / Verendrye Map.

By far this map’s most striking feature is the broad open water route extending westward from Lake Superior, through the Lake of the Woods (Lac des Bois), and continuing via the River of the West (Fleuve de L’Ouest) through Lake Winnipeg (Ouinipigon) to the mysterious Mountain of Radiant Stones (Montagne de Pierres Brillantes). This remarkable passage is based upon a manuscript, below, drawn by the American Indian Cree river guide Auchagah in 1728 or 1729 for the French Fur trapper Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Le Sieur de La Verendrye. The connection between the two maps is obvious, especially in the western quadrants where the topography, text, and river networks are drawn direction from Auchagah’s map.

Auchagah Cree Indian Map of the Portages Between Lake Superior and Lake Winnipeg.

Auchagah Cree Indian Map of the Portages Between Lake Superior and Lake Winnipeg.

In a manner not atypical of American Indian cartographic perspectives, Auchagah’s map is a practical illustration of river routes he would have been familiar with between Lake Superior and Lake Winnipeg. It identifies various large lakes as well as numerous portages and some topographical features such as the “Montagne de Pierres Brillantes.” What it fails to convey are distance and direction. In the eyes of a western cartographer, used to maps with a uniform directional orientation and scale, this appears to be a pretty good map illustrating a passage west possibly as far as the Pacific. What Auchagah’s map in fact shows is an approach to Lake Winnipeg, here described as Ouinipigon that extends westward from Lake Superior to the Lake of the Woods before turning northwest to Lake Ouinipigon. A synthesis of incompatible cartographies thus caused Winnipeg / Ouinipigon to be mapped twice, both in the Sioux lands to the west of the Lake of the Woods as suggested by the Auchagah map, and, more properly, to the north as Lake Assiniboels. Assiniboels is notably and correctly also connected to the Hudson Bay by the Nelson River (R. de Bourbon).

Lahonton’s Longue Riviere, 1702.

The cartography derived from Auchagah’s map would not have seemed the least unusual to Bellin. In fact, it would have been a confirmation of previously established cartographic conventions based upon c. 1700 voyages of the Baron de Lahonton, see below. Both maps are suggestive of a navigable river system extending westward an unknown distance. Lahonton’s map is akin to Auchagah’s in that it is also based, at least in part, on river maps drawn by indigenous river guides.

Close up of the Pacific Northwest from Bellin’s 1743 map of North America.

Compounding issues relating to widely divergent cartographic perspectives is the complete lack of surveyed reference points. As such, cartographers relied on educated speculation to incorporate sketchy reports by trappers like Verendrye and adventurers like Lahonton into their maps. In our primary example above, most of the North Americas shorelines are somewhat known based upon earlier nautical positioning. Though pre-Cook maritime survey work was at best inexact, it was sufficient to drawn general boarders, as above. Here Bellin references the work of Martin d’Aguilar, a Spanish navigator who sailed up the west coast of America in 1602. He reported sighting a ‘rapid and abundant’ river emptying into the Pacific, which Bellin identifies here. (As a side note, it is generally assumed that Aguilar made it no further than Coos Bay, however, this description sounds uncannily like the Columbia River, much further north. While there are other rivers emptying into the Pacific closer to Coos Bay, none have a dangerous discharge comparable to the Columbia). Other landmarks, such as Cape Mendocino, were well known as landmarks on the Manila – Acapulco trade route.

The vast distances Bellin suggests that Auchagah’s map covers are hence merely speculation, but not random speculation. Although Bellin was considered the most meticulous of cartographers and is known to have written scathingly against the tendency for political influence to trump cartographic fact, he cannot have been immune to the political and mercantile aspirations of his nation. The need for a westward route to the Pacific was profound and a matter of life and death for the French colonies in the Americas. Without such a route the French in America were well aware that they would soon lose their commercial advantage in the region to the British who had just seized control of the Hudson Bay. The cartographer who successfully mapped such a route would be guaranteed everlasting frame and glory – perhaps a risk worth taking.


Did this 1715 Map Influence the First Appearance of the Name “Oregon”?

1715 Lonhontan Map of the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi

Did this 1715 Map attached to the French edition of Lahonton’s travels influence the first use of the name “Oregon”?

While researching Lahontan’s Carte Generale de Canada (above) we discovered an obscure 1944 article by George R. Stewart of the University of California that, if he is correct, lends additional significance to this already important map by shedding more light on the mysterious origins of the name “Oregon”.

The debate over the term “Oregon” has been ongoing for over a century. Most scholarship ascribes its first known use to a 1765 manuscript petition by Major Robert Rogers to the King of England’s Privy Council requesting financing for an expedition to discover a river based “Northwest Passage” from the Great Lakes to the Pacific. Variants later appear in Jonathan Carver’s 1778 Travel’s Through the Interior Parts of North America. Carver was an associate of Rogers from whom he no doubt derived the term. Modern scholars have delved deeper into the term associating it with various American Indian languages. The most recent scholarship on this subject by anthropologist Ives Goddard and linguist Thomas Love (Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 105, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), pp. 238-259) traces the etymological root of “Oregon” to Abenaki term “wauregan” meaning “good” or “beautiful”. The Abenaki (and later the French in the form of Le Page’s Map), with whom Rogers was intimate, used this term to refer to the Ohio River – a westward flowing waterway that empties into the Mississippi or at least that’s how it was described in the property management white papers. The most interesting remaining question seems to be, ‘How did this term become associated with a river that emptied into the Pacific?’

The first step in deciphering this process is understanding Robert Rogers – a complicated fellow to say the least. Though not rich in formal education Rogers was a skilled frontiersman and bold commander, qualities that earned him ephemeral fame following his extraordinary exploits leading “Rogers Rangers” during the French and Indian War. In contrast to his skills as a military commander, Rogers was frequently at odds with authority, once accused of treason, and invariably deep in debt. He was a charismatic charmer and, when it suited him, a clever conman.

Rogers interest in the Northwest Passage seems to have been inspired by Arthur Dobbs, an Anglo-Irish politician and from 1754 to 1765 the colonial governor of North Carolina. Dobbs was famously obsessed with notions of the Northwest Passage and personally sponsored several failed expeditions of discovery. He acted as a kind of clearing house for any and all information regarding the Northwest Passage. In the way of intelligent men with a mission, Dobbs cobbled together an assortment of data to correspond to his preconceived vision for the largely unexplored TransMississippi.

The scholar Malcolm H. Clark, in his article “Oregon” Revisited correctly, to our mind, identifies the sources for Roger’s description of the “River Ourigan” in well-worn legends of the previous decades. Rogers describes (note Rogers is a notoriously poor speller)

.. this great River Ourigan . . . discharges itself into an Arm or Bay of the Sea at near the Latitude of fiftyfour and [which] bends Southerdly anid entys the Pacifick Ocean about forty eight, nine or fifty, where it narrows, but to the Northwest .. . at the Entrence of the River Ourigan the Bay is wide, and supposed to have a communication with the Hudsons Bay, above the latitude of Dobsie’s point …

1760 De L'Isle Speculative Map of the North America, the Arctic, and Siberia (Sea of the West)

Some early ideas about the American Pacific Northwest are illustrated here, including the Sea of the West and the Passage of DeFonte.

Clark and some of the top forex brokers in the world, with an interest on the subject, soundly argue that this is an amalgam of legends related to the mythical explorer Bartholomew de Fonte and the French fur trader Nicholas Jeremie. De Fonte supposedly discovered a great inlet somewhere along the American northwest coast that led inland via a series of navigable lakes, channels, and rivers, to an outlet in the Hudson Bay – this is Rogers’ “Arm or Bay of the Sea at near the Latitude of fiftyfour and [which] bends Southerdly anid entys the Pacifick Ocean”. De Fonte’s legend was widely accepted until the very end of the 18th century, counting Benjamin Franklin and other intellectual greats among its adherents. Nicholas Jeremie, who was based out of Fort Bourbon, wrote in his c. 1720 “Relation de la Bale de Hudson” of river that supposedly extended from Lake Winnipeg to another stream that flowed westward – this would be Rogers’ “River Ourigan”. Jeremie admitted to have gleaned this information third-hand from American Indian contacts. Soundly connecting the matter to Dobbs, who was likely the first to put this altogether, Rogers identifies the eastern end of his passage as “Dobsies Point”.

Rogers’ later descriptions of the Oruigan River (which he actually offers several different spellings for) generally follow the river systems delineated in Antoine-Simone Le Page du Pratz’ map which illustrate the possibly mythical travels of the Yazoo Indian Monchcht-ape, who supposedly traveled northwest of the Mississippi on a river referred to by the local Indians as the “Beautiful River” – echoing the term given to the Ohio River by the Abenaki – ‘Wauregan’.

This alone may have been sufficient to convince Rogers to name his great river of the west the Oruigan. However, returning to Lahontan’s map, above, and to Stewart’s short article, there may have been another element in play. The “Carte Generale de Canada” published along with Lahontan’s narrative covers the Great Lakes basin between the Mississippi River and the Pacific, extending northwards to the Hudson Bay and southwards as far as the Missouri River.

The Ouariconsint is here divided into two lines "Ouaricon" and "sint".

The Ouariconsint is here divided into two lines “Ouaricon” and “sint”.

This map features a westward flowing river called the “R. de Ouariconsint”. No doubt this is the Wisconsin River, and although represented inaccurately by modern standards, it does in fact follow the period convention for the portrayal of this system. The publisher, seemingly for want of space, has here broken the Ouariconsint into two words, “Ouaricon” and, following on the second line “sint”. The Longue River, Lahontan’s mythical route to the west, appears just north of this river. Could a misreading of this map’s westward flowing river, with an easy-to-misread name curiously close to Rogers’ Ourigan, have influenced his adoption of the term? Though Lahontan’s map does not show the Ohio River, the Wauregan of the Abenaki, it does show the Ouariconsint. Rogers was doubtless familiar with the Ohio, La Page’s Belle Rivere, and with the Abenaki name for it, thus he may well have associated the Carte Generale de Canada’s Ouaricon / Ouariconsint, due to a similarity in pronunciation, with the Ohio, and thus with the Belle Rivere of Le Page. The term was later adopted by H. S. Tanner, no doubt without being aware of its complex history, to describe the Oregon Territory.

It is noteworthy that this particular way of labeling the “Ouariconsint”, that is divided onto two lines, appeared in the second French edition of Lahontan’s narrative, 1703, and was reproduced in most subsequent French editions to 1715. The choice to break the word into two lines was no doubt a space saving measure taken to accommodate the smaller format 1703 French edition. The English editions of Lahontan’s work were engraved by Hermon Moll and do not feature the divided name.

While simple answers are always the easiest, we tend to believe that history is more often than not the result of a happy conjunction of unrelated factors that propel and idea forward. Elliot, Clark, Stewart, Byram, Lewis, Goddard, Love, and others are just some of the scholars who have tackled this puzzle, each making significant contributions to the corpus. The name ‘Oregon’ may not have derived from a single source, as most suggest, but rather been influenced by numerous similar sounding words, from different languages, that managed to converge, consciously or unconsciously, in Rogers’ (or Dobbs) questing mind.



Bracher, F., ‘”Ouaricon” and Oregon’, American Speech, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Oct., 1946), pp. 185-187.

Clark, Malcolm, ‘”Oregon” Revisited’, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 2 (Jun., 1960), pp. 211-219.

Elliott, T. C., “The Strange Case of Jonathan Carver and the Name Oregon”, The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Dec., 1920), pp. 341-368

Elliot, T. C., “The Origin of the Name Oregon”, The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Jun., 1921), pp. 91-115.

Ives, Goddard and Love, Thomas, ‘Oregon, the Beautiful’, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 105, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), pp. 238-259.

Snow, V. F., “From Ouragan to Oregon”, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Dec., 1959), pp. 439-447.

Stewart, G. R., “The Source of the Name ‘Oregon'”, American Speech, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Apr., 1944), pp. 115-117.

Taube, Edward, “Turn Again: The Name Oregon and Linguistics” Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 2 (Summer, 1978), p. 211.

Walker, James V., “Henry S. Tanner and Cartographic Expression of American Expansionism in the 1820s”, Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 111, No. 4 (2010), p. 416-443.

Widder, K. R., “The 1767 Maps of Robert Rogers and Jonathan Carver: A Proposal for the Establishment of the Colony of Michilimackinac”, Michigan Historical Review, Vol. 30, No. 2, Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region [Part 1] (Fall, 2004), pp. 35-75

One of a Kind Chromolithograph View of New York City

View of Manhattan

1897 Colton Chromolithograph Map View of New York City: Manhattan Brooklyn Queens

A rare possibly unique find, this is G. W. and C. B. Colton’s magnificent 1897 panoramic birds-eye view of New York City. Presented in chromolithograph color this map reveals Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens as seen from high above Jersey City and Hoboken, which themselves appear in the lower left quadrant. The area covered runs from the Bronx to the Statue of Liberty and from Hoboken to Brooklyn and Governor’s Island.

The map is presented as if looking west from high above Hoboken and Jersey City – an unusual take on the city which deviates considerably from the more common south-north Manhattan views by Currier and Ives, and others. This might be explained by the development of Upper Manhattan, most notably the Upper West Side and Central Park, late in second half of the 19th century. The artist would have wanted to represent these newly affluent areas so that his view would appeal to the widest possible audience.

Several bridges are noted including the Brooklyn Bridge (completed in 1883), the Williamsburg Bridge (opened in 1903 but under construction as this view was being drawn), the Queensboro Bridge (proposed but, as this map was being drawn, as not as yet under construction), and a curious bridge that never materialized crossing the Hudson to Hoboken at 59th Street. Central Park is clearly visible, as are the Statue of Liberty in the lower right quadrant, St. John the Divine in the upper left, and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in the upper right. New York’s signature grid system is clearly represented as are many individual buildings, many of which still stand today. The rivers, and harbor are teaming with life as countless ships of all shapes and sizes visit the many wharves on both size of the River. Smoke escapes many chimneys throughout, though especially in lower Manhattan and Jersey City, giving evidence to New York’s late 19th century industry.

This piece is exceedingly rare and we have been able to identify no record of it in any publication or major collection. It is not referenced by Stokes, it does not appear in the OCLC, has no auction records, and there are no examples in the catalogues of the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, or the New York Historical Society. Since the Colton firm would have produced this map in the final days of operation, in fact it is the latest Colton publication we have come across, it is reasonable to speculate that this view may never reached the production stage and is merely a prototype. Such would account for its uncommon rarity – indeed, this may well be the only example in existence.


Map of the Week: 1893 Cane Map of the Columbian Exposition – the world’s first cane map.

The world's first cane map - a rare novelty from the 1893 Columbian Exposition showing Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

An extremely rare and unusual cane and map prepared in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Fair or, as it is better known, the 1893 Columbian Exposition. This is the earliest known example of a cane map. The genre was invented by the Columbian Novelty Company and, as the map itself notes, the patent was still pending when issued for the fair in 1893. All subsequent cane maps, most of which date to the first half of the 20th century, follow on model of this cane as patented by the Columbian Novelty Company.

The map extends from an internal spring loaded roller mechanism in the top of the cane. It is printed and hand colored on both sides. The primary side shows the grounds of the Columbian Exposition, now Jackson Park and the Field Museum, naming all important buildings walks, pavilions, markets, etc. Among the specific sites noted are “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show & Congress of Rough Riders”, the Chicago University Grounds, and the various pavilions established for manufacturing, mining, transportation, liberal arts, agriculture, machinery, etc. In the upper left quadrant there is a aerial view of the entire fair. A larger inset along the right hand side of the map focuses on the Midway from Stony Island to Cottage Grove.

The 1893 Columbian Exposition or Chicago World’s Fair was a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. Chicago won the right to host the World’s Fair over New York, Washington D.C., and St. Louis. During its six month run, nearly 27,000,000 people, roughly half the population of the United States at the time, attended the fair. Its numerous displays and exhibits established conventions for architecture, design, and decorative arts, in addition to initiating a new era of American industrial optimism.

The layout and design of the fair, as seen here, is the work of Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted, the genius behind New York City’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, among others. Most of the fair was designed in the Beaux Arts tradition, a popular movement in Paris that was quickly gaining global momentum. In the years following the fair, this influential architectural style redefined the cityscape of Chicago, Boston, New York, and many other prominent American cities.

Printed by August Gast of St. Louis for the Columbian Novelty Company of Chicago. Originally sold in the gift shops of the 1893 Columbian Exposition.


The 1606 Mercator / Hondius Map of the American Southeast

Virginiae Item et Floridae

The most influential map of the American southeast to emerge in the 17th century.

Published in 1606 by the Mercator – Hondius firm, this is the most influential map of the southeastern part of North America to emerge in the 17th century and the first map to depict by Virginia and Florida. Entitled, “Virginiae Item et Floridae”, Hondius’ map covers from the Spanish colony of St. Augustine northwards, past the Outer Banks of the Carolinas, as far north as the entrada to the Chesapeake Bay. Cartographically Hondius’ map is a synthesis of the two landmark North American maps of the previous century, the 1591 Jacques Le Moyne map of Florida and the 1590 John White map of Virginia and Carolina, both of which were published by Theodore de Bry. The influence of this map, augmented by the gravity of the Mercator name, would dominate the cartographic perspective of the American southeast well into the 18th century, propagating in the process a number of errors that would appear on maps well into the 1700s.

Despite referencing both sources, Hondius’ map is a unique production, with a number of elements that would influence the cartographic perspective of this region well into the 18th century. The most notable of these deal with the lakes and rivers found in the southwestern quadrant of the map. This region was tenuously mapped by the French during their disastrous attempt to settle the Forida from 1552 to 1565, when they were finally driven out by the Spaniards of St. Augustine. Le Moyne was part of this expedition and, though the French settlers likely did very little actual mapping of the interior, good terms with the indigenous Floridians did enable them to produce an impressive and very accurate early map of the southeast. The Le Moyne – De Bry map, as it is known, identifies several major lakes in the interior of Florida, all of which are noted here, however, where Le Moyne was surprisingly accurate, Hondius’ interpretation is surprisingly erroneous.

The most significant deviation from Le Moyne’s map is Hondius’ placement of the River May and Lake Apalachy, here identified as the “Lacus Aquae Dulcis” (Sweet Water Lake). Where Le Moyne correctly mapped the River May (St. John’s River, Florida) in an inverted “V” form, first heading north, then south to meet with a large inland lake (in all likely hood Lake George or one of the other great inland lakes of Florida), Hondius maps the course of the May heading to the northwest, thus relocating the “Lacus Aquae Dulcis” far to the north. This error can be understood in terms of magnetic variation, temperature issues associated with isothermal lines, and navigational errors related to the confusion of the star Asfick with Polaris. While Le Moyne correctly located the mouth of the River May at 30 degrees of latitude, Hondius maps it between 31 and 32 degrees. This led to a misassociation of the River May with the Savannah River. Thus, while the River May dips southward, the Savannah River heads almost directly NW into the Appellation Mountains, forming the modern southern border of South Carolina. Hondius, no doubt taking his cue from navigators who rarely trekked inland and therefore rerouted the May River to flow from the northwest. Without an accurate picture if the interior, Hondius followed Le Moyne’s example and translocated the great freshwater lake to the north. Others have speculated that the Le Moyne’s River May is in fact the St. John’s River, and that the “Lacus Aquae Dulcis” is in fact the Okefenokee Swamp – however, this argument is against established convention. The influence of the Mercator-Hondius firm was so pronounced in Europe that most subsequent cartographers followed their lead. Lactus Aquae Dulces appeared in maps by Jansson, Laet, Janszoon, Blaeu, Allard, Ogilby, Speed, Homann and others well into the 18th century, becoming one of Hondius’ most tenacious legacies.

Another curious and striking element drawn directly from the Le Moyne map is another lake fed by an enormous waterfall. To our knowledge, there are but two maps that depict this lake, this being the second. Some believe this unusual lake may have been based on native legends of Niagara Falls. A note near the lake and falls reads that the natives of this land find grains of silver in this lake. The sources for this lake are, unfortunately, as unclear in this map as they were in Le Moyne’s, and will most likely remain a mystery. The third mysterious lake, Sarrope, appearing the southwestern quadrant, is most likely a mismapping of Lake Okeechobee, as Le Moyne places it much further to the south in roughly the correct position.

Like the Le Moyne map, this map is also one of the earliest maps to depict and name the Appellation Mountains, here identified as Apalatcy Montes. A note suggests that the Apalatcy, a term presumably derived from a once populous American Indian nation inhabiting the Pensacola region, are rich in gold and silver.

To the east and north of Port Royal, the former site of the failed 1552 French colony, Hondius draws most of his cartography from John White’s map of 1590. This map, which is the first to accurately detail the Grand Banks, was drawn by White following Sir Walter Raleigh’s mysterious and ill-fated attempt to colonize Roanoke Island in 1585. Hondius’ takes far fewer liberties with White’s work, following closely on the cartography of the older map, though he has included a few Spanish names including C. S. Romano Hispanis, Medano, and Hispanis. These names most are most likely derived from early Spanish forays up the North American coast from St. Augustine, though few of these expeditions yielded discoveries of any note.

Another noteworthy error is the jutting distorted horizontal projection of Virginia-Carolina, which erroneously places Carolina and the Outer Banks too far to the east. This error follows on earlier maps and relates to difficulties 16th century mariners experienced in calculating longitude and accounting for magnetic variance. It was not until the invention of the marine chronometer in 1714 that longitude cold be accurately measured at sea. Nonetheless, one can image the misrepresentation being problematic for earlier sailors short on supplies after a lengthy trans-Atlantic crossing. Fortunately, most ships navigating to this region would have stopped first in the West Indies then followed the coast northward rather than make directly for the colonies along the Grand Banks. This approach no doubt influenced the longevity of this cartographic error.

This map is further profusely illustrated with various decorative illustrative elements drawn from various early accounts of American Indians. These include a Floridian King and Queen, sailing ships, sea monsters, and an American Indian fishing canoe taken from De Bry. To the right and left of the title cartouche, upper left quadrant, are views of American Indian villages, illustrating the construction differences between Florida and Virginia villages.

This map remained the most important map of the North American southeast for nearly 70 years, until superseded by the 1672 publication of Ogilby-Moxon’s “Description of Carolina.” It was published in numerous editions in various languages, but there is only one state as the map remained unaltered in all subsequent publications. From the verso text, we can identify this example as being drawn from the 1628 French edition of Gerard Mercator and Jodocus Hondius’ Atlas. Mercator died in 1594 and though the maps and atlas bear his name, most of the individual maps were edited and updated by Hondius prior to the 1606 Atlas’s publication.


Cumming, W., The Southeast in Early Maps, no. 26 and plate no. 2.
Boston Public Library, Leventhal Collection, G3870 1633 .H66.
Williams & Johnson #3.
Burden, P., The Mapping of North America, #151.
Koeman, C., Atlantes Neerlandici. Bibliography of Terrestrial, Maritime and Celestial Atlases and Pilot Books, Published in the Netherlands up to 1880, vol. 2, p. 282 no. 141.
Van der Krogt, P., Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici, 9400:1A.
Goss, J., The Mapping of North America: Three Centuries of Map-Making 1500-1860, no. 23.
Lowery, W., The Lowery Best Miter Saw Collection, 100.

The first map to depict Manhattan as an Island and depict a beaver

Blaeu's 1638 Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova was the first map to depict Manhattan as an Island and depict a beaver

The first map to name Manhattan.

A beautiful old color example of one of the most important maps in the history of America, Blaeu’s 1638 Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova. Oriented to the west, this map covers the American coast from Virginia, past New York and Long Island to Cape Code, New England, and Quebec. It is cartographically derived from data accumulated by Adriaen Bock and other Dutch fur traders active in the early 17th century. It is known for a number of important firsts, including the first full representation of Manhattan as an Island.

Burden, in his Mapping of North America, notes:

This important map was one of the most attractive of the Americas at the time. It is noted for the fact that its primary source is the first manuscript figurative map of Adriaen Block, 1614. Indeed it is the first full representation of it in print. It is one of the earliest to name Nieu Amsterdam. Block, a Dutch fur trader, explored the area between Cape Cod and Manhattan, examining the bays and rivers along the way. This helped to create an accurate picture of the longitudinal scale of the coastline. His manuscript map is the first document to delineate an insular Manhattan; it also provides the earliest appearance of Manhates and Niev Nederland.

It has been noted that the time difference between 1614, the date of the manuscript, and Blaeu’s map whose first appearance is in 1635, appears long for such an important advance. It would seem highly feasible that Blaeu, who published many separately issued maps, would have wanted to produce one like this sooner. However, evidence points to the fact that it could not have been made before 1630. The Stokes Collection in New York possesses an example of the map on thicker paper without text on the reverse which could well be a proof issue of some kind.

There are features on Blaeu’s map that differ from the Block chart. Some of these could be accounted for by the fact that the surviving figurative map is not the original, and that the copyist omitted some place names that are referred to in the text of de Laet’s work. Block drew on Champlain’s map of 1612 for the depiction of the lake named after him, but it is here called Lacus Irocoisiensis. … The lack of interrelation between the Dutch or English colonies and the French, led for some time to the eastward displacement of this lake when its true position would be north of the Hudson River.

Some nomenclature has its origins in Blaeu’s second Paskaert of c.1630, and others, such as Manatthans, in de Laet. The colony of Nieu Pleimonth is identified. This and other English names along that part of the coast are largely derived from Smith’s New England, 1616. Cape Cod is here improved over the Block manuscript by being reconnected to the mainland, the narrow strait having been removed. The coastline between here and Narragansett Bay, which can be clearly recognized, is not so accurate. Adriaen Blocx Eylandt leads us to the Versche Rivier, or Connecticut River, which Block ascended as far as was possible. ‘t Lange Eyland is named; however, it is incorrectly too far east, being applied to what is possibly Fishers Island. De Groote bay marks Long Island Sound. The Hudson River is still not named as such, but is littered with Dutch settlements, and the failed Fort Nassau is here depicted renamed as Fort Orange. He does, however, improve on the direction of its flow. Blaeu separates the sources of the Hudson and Delaware Rivers which had been causing some confusion. Nieu Amsterdam is correctly marked as a fort at the tip of an island separated on the east side by Hellegat, or the East River. The coastline south of Sandy Hook also shows signs of improvement.

The whole map is adorned by deer, foxes, bears, egrets, rabbits, cranes and turkeys. Beavers, polecats and otters appear on a printed map for the first time. The Mohawk Indian village top right is derived from the de Bry-White engravings.

It is of note that this map was issued in a number editions but only a single state. Editions are generally identified by the text appearing on the verso with twelve documented editions, three each in Dutch, Latin, German, and French. This example corresponds to the 1638 French edition and was included in Le Theatre du Monde.

The Viele Map of Manhattan’s Topography and Waterways

Viele Map

The Viele Map - One of the most important and enduring maps of New York City ever published.

This is Egbert L. Viele’s 1865 topography and waterways map of Manhattan, one of the scarcest, most important and most enduring maps of New York City ever published. Covering the entirety of Manhattan Island, Viele’s map details the canals, swamps, rivers, ditches, ponds, meadows, and drainage basins of Manhattan as they existed prior to the city’s urban development. A version of the Viele map remains in use today by architects and contractors who need to be certain they are not building over underground rivers and swamps that may destabilize a new construction’s foundation.

Roughly translated “Manhattan” is an American Indian term meaning “Island of Hills”. The American Indians living in the region prior to the Dutch settlement of Manhattan treated the island as a huge hunting and fishing reserve full of trout streams, bass swamps, and sunfish ponds. Viele contended that as streets and buildings were constructed the city’s natural drainage retreated underground where, stagnating, it led to a “humid miasmic state of the atmosphere” conducive to yellow fever, malaria, plague, and other epidemic illnesses.

Viele dedicated nearly 20 years to researching and perfecting this masterpiece of cartography. The basic map and above ground topography of the Viele map is drawn from John Randel’s surveys of 1807 and the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811, which formally laid out New York City’s grid system. Viele then used early survey work, new survey work, and studies of older maps to recreate Manhattan’s water system as it must have existed when the first Dutch settlers built a fur trading post of the tip of the island. Viele presented an unfinished early state of his map, covering only lower Manhattan to the New York State Senate in 1859, claiming, “The Sanitary condition of any city or district or country is intimately connected with its proper drainage . . . that any inquiry into causes or remedies for sanitary evils . . . shall be based upon a thorough knowledge of the topography of the island”. It took another six years of meticulous study to produce the final product – this extraordinary achievement.

Though Viele may never have imaged his map’s most important legacy would be as a construction aid, architects, engineers, and contractors were quick to grasp the usefulness of the map. Paul Starett, who built the Empire State Building and Stuyvesant Town, used this map to prepare estimates of construction costs. Melvin Febish, part of the team constructing the Citicorp Center, “found that it’s accurate within feet”. The builders of our own apartment building, at 105th and Amsterdam, may not have consulted this map, for had they done so they may have noticed the underground river that has caused innumerable foundation problems in the 80 plus years since it was built.


Inscribed by the Author to "Ches Davis"

This edition of Viele’s “Topographical Map of the City of New-York” was issued to accompany his manifesto calling for future city development to take natural waterways and drainage into account when planning expansion. It is the first complete state of Viele’s map and comes with its original green leatherette binder and text, which the author (Viele) has inscribed to a mysterious “Ches Davis”. Haskell, in his cartobibliography of Manhattan maps, for some reason identifies this map as being issued in 1864, but no known example exists from that date, nor are there any recorded copyrights on this map from 1864. The first complete edition is this, 1865.

In closing we would like to make a final comment on condition. This map was issued on two joined panels, printed on fine bank note paper, and folded for issue in various publications. Consequently most examples exhibit considerable wear and damage along the original fold lines as well as cropped or off-center borders, general wear, soiling, water damage, and color loss. This example, on the other hand, is in near pristine condition. We have had it professionally removed from its original binder and flatted with archival tissue added for backing and support. Its color is original and remarkably vivid with no signs of the degradation typical on maps from this period. If you hope to add an example of this map to your collection, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

References: Rumsey 3723.000. Augustyn, R. T. and Cohen, P. E., Manhattan in Maps, p. 136 – 139. Haskell, Daniel, Manhattan Maps, A Co-operative List, 1132. Stokes, I. N. P., The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909, Compiled from Original Sources and Illustrated by Photo-Intaglio Reproductions of Important Maps, Plans, Views and Documents in Public and Private Collections, vol 3, p.777-778.

Teguayo, Great Salt Lake, and Atzlatan

Mannert Map of Teguayo in North America

Mannert, in 1796, maps Teguayo as a both region and a city.

One of the most enduring myths, or perhaps the right term is legends, of the American west is Teguayo. To some it is a lake, to others a mythical homeland, to still others a lost city of gold, and to others, an outlandish hoax. We shall examine all of these to some extent in this article below, but first, it is best to put Teguayo in cartographic context.

Teguayo was mapped in the American southwest from the mid 17th century well into the 19th century. In most cases, Teguayo is mapped as a region, sometimes called Gran Teguayo, though it is occasionally entered as a city or, in later maps, a lake. The first recorded mention of Teguayo, and this is tenuous as we have not been able to isolate the primary source, is in a document discovered by Theodore Greiner, a Pueblo Indian Agent and territorial administrator during the Civil War. Greiner apparently discovered a hitherto unknown document recording an interview between Cortez and Cuauhtémoc, the last Aztec Emperor, regarding Aztec dominions in modern day New Mexico and Arizona. The fascinating snippet is quoted in full below:

I command this province, which is the first of New Mexico, the Pueblo of Tigueyo, which governs one hundred and two pueblos to be the best ship car cross country region. In this pueblo there is a great mine close by, in which they cut with stone hatchets the gold of my crown. The great province of Zuni, where was born the great Malinche. This pueblo is very large, increasing in Indians of light complexion, who are governed well. In this province is a silver mine, and this capital controls eighteen pueblos. The province of Moqui, the province of the Navajos, the great province of the Gran Quivira, that governs the pueblos of the Quercs and the Tanos. These provinces have different tongues, which only Malinche understands. The province of Acoma, in which there is a blackish colored hill, in which there is found a silver mine.”

Homann associates Tigux and Teguayo.

Homann associates Tigux and Teguayo.

Although this statement mentions a number of early place names that bear further research, our concern is with the first line, regarding the “Pueblo of Tigueyo”. While there is no certainty that the above quote is authentic or even traceable, if it is true it seems to be the first recorded reference to Teguayo.

The first hard historical evidence of Teguayo appears in ever fascinating and violent journals of the Coronodo expedition. Fought in New Mexico somewhere around 1540, between Coronodo’s conquistadores and the Puebla of Tiwa, the Tiguex or Tiwa War is generally considered to be the first armed conflict between Europeans and Native Americans in the American West. The Spanish chroniclers transliterated Tiwa as either Tiguex or Tiguea. This powerful Pueblo is most likely one and the same with the “Tigueyo” described to Cortez by Cuauhtémoc.

The next significant report of Teguayo or Tiguex appears in the celebrated 1630 Benavides Memorial. Alonso de Benavides was a Franciscan missionary active in New Mexico in the early 17th century. Benavides composed the memorial and published it in Madrid in a push for the Spanish crown and the Catholic Church to establish a New Mexico bishopric. Though sincere in his passion for gentle conversion of the indigenous Americans of the southwest, Benavides clearly exaggerates the scale, wealth, and sophistication of the land and peoples he encountered. The pueblo of Tiguex (Teguayo) he describes as being ” by rights the great city of the king of this province” having “four thousand or more houses, all quite large, in each of which live from ten to fifteen neighbors”, with “high corridors and terraces, and very high towers,” and “situated on a plain on the banks of a river and enclosed by rock walls, set not with lime by with Gypsum”. It was a place so remarkable that “the Spaniards were simply awestruck with its beauty”.

Unbeknownst to Benavides, this exaggeration would have a significant impact on the next figure in the Teguayo drama, the nefarious Don Diego Dionisio de Peñalosa. Peñalosa could generously described as a roguish adventurer but is more accurately a traitorous scoundrel in the true conquistador fashion. Born in Peru, Peñalosa took various positions in the Spanish colonial regime before being dismissed from his position in Lima for “misconduct”. Peñalosa attempted to return to Spain but a shipwreck landed him in Mexico where he seems to have had better luck. Calling himself the Count of Peñalosa, he flattered his way into increasingly powerful positions with the Viceroyalty, eventually being awarded governorship of New Mexico. The former governor, known for his kind and humane treatment of the indigenous population, fell afoul of the Spanish Inquisition for, supposedly, hindering the efforts of the Franciscan friars to convert the natives.

Peñalosa arrived in New Mexico in 1661, eager to take up his position and abuse it for personal enrichment. The constant thorn in his side was his clerical counterpart, the Franciscan friar Alonso de Posada. Both were ambitious and strong willed men who quickly established a mutual loathing. A number of conflicts followed that ended with Peñalosa being excommunicated and Posada imprisoned. Eventually Posada returned to Mexico City where he filed charges against Peñalosa who, meanwhile, fled to England.

Of importance to our story is that despite near constant conflict, both Posada and Peñalosa published narratives describing presumed explorations of the region. Peñalosa’s account is by far the most interesting; claiming, among other things, that he discovered an outlet to the “North Sea” and the gold rich indigenous empires of Teguayo and Quivara. Modern researchers have put forth strong evidence that both men, involved in their own ambitious and petty disputes, fabricated part or all of their journals. Most likely Peñalosa (and possibly Posada) discovered manuscript versions of the Benavides Memorial in the official archives of the New Mexico governor and used these documents to further their own ends. Peñalosa extracted Benavides’ exaggerated account of Teguayo and took it one (or more likely 10) steps further. Posada, on the other hand, is the first to clearly and directly associate Teguayo with the Aztec homeland of Atzlatan and with the Lake of Copala (Copala was recorded as the home of the Aztecs in the journals of the 1628 Onate expedition and in the 1563 journals of the Ibarra Expedition. It is sometime erroneously associated with Cibola).

Leaving Atzatlan - the Codes Boturini

Leaving Atzatlan – the Codes Boturini

Briefly, Atzatlan is the semi-mythical homeland of the Aztec or Mexica peoples. It appears in a number of early Aztec codices including the Tiera de Peregrinacion, Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca, Codex Boturini, and the Codex Aubin. Translated directly it means “Place of Reeds” or “Place of Egrets”. It was supposedly a vast, populous, and wealthy land rich in gold, silver, and precious stones. It was even claimed that sickness did not touch those who dwelt there. The legend of the Aztec migration suggests that some natural or political disaster forced the Aztecs to flee their paradisiacal homeland, Atzatlan, which was a large shallow lake full of reeds and waterbirds. According to the detailed Aztec calendar this event and the beginning of the Aztec migration occurred around May 24, 1064 CE. This date is not only contemporary with the beginning of the Aztec calendar, but also roughly coincides with the massive volcanic eruptions of Sunset Crater, Arizona. The migration seems to have lasted some 250 years before the Aztec, now Mexica, peoples settled on the shores of Lake Texcoco and founded Tenochtitlan. Lake Texcoco, tidat buried under the sprawling urban center of Mexico City, was once a vast shallow lake rich in fish and bird life. To the itinerant Mexica, Texcoco must have seemed very similar to “the Place of Egrets”, or Atzatlan.

The association of Teguayo with Atzatlan had two important results. First it attached the legendary wealth of Atzatlan and the known wealth of the Aztecs to a new conquerable and unexplored land. Secondly, it associated Teguayo with the Lake of Copala, the legendary lake of Atzatlan. Peñalosa, likely having never explored the region himself, may even have believed in both his own exaggerations and those of the Benavides Memorial. Even so, he was not about to share his discoveries with the Spanish, whose Inquisition had excommunicated him and whose colonial viceroy in Mexico, spurred by Posada, was eager to execute him. Instead he presented a plan to the King of England. With a small force of men, Peñalosa argued, he could travel up the Rio Bravo and seize control of New Mexico, including the fabulously wealthy empires of Teguayo and Quivara. In his own mind, Peñalosa was the next Cortez. The King of England, busy with his own colonial efforts in New England, had little interest in Peñalosa’s designs and dismissed them entirely. Peñalosa next took his plan to Louis XIV of France who also dismissed his plans, denying him the troops and logistic support such a mission would have required. Ultimately, though no European prince ever embraced Peñalosa’s plans for the conquest of New Mexico, his claims were not ignored. The important French cartographer Guillaume Delisle, among others, embraced the idea of a wealthy indigenous province roughly where Peñalosa places Teguayo and it subsequently found its way into the mainstream European cartographic lexicon. (it is also of interest that the Penalosa’s fictive narrative reports the discovery of a “North Sea”, which may have influenced Delisle’s speculative mapping of the Sea of the West).

Humboldt Maps Teguayo as Great Salt Lake.

The next figure to take up an active interest in Teguayo was none other than the great German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt strongly advocated cartographic interpretation and incorporation of indigenous knowledge. While in Mexico, Humboldt had access to both historical accounts by conquistadors and explorers and indigenous knowledge preserved through missionary reports and oral legend. His remarkable map of 1811 Mexico and New Spain, the most accurate yet seen, was compiled entirely from these sources. Just as Humboldt compiled indigenous and colonial reports into his great map of Mexico, he also compiled the legends of Teguayo and Atzatlan. From the Aztec Codices he mapped the Aztec migration, noting each stop on his map; from the journals of Peñalosa and Posada he associates Teguayo with legendary Atzatlan and Onate’s Lake of Copala; based upon Escalante’s travel notes he recognizes a similarity between descriptions of the Utah Lake and Great Salt Lake with indigenous descriptions of Atzatlan; Humboldt thus takes the leap of identifying one of the Great Basin lakes as Teguayo, the homeland of the Aztecs. Humboldt’s reasoning is, as always sound, though it is unlikely in this case that he was correct, for he relied too heavily upon the fictitious reports of ambitious conquistadores. Nonetheless, Humboldt’s significance and fame, as well as the overall superiority and accuracy of his great map of Mexico and New Spain in all other ways , influenced maps of the region for the next 50 years.

Humboldt, Alexander von, Views of nature: or, Contemplations on the sublime phenomena of creation…, (tr. Otte & Bohn), 1902.
Anderson, G. B., History of New Mexico: its resources and People, pp. 11-15.
Pierre Margry, ed., Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l’ouest et dans le sud de l’Amérique septentrionalce, 1614–1754 (6 vols., Paris: Jouast, 1876–86).
France V. Scholes, Troublous Times in New Mexico, 1650–1670 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942).
Alfred Barnaby Thomas, trans., Alonso de Posada Report, 1686 (Pensacola: Perdido Bay, 1982).
Carson, P., Across the northern frontier: Spanish explorations in Colorado, 1998.
Murphy, L. R., Journal of the Southwest. “William F. M. Arny Secretary of New Mexico Territory 1862-1867”, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter, 1966), pp. 323-338.
Benavides, Alonso de, A harvest of reluctant souls: the memorial of Fray Alonso de Benavides, 1630, (tr. Baker H. Morrow), 1996.
Freytas, N., The Expedition of Don Deigo Dionisio de Penalosa, (tr. John Gilmary Shea), 1882.