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1860 Johnson Map of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona

Johnson's  California Territories of New Mexico and Utah. - Main View

1860 Johnson Map of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona


Exceedingly scarce first edition of Johnson's southwest map.


Johnson's California Territories of New Mexico and Utah.
  1860 (undated)     17.5 x 25 in (44.45 x 63.5 cm)     1 : 3424000


The scarcest and most historically significant of Alvin Jewett Johnson’s southwest map series. This is the 1860 first edition of A. J. Johnson and Ross C. Browning’s map of California, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. The map covers from the 42nd parallel south to the Mexico border and from the Pacific to modern day Colorado. Although later editions of Johnson's Family Atlas are common, the 1860 edition, which was Johnson’s first, had the smallest print run of the entire series and is for all intent and purposes, unobtainable.
A Unique Production – the Rarest Johnson Atlas Map
Unlike most maps in the 1860 Johnson atlas, this map was a unique production and therefore not based upon the earlier atlas maps of J. H. Colton. Rather, it seems that Johnson derived this map by dissecting the plates of his 1859 wall map of North America and then incorporating, oftentimes superimposing, more contemporary detail.
Ephemeral Utah-Nevada Configuration
Such is the case in the Nevada – Utah territory, where both territories are labeled Utah, despite being split in half along longitude 113 and the miss-mapped Sevier / Santa Clara River. Johnson revised this curious border to strictly adhere longitude 116 in the subsequent 1861 edition of this map. Eastern Utah here extends well into modern day Colorado incorporating Middle Park, but not North Park and South Park, within its borders. The Colorado Gold Region, which was first discovered in 1858, is well labeled. Subsequent editions of this map, published in 1861 shortly after the incorporation of Colorado, revise this border to include the territory. Fillmore City is identified as the capital of Utah and a Mormon Settlement is noted along the Nevada – California border.
Ephemeral Arizona-New Mexico Configuration
Of even greater interest in Johnson’s curious treatment of New Mexico and Arizona. Here the region is divided along the 34th parallel, with Arizona occupying the southern part of modern-day New Mexico. This configuration first appeared in wall maps of the United States and North America issued by Johnson and Colton in 1859. The idea for a separate Arizona Territory appears as early as 1856, when the government of the Territory of New Mexico began to express concerns about being able to effectively govern the southern part of the territory, as it was separated from Santa Fe by the Jornada del Muerto, a particularly unforgiving stretch of desert. The New Mexico territorial legislature acted on these concerns in February 1858, approving a resolution in favor of creating an Arizona Territory, with a north-south border to be defined along the 32nd parallel. Congress was slow to address the new territory, so 31 delegates met at a convention in Tucson in April 1860 where they drafted a constitution for the 'Territory of Arizona', which was to be organized out of the New Mexico Territory below 34th parallel. The convention even elected a territorial governor and a delegate to Congress. Increased tension between the northern and southern states nonetheless, prevented Congress from taking action. Anti-slavery congressmen knew that the proposed territory was located below the line of demarcation set forth by the Missouri Compromise for the creation of new slave and free states, and they were not inclined to create yet another slave state. Thus, Congress never ratified the proceedings of the Tucson convention, and the Provisional Territory of Arizona was never became a legal entity. Nonetheless, it does appear on a few, rare, antebellum maps – as here.

At the beginning of the Civil War, one year after this map as issued, support for the Confederacy ran high in the southern parts of the New Mexico Territory. Local concerns drove this sentiment, including a belief that the war would lead to an insufficient number of Federal troops to protect the citizens from the Apache, while others simply felt neglected by the government in Washington. Also, the Butterfield Overland Mail Route (an overland mail and stagecoach route from Memphis and St. Louis to San Francisco) was closed in 1861, depriving the people of Arizona of their only connection to California and the East Coast.

All of these factors led to the people of the southern New Mexico Territory, or the Provisional Arizona Territory, to formally call for secession, and a convention adopted a secession ordinance on March 16, 1861, with a subsequent ordinance ratified on March 28, establishing the provisional territorial government of the Confederate 'Territory of Arizona'. The Confederate Arizona Territory was officially proclaimed on August 1, 1861 following Lieutenant-Colonel J. R. Baylor's victory over Union forces in the First Battle of Mesilla, and the territory was officially recognized by the government of the Confederacy on February 14, 1862. However, by July 1862, Union forces from California, known as the 'California Column' were marching on the territorial capital of Mesilla. Sent to protect California from a possible Confederate incursion, the 'California Column' drove Confederate forces out of the city, allowing them to retreat to Franklin, Texas. The territorial government fled as well and spent the rest of the war in 'exile'. First, they retreated to Franklin, then, after Confederate forces abandoned Franklin and all of western Texas, to San Antonio, where the 'government-in-exile' would spend the remainder of the war. Confederate units from Arizona fought throughout the Civil War, and the delegate from Arizona attended both the First and Second Confederate Congresses.
California, which enjoyed a population boost in the prior decade due to the 1849 Gold Rush, is naturally quite detailed with numerous towns, cities, mail routes, emigrant roads, and shipping lanes identified. This map also includes the routes of several exploratory missions commissioned by the U.S. Government, including Fremont, the Mexican Border Survey, Parke, Gunnison (along with the site of his tragic death), and Fredonyer.

It is further noteworthy that this example of Johnson’s map is in pristine condition – a rarity for any early edition of Johnson’s southwest and a special bonus in this supremely uncommon first edition. This map was published by A. J. Johnson and Ross Browning as plate nos. 54-55 in the 1860 edition of Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas. Rumsey has an example of this map in which the plate nos. are set at 47-48, further commenting that there was a later issue of the atlas published in the same year. This map is identical to the Rumsey example with the exception of the page numbers, leading us to believe it must have come from the 2nd 1860 issue of the first edition.


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 (1822 - 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 split their firm between two offices. Johnson moved from Richmond, Virginia to New York City. Browning remained in Richmond, where he published at least one more edition of the atlas after the war began, in 1862. Johnson and Browning published two editions of the Johnson Atlas: 1860 (Richmond and New York) and 1861 (Richmond and New York). Sometime in 1861 Browning's portion of the firm (or perhaps the New York portion?) 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, and updated 1862 'Johnson and Ward' maps, and newer 1863 maps with a revised border design. The 1864 issue of the Family Atlas is the first fully '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 border' 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. More by this mapmaker...


Johnson, A. J., Johnson's New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas, With Descriptions, Geographical, Statistical, And Historical. , 1860 (Johnson and Browning), 1st edition.     404 Not Found

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Very good. Original centerfold. Even overall toning. Blank on verso.


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.