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1860 Johnson Map of North America

Johnson's North America. - Main View

1860 Johnson Map of North America


Features depictions of Nebraska at its fullest and the unincorporated Dacotah Territory.


Johnson's North America.
  1860 (undated)     22.5 x 18 in (57.15 x 45.72 cm)     1 : 15840000


This is a beautiful example of A. J. Johnson and Ross C. Browning's 1860 first edition map of North America. The map depicts the continent from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Arctic Ocean and Greenland to the Bay of Panama and South America. Created just before the outbreak of the American Civil War, Johnson's map captures a unique moment in American history, both geographically and politically. Of particular interest is the geography of the western part of the United States, where the boundaries of several territories were still undecided. By 1865, the American West would look much different than it does here in 1860.
Nebraska Territory at its Fullest
When examining the American West as illustrated here, one of the first differences that is immediately apparent is the configuration of the Nebraska Territory. This massive Nebraska territory, incorporated in May of 1854, included most of the northern Great Plains, much of the Missouri River Basin, and the eastern part of the northern Rocky Mountains, the most land the territory would ever incorporate. By 1861, a year after this map appeared, Nebraska Territory would be significantly reduced by the formations of Colorado and Dakota Territories.
The Unincorporated Territory of 'Dacotah'
During the nearly three year period between Minnesota's statehood on May 11, 1858 and the creation of the Dakota Territory in March 2, 1861, the portion of what had been the Minnesota Territory that fell between the Missouri River and Red River, Minnesota's newly-created western border, remained unattached to any official territory of the United States. Immediately following Minnesota's statehood, a provisional government was set up in the Pembina Region which lobbied for recognition as a territory. In doing so, a formally recognized local government would be in place, which is an important part of encouraging settlement in a region. Even so, the proposal was mostly ignored by the Federal government until the Dakota Territory was formed, which upon its creation included most of present-day Montana, Wyoming, and both North and South Dakota.
The Proposed Arizona Territory
Arizona would not be admitted into the Union until February 24, 1863, with very similar borders to the modern-day state. Here, the Arizona Territory is illustrated as it was proposed to Congress in late 1860, as a last-ditch attempt to avoid the American Civil War. The proposal never passed, however, because most of the members of Congress from southern states had already left Congress following declarations of secession. An Arizona Territory with these borders did secede from the New Mexico Territory in 1861 and joined the Confederacy but was soon recaptured by Union forces from California. Before creating the Arizona Territory, it was decided that the New Mexico Territory would be divided by a vertical border, so that both territories would benefit from the proposed transcontinental Southern Pacific Railraod.

Other territorial boundaries in the western United States that do not conform with today's states are illustrated as they were laid out upon the territory's creation. Both the Utah Territory and the Washington Territory were created just as they are illustrated here. West Virginia, in the east, would not come into existence until until 1862, after it seceded from Virginia because its citizens disagreed with seceding from the Union.

On a more general note, each state that had been admitted to the Union by 18606 is illustrated, labeled, and shaded a different color to allow for easy differentiation. State capitals are labeled, along with numerous other cities and towns throughout the country. The rail network is also depicted and would play a key role in the coming war between the Union and the Confederacy. Several Native American tribes are named west of the Mississippi River, including the Pawnee, Crow, Navajo, and Apache.

Outside the United States, Canada is illustrated as a collection of regions and provinces and would not begin to unite until the Canadian Confederation of 1867. Alaska is labeled as 'Russian Possessions', as this map predates the American purchase of Alaska from Russia. Each of the different countries in Central America are illustrated and labeled, and states are labeled and shaded different colors in Mexico.

The whole is surrounded by the strapwork border used for Johnson's atlas maps from 1860 to 1863. Published by A. J. Johnson and Ross C. Browning as plate nos. 15 and 16 in the 1860 first edition edition of Johnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas.


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. Even overall toning. Light wear along original centerfold. Verso repairs to centerfold separations. Some soiling and foxing. Blank on verso.


Rumsey 2905.006.