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1862 Johnson Map of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona


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Title:    Johnson's California, Territories of New Mexico and Utah.

Description:    One of the scarcest and most historically significant of A. J. Johnson’s southwest series. Published in 1862 at the height of the American Civil War, this stunning map depicts the state of California and the territories of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Representing the third state of the Johnson southwest map, this map varies most significantly from its 1861 predecessor in the addition of a clearly defined Arrizona (yes, with 2 “r”s) Territory.

In 1861 “Arrizona” was an alternate name for the lands added to the New Mexico territory by the 1854 Gadsden Purchase. With only a small population and minimal political influence this region was largely ignored by the New Mexico territorial government in distant Santa Fe. Arizona applied several times to be granted independent territorial status, but its low population caused the request to be repeatedly denied. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Arizonans recognized an opportunity to appeal to an alternate body for the political needs of the region and threw in their lot with the secessionist southern states. Around this time the Union began to withdraw troops from the region in fear that Santa Fe would be attacked by Confederate soldiers operating out of Texas. In Texas itself the Confederate Col. John Robert Baylor, recognizing a strategic opportunity, led his troops into Southern Arizona. In a series of brilliant tactical maneuvers, Baylor defeated the much large Union garrison and seized Fort Fillmore and Messilla. Shortly thereafter Baylor declared himself Territorial Governor of the Confederate Territory of Arizona including “all that portion of New Mexico lying south of the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude.” The Confederate Territory of Arizona lasted less than a year before it was seized by the Union Army and dismantled in favor of the current configuration with the Arizona – New Mexico border situated along a north-south axis. Some have suggested that the current border between Arizona and New Mexico was chosen for no other reason than that it differed from the Confederate border. However, it is far more likely that this border was influenced by the prospect of a Southern Pacific railroad route. If the Confederate boundaries had remained the railroad would have would have run only through Arizona, thus denying New Mexico the political and business opportunities that would have inevitably followed. A longitudinal border, however, allowed both territories to be enriched by the Southern Pacific Railroad. This is one of the few maps issued during this short and politically volatile period to specifically depict the Confederate Territory of Arizona.

This example also varies from the previous state of the map in that the California – Nevada border has been corrected to a straight line between Pyramid Peak (where several Mormon settlements are noted) and Fort Moliare.

Elsewhere on the map, Utah and Arizona are split up along the 116th meridian, far west of where it sits today. Fillmore City is shows as the capital of Utah though Salt Lake City also appears. In Colorado the Gold Region near Colorado City is prominently depicted. Throughout, this map is full of interesting and sometimes erroneous notations regarding natural features, Native American tribes, proposed railroads, mail routes, explorer’s tracks, and treaty lines. In the highly desertous region near modern day Quartzite, Arizona, a note reads “in the vicinity of this place a tract of country is found which is said by Trappers to be exceedingly and fertile and abundantly timbered and well watered.” Johnson also notes silver deposits in this same region. “Vegas” appears roughly in its current location though at the time there was little there but a natural water source and an abandoned Mormon fort. The famed Pony Express Route is delineated as it passes through Nebraska, Utah, and Nevada on its way to California.

All in all, this is an extraordinarily example of one of the scarcest and most desirable 19th century American atlas maps of the southwestern part of the United States. Published by A. J. Johnson and Ward as plate numbers 58 and 59 in the 1862 edition of Johnson’s New Illustrated Family Atlas.


Date:    1862 (undated)

Source:    Johnson, A. J., Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas with Descriptions, Geographical, Statistical, and Historical. (1862 A. J. Johnson & Ward edition)

References:    Rumsey 2905.031 (1860 edition). University of Nevada, Reno, Special Collections, G4300 1862 J646. Wheat, C. I., Mapping of the Transmississippi West, 1540-1861 (5 vols), #1027.

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

Size:   Printed area measures 17.5 in height x 24.5 inches in width (44.45 x 62.23 centimeters)

Condition:    Very good. You would be hard pressed to find an example of this map in a better condition. Aside from very minor verso reinforcement along parts of the centerfold and light overall toning, this map is in near perfect condition. Unlike most examples this map has no centerfold discoloration or other damage.

Code:   CANMUT-johnson-1862 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)

© Geographicus Rare Antique Maps, Kevin Brown, 24/4/2014



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