Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

The D. Griffing Johnson, A. J. Johnson & J. H. Colton Connection.

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

The connection between D. Griffing Johnson, Alvin Jewett Johnson and Joseph Hutchins Colton, has long been a subject of speculation. Though greater scholars than ourselves have thrown in the proverbial towel on this one, we will now take our turn. What we know of this relationship, based on the maps themselves is this. During the 1840s and 1850s D. Griffing Johnson and J. H. Colton seem to have worked together on a number of wall maps. When J. H. Colton produced his important world atlas in 1855, many of the places were directly taken from these wall maps. Later, around 1859, D. G. Johnson disappeared and A. J. Johnson appeared on the scene with his 1860 edition of the Johnson’s Family Atlas. This atlas was almost identical to the Colton’s New General Atlas and was published in parallel with the Colton atlas for some 20 years. Here is what we know of the individual players.

D. Griffing Johnson's Map of North America

D. Griffing Johnson's Map of North America

D. Griffing Johnson (?? – 186?) is the most mysterious of our three figures. Our knowledge of him is scant and even his first name is a mystery. What we know is that D. Griffing Johnson was an engraver active in New York in the first half of the 19th century. His earliest maps date to the 1840s. At some point we know that D. Griffing Johnson headed west. The only record of his actual westward journey is that one “D. G. Johnson” (our guy?) traveled to California or Oregon with a missionary party in 1839. We know for a fact that Johnson was at Sutter’s Mill when gold was discovered in 1848 though he must have returned to New York shortly afterward to issue his important map of North America. D. Griffing Johnson’s first map work with Colton was in 1846 or 1847 and his first work with A. J. Johnson was in 1854. In 1855 he had an office at 7 Nassau Street, New York. Regarding D. G. Johnson’s disappearance c. 1860 – 62 we can only speculate, however, that it related to the outset of the Civil War is likely. Most references to individuals of this name (there are several including a Dickson and a David) are from southern families hailing from Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia. One such individual, Dickson G. Johnson is known to have died in a battle near Richmond in 1862.

Colton's Map of Persia and Arabia

Colton's Map of Persia and Arabia

Joseph Hutchins Colton (July 5, 1800 – July 29, 1893) was born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts in 1830. He was a descendent of Quartermaster George Colton, one of the original founders of Springfield, Massachusetts. As a young man he worked in dry goods store in Lenox Massachusetts before moving to New York City in 1830 to establish a publishing firm. Colton envisioned his career in pocket and railroad maps. Though not an engraver himself, Colton did employ some of the preeminent engravers of his day, including David Burr, S. Stiles, John Disturnell and D. Griffing Johnson. Colton’s first work with D. Griffing Johnson as the engraver dates to 1846 or 1847 and includes a map of the world and a map of North America. Later, when Colton’s son George Washington Colton decided to take the firm into the atlas business, most of the maps used were extracted from one of these two D. G. Griffing maps – though D. G. Johnson himself was not credited. By 1856 the Colton firm had attained international prominence. In 1857 Colton was commissioned at sum of 25,000 USD by the Government of Bolivia to produce and deliver 2500 copies a large format map of that country. Though Colton completed the contract in good faith, delivering the maps at his own expense, he was never paid by Bolivia, which was at the time in the midst of a national revolution. Colton would spend the remainder of his days fighting with the Bolivian and Peruvian governments over this payment and in the end received over 100,000 USD in compensation. However, at the time, it must have been a disastrous blow. J. H. Colton and Company is listed as one of New York’s failed companies in the postal record of 1859. It must have been this event which lead Colton into the arms of Alvin Jewett Johnson and Ross C. Browning. The 1859 edition of Colton’s Atlas lists Johnson and Browning as the “Successor’s to J. H. Colton” suggesting an outright buyout, but given that both companies continued to publish separately, the reality is likely more complex.

1862 Johnson Map of Arabia

1862 Johnson Map of Arabia

Alvin Jewett Johnson (September 23, 1827 – April 22, 1884) was born in Wallingford Vermont on September 23, 1827. He attended public schools and took a brief graduate course at a Vermont country academy. His first career was as a teacher. To supplement his income he began to work as a book canvasser or a door to door salesman offering books on a subscription plan. He published his first map with D. G. Johnson (and possibly Colton) in 1855, this was the wall map, “Johnson’s New Illustrated and Embellished County Map of the Republics of North America”. This map is virtually identical to an 1854 map by D. J. Johnson and Gaston and entitled “Johnson’s New Map of Our Country”. In 1859 Johnson entered into a business relationship with fellow Vermonter Ross Browning (1832 – 1899) and a bankrupt J. H. Colton to publish the 1859 edition of Colton’s Atlas – where the Johnson and Browning imprint first appears. Once year later, in 1860, the first edition of the Johnson’s Atlas appears. Their firm, Johnson and Browning was originally based in Richmond Virginia, where Browning’s previous careers had taken him. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 Browning, being a Union man, fled to New Jersey leaving behind most of his publishing materials and printing equipment (which was subsequently used to print Confederate currency and war bonds). This must have been a considerable hardship on Browning who, unable to contribute to the firm without his presses, left the company. Johnson, presumably lacking printing equipment of his own, formed another partnership with “Ward”, and from 1862 on the Johnson and Browning imprint would be replaced by Johnson and Ward. What we know from the Johnson’s Atlas itself is that most of the plates are very similar, if not identical to the plates used by J. H. Colton in his 1855 New General Atlas. Many of the maps from the 1860 and 1861 editions of the Johnson Atlas also bear the Colton imprint.

Armed with this information we can reconstruct the story somewhat. Colton began publishing pocket maps, wall maps, and folding maps for books c. 1830. As he was not an engraver himself he employed the services of outside engravers, including D. Griffing Johnson. Johnson, a skilled engraver, produced a number of maps with Colton and others.

Colton's Bolivia - the map that broke the camel's back...

Colton's Bolivia - the map that broke the camel's back...

His most important projects with Colton included a large wall map of the world and an even larger map of North America. In the late 1850s Colton had developed a large and prosperous business that attracted the attention of the Bolivian government, who needed accurate maps of their country for administrative purposes. Bolivia commissioned Colton to produce 2,500 large format maps of said country. Colton was paid 2,000 USD upfront and promised an additional 23,000 USD upon delivery (by some indexes this amounts to about 8,000,000 USD in modern money). Colton completed and delivered the maps at his own expense in 1858 or 1859 but was never paid by the Bolivian government. This must have been a severe economic blow, for J. H. Colton and company is listed in the 1859 postal records of failed businesses.

Meanwhile D. G. Johnson and A. J. Johnson made their first map together in 1855. The connection between D. G. and A. J. remains vague. We have stumbled across several D. G. Johnsons though none with a clear relationship to A. J. Johnson. One individual, Dickson Griffing Johnson, did however name one of his sons A. J. Johnson, leading one to speculate. This D.G. Johnson (Dickson), also seems to have disappeared or died in sometime between 1859 and 1861, corresponding to our knowledge of D. G. Johnson. Further, the Jewett family tree is sprinkled with Griffings, though, again, no clear connection with D.G. exists. In any case the possibility of a family connection leads on to speculate that A. J. Johnson may have inherited some of rights to the various D.G. map plates that Colton modified for his 1855 Atlas. What seems clear is that Johnson entered into some sort of financial relationship with Colton that allowed Colton to publish his atlas in 1859. Later in 1862, calling himself the successor to “J. H. Colton”, Johnson published his own Atlas. The financial boost provided by Johnson seems to have been sufficient for Colton to get his own business going again. Presumably, Johnson did not acquire the full Colton copyrights but rather only the right to use the map plates. Colton, maintaining his copyright and flush from funds relating to the sale of the 1859 Colton’s atlas, managed to rebound and continue to grow his own publishing empire parallel to Johnson’s. The Colton-Johnson relationship remained close and in the years to come both map publishers would frequently update their plates in concert.

Please feel free to add your own information to this discussion. The mystery of this relationship may never be solved, but a little light here and there can go a long way in illuminating the whole picture.

RELATED MAPS:
Map by J. H. Colton
Map by A. J. Johnson

REFERENCES:

http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CAD&Product_Code=colton

http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CAD&Product_Code=johnson

http://www.usgennet.org/alhnorus/ahorclak/list41.html

Wood, W. S., The Descendants of the Brothers Jeremiah and John Wood, 1885.
Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Second Circuit
By United States Circuit Court (2d circuit), Circuit Court (2nd Circuit, Samuel Blatchford, United States
, published by Derby and Miller, 1868.
Hinton, Rowan Helper, Oddments of Andean Diplomacy, and Other Oddments …, 1879.
Jewett, F. C., History and genealogy of the Jewetts of America: a record of Edward Jewett, of Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, and of his two emigrant sons, Deacon Maximilian and Joseph Jewett, settlers of Rowley, Massachusetts, in 1639; also of Abraham and John Jewett, early settlers of Rowley …
Garner, S. O., The Roebucks of Virginia: a genealogical history of the descendants from Robert, George, James, and Benjamin Roebuck (Robuck), 1979.
Funeral Services of Alvin J. Johnson: at no. 9 East Sixty-fourth Street, New York, Saturday April 26, 1884.

Fou-Sang or Fusang, a 5th Century Chinese Colony in Western America?

Friday, June 5th, 2009

1776 Zatta Map of the Pacific Northwest Showing Fusang

1776 Zatta Map of the Pacific Northwest Showing Fusang

East of the Eastern Ocean lie
The shores of the Land of Fusang.
If, after landing there, you travel
East for 10,000 li
You will come to another ocean, blue,
Vast, huge, boundless.

This ancient poem, written by a 3rd century Chinese poet, describes a place that is often referred to in Chinese folklore as the “Birthplace of the Sun”. It was a place well known in ancient China. It appears frequently in poetry and around the 2nd century BC, one Han emperor is said to have sent an expedition to colonize this land. Where was the legendary land of Fusang? Eighteenth century mapmakers placed it in North America, usually near what is today Washington or Vancouver. These cartographers, most notably De L’Isle and Zatta, mapped Fusang based on a popular essay written by the French orientalist historian Josepth de Guignes in his 1761 article “Le Fou-Sang des Chinois est-il l’Amérique? ” De Guignes was a dubious historian at best, but with this he may have been on to something. Fusang is most fully described on by the 6th century itinerant monk Hui Shen.

Hui Shen is said to have been a mendicant Gondaran monk and to have appeared in the court of the Emperor Wu Ti at Jingzhou in Southern Qi in 499 AD. His adventures, which are described by Yao Sialian in the 7th century Book of Liang, describes his voyage in both known and unknown lands. Starting around 455 AD, he traveled to the coast of China, to Japan, Korea, to the Kamchatka Peninsula, then to Fusang. Fusang, he reports is some 20,000 Chinese Li (about 9,000 km) east of Kamchatka. This would place it somewhere around what is today British Columbia, roughly where Zatta and De L’Isle map the colony of Fusang.

While it is a subject of ferocious debate, numerous scholars and historians have embraced the idea that the Chinese not only visited the New World but maintained regular contact with it. We have long known that, given the advanced stated of shipbuilding and navigation in ancient China, the Chinese were capable of launching expeditions across the Pacific. The real question is, did they? The story of Hui Shen is one of the few actual documents that describe such an voyage. Hui Shen’s tale, which offers anthropological and geographic commentary consistent with Pacific Coast of America, describes Fusang in considerable detail. Over the past 200 years numerous scholars, both eastern and western, have broken down the Hui Shen text. Some have declared it a fabrication, but most have embraced the idea that the Chinese did in fact not only visit America, but maintained a minor but active back and forth communication.

1772 Vaugondy Map of the Pacific Northwest showing Fou-Sang

1772 Vaugondy Map of the Pacific Northwest showing Fou-Sang

Though many scholars agree that the Fusang tale does have some element of truth, few agree on where it may have been. Some point to Peru (Hui Shen describes the leader of Fusang as the “Inki”), others to Mexico (Fusang = Maguey), and still others to British Columbia (most likely arrival point sailing east from Kamchatka with the easterly North Pacific Current). The name Fusang itself is derived from Chinese mythology where it is a land or tree in the east from which the Sun is born. This kind of plant, or something similar, is described as common in the Land of Fusang. Fusang is billed as a kind of all purpose plant which can be eaten, made into clothing and made into paper, etc. There is considerable debate as to what Fusang may have been, with some identifying it with the Maguay of Mexico, others with various types of Cactus, and still others ancient varieties of corn (which were common along the Pacific Coast of North America).

There is some, but not significant, historical evidence to support the idea that the Chinese were active in Ancient America. Ancient Chinese coins, ship anchors (James R. Moriarty of the University of San Diego), and other relics have been discovered along the American coast – some dating back as much as 2,000 years! Also, Hui Shen’s descriptions do correspond somewhat with what we know of the New World around 450 AD. It is far too much for this short blog post to breakdown the details of Hui Shen’s narrative, especially when it has been done so well and so well by others, however, our list of references below can offer significant further reading.

RELATED MAPS:
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/NouvellesDecouvertes-vaugondy-1772
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/AmericaWest-zatta-1776

REF:
San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 1979.
Guignes, Jospeh, de, “Le Fou-Sang des Chinois est-il l’Amérique?”, Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, tome 28, Paris, 1761
Mertz, Henriette, Columbus Was Last, Hyperion 1992.
Wei Chu-Hsien, China and America -Volume One, Shuo Wen Shu Dian Bookstore, 1982.

El Dorado, Manoa, Lake Parima, Patiti, and the “Lost City of Z”

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

1688 Coronelli Map of America

1688 Coronelli Map of America

Having just finished David Grann’s wonderful book The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, which examines the obsessive hunt of Colonel P.H. Fawcett for a lost city in the Amazon, I felt compelled to write on the legend of El Dorado. This book is a wonderful read, offers some surprising insights, and is exceptionally well researched, we highly recommend it. Grann’s “Lost City of Z” focuses on Fawcett’s expeditions in the lower Xingu, a southern tributary of the Amazon. Here Fawcett believed he would discover a great lost city and indeed, modern archeologists are unearthing just such a site in this precise area. The modern day discoverer of these ruins is the archeologist Michael Heckenberger who had unearthed several great cities surrounded by massive moats and connected by gigantic arrow straight causeway-roads. Though now largely overgrown by the jungle and their once great populations vanished, such cities were indeed reported by the first Europeans to venture into the Amazon. It was long thought that the conditions in the Amazon were inimical to large populations and that the first conquistadors to travel the Amazon were simply lying. However, the truth is far more terrifying, for these first lonely explorers carried with them diseases and illnesses previously unknown to region and in the dark years that followed when few white men entered the Amazon, the great indigenous populations were all but wiped out.

By the time Fawcett began exploring the Amazon in early 20th century the legend and mythic quality of El Dorado was already firmly established. Thus when Fawcett started discovering these causeway-roads and pottery deposits in the middle of an area inhabited only by a few primitive seeming jungle tribes, the association with the mythical lost city of gold was natural. However, for centuries El Dorado had already been appearing on maps, though quite far from the lower Xingu. Instead most antique maps place El Dorado far to the north, on an island in the midst of a vase saline lake between the lower Orinoco River and the northern Amazon tributaries. How did it get there?

Map of the Amazon River System

Map of the Amazon River System

The legend of El Dorado, or “Golden Man”, seems to be an amalgamation of fact and fantasy. The legend, which describes a great king who is daily covered in gold dust so that he shines like a god before cleansing himself in a sacred lake, is in fact based on Chibcha rituals. The Chibcha, a tribe living in what is today part of Columbia, did exactly this, though not daily. By the time the Europeans had arrived, this practice seems to have been largely abandoned but it easy to imagine why Europeans, fresh from the conquest of Peru and Mexico, would be drawn to the idea.

However, we digress, the real culprit responsible for several hundred years of mapping “El Dorado” and “Lake Parime” in Guyana must be Sir Walter Raleigh, who explored this region in search of the legendary kingdom of gold in 1595. Raleigh was the first to connect “El Dorado” to the the land or city of “Manoa”. Raleigh does not visit the city of Manoa (which he believes is El Dorado) himself due to the onset of the rainy season, however he describes the city, based on indigenous accounts, as resting on a salt lake over 200 leagues long somewhere in what today must be Guyana, northern Brazil, or Southeastern Venezuela. Nor does Raleigh precisely locate Manoa, but his second, Captain Keymis, does provide directions in his own narrative:

it lieth southerly in the land, and from the mouth of it unto the head they pass in twenty days; then taking their pro-visions, they carry it on their shoulders one day’s journey; afterwards they return to their canoes, and bear them likewise to the side of a lake, which the Jaos call Roponowini, the Charibes Parime, which is of such bigness that they know no difference between it and the main sea. There be infinite numbers of canoes in this lake, and I suppose it is no other than that whereon Manoa standeth.

Back in Europe cartographer Hondius, reading Raleigh’s narrative and enchanted by the idea, added the Lake Parime to his 1599 map “Nieuwe Caerte van het Goudrycke Landt Guiana.” Most subsequent cartographers followed suit for the next 300 years or so.

This lake may indeed have some basis in fact. Sir Robert Schomburgk, studied this region from 1835 to 1844 and made this interesting note:

From the southern foot of the Pacaraima Range extended the great savannahs of the Rupununi, Takutu, and Rio Branco or Parima, which occupy about 14,400 square miles, their average height above the sea being from 350 to 400 feet. These savannahs are inundated during the rainy season, and afford at that period, with the exception of a short portage, a communication between the Rupununi and the Pirara, a tributary of the Mahu or Ireng, which falls into the Takutu, and the latter into the Rio Branco or Parima.

1730 Covens and Mortier Map of South America

1730 Covens and Mortier Map of South America

The annual inundation of this region thus opened what must have been an ancient and popular trade route from the Orinoco, to the Rio Branco and hence to the Amazon tributaries, the Solimoes, the Japura, and the Rio Negro. Thus when European explorers in the lower Orinoco during the rainy season saw Indian traders appear with gold jewelry and trade pieces, the connection to El Dorado seemed obvious. When asked where the gold came from, the local tribes could only answer “Manoa.”

As late as the 17th century the Manoas were a large and populous trading nation, lead by the dynamic King Ajuricaba, occupying the banks of the Rio Negro. It seems that the Manoas were very secretive of their trade routes – as all good traders must be – and jealously guarded their territory. There are records of trade arrangements between the Dutch in Guyana and “Manoa” dating to the late 16th century. The range of the Manoa trade network extended over a vast region from the “mouth of the Jupura up and down the Amazon to Quito and Para, from the Cayari to Santa Fe and the Upper Orinoco, from the Parima to the Essequibo and its sister rivers of the northern watershed of Guiana”. This may partially account for the extraordinary diverse regions where legends of Manoa can be heard.

1780 Bonne Map of Guyana

1780 Bonne Map of Guyana

But where did all the gold come from? This may be impossible to answer, but we can speculate. The first European to “see” Manoa was Juan Martinez c. 1542. Martinez was a munitions master under the conquistador Diego Ordas. Ordas was searching for El Dorado in lower Orinoco where he perished. Before his own death, which is itself mysterious, Ordas condemned Martinez to death as the culprit in an unfortunate munitions explosion. Martinez was to be tied up and set adrift in a boat upon the Amazon. Many consider what follows to be a complete fabrication on the part of Martinez, but I generally consider the habit of attributing of anomalous elements in early travel accounts to intentional falsification an easy solution to a complex issue. Martinez claims to have been picked up by Manoan traders in the region who, finding him unusual due to his skin tone, conveyed him, blindfolded, to their city. Here, Martinez describes a great city. Curiously, he also describes meeting the heir to the recently conquered Inca Empire. Given the discoveries of Heckenberger and the new understanding that, at least in the earliest days of South American exploration, that the Amazon was indeed a populous and well organized region, this story is completely reasonable. That the Manoans may have had traffic with the Incas, given their range in the western Amazon is almost a given. It would also allow them access to gold mining regions on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Martinez’s association of Manoa with the lost heir to Inca Empire also brings up the possibility that this was none other than the long lost refuge city of Pattiti – though this opens an entirely new can of worms.

RELATED MAPS:
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/NEAmericaGore-coronelli-1688
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/SouthAmerica-covensmortier-1730
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/America-t-1815
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/America-cary-1806
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/SouthAmerica-cary-1807
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/SouthAmerNorth-bonne-1780
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/TerrarumOrbis-bormeester-1685

REF:
Edmondson, George, “Early Relations of the Manoas with the Dutch, 1606-1732″, The English Historical Review, Vol. 21, No. 82 (Apr., 1906), pp. 229-253. Edmondson, George, ” The Dutch on the Amazon and Negro in the Seventeenth Century. Part II.-Dutch Trade in the Basin of the Rio Negro,”The English Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 73 (Jan., 1904), pp. 1-25. Von Hagen, Victor W., The Golden Man: The Quest for El Dorado (Farnborough, Saxon House, I974, 4.-25). Pp. xiii+338. Meggers, Betty J., “The Continuing Quest for El Dorado: Round Two”, Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 304-325. Raleigh, Sir Walter, The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtifiul Empyre of Guiana. Grann, David, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, 2008.

Laguna de los Xarayes in Rare Maps

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
The Lake of Xarayes

The Lake of Xarayes

The Laguna de los Xaraies is a large and mysterious lake that appeared in maps of South America from about 1600 to 1850. The Laguna, located near Matte Grosso, was often associated with the gateway to the Amazon, legends of El Dorado, and the Earthly Paradise.

The Xarayes, a corruption of “Xaraiés” meaning “Masters of the River”, were an indigenous people occupying what is today parts of Brazil’s Matte Grosso and the Pantanal. When Spanish and Portuguese explorers first navigated up the Paraguay River, as always in search of El Dorado, they encountered the vast Pantanal flood plain at the height of its annual inundation. Understandably misinterpreting the flood plain as a gigantic inland sea, they named it after the local inhabitants, the Xaraies. The Laguna de los Xarayes almost immediately began to appear on early maps of the region and, at the same time, almost immediately took on a legendary aspect. Later missionaries and chroniclers, particularly Díaz de Guzmán, imagined an island in this lake and curiously described it as an “Island of Paradise,”

…an island [of the Paraguay River] more than ten leagues [56 km] long, two or three [11-16 km] wide. A very mild land rich in a thousand types of wild fruit, among them grapes, pears and olives: the Indians created plantations throughout, and throughout the year sow and reap with no difference in winter or summer, … are the Indians of that island are of good will and are friends to the Spaniards; Orejón they call

A view of the Pantanal.

A view of the Pantanal.


them, and they have their ears pierced in which are wheels of wood … which occupy the entire hole. They live in round houses, not as a village, but each apart though keep up with each other in much peace and friendship. They called of old to this island paradise Terrenal by its abundance and wonderful qualities.

To this north of this wonderful “Island of Paradise” appeared the “Puerto de los Reyes” which was considered by many to be a gateway to the Amazon and the Kingdom of El Dorado. Sadly, later explorers, in addition to being disappointed by the absence of an El Dorado, also discovered that the Paraguay River does not connect to the Amazon system.