Maximilian von Sonnenstern (1819 - 1895) was a German born businessman, civil engineer, cartographer, and surveyor active in New York, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua during the middle part of the 19th century. Sonnenstern was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and is reported to be he illegitimate scion of the royal family of Württemberg. He received military training in Germany, mastering surveying, draftsmanship, and engineering, before serving as on officer in the Württemberg army. He was active during Revolution of 1848 and was subsequently forced to flee Germany, settling in New York in 1848 or 1849. Seeking a brighter future, Sonnenstern relocated to Central American in 1855. He was not alone in doing so, in fact, there is a tradition of German engineers relocating to Central American in the mid-19th century. With political unrest at home in Germany and the broad expectation that an Atlantic-Pacific canal was about to be built, and new political entities popping up, Central America was a dangerous yet appealing option for an enterprising and skilled engineer. Sonnenstern initially settled in Nicaragua, at the time considered the most likely candidate for an interoceanic canal, where his engineering skills earned him an official position. His work took him throughout Nicaragua as well as nearby El Salvador and Guatemala, where he met and befriended both political figures and other European ex-pat engineers. In 1858, he received an exclusive privilege to manufacture paper in the Republic of Guatemala - suggesting close ties with that country's political elite. Soon after he was commissioned to compiled the first national map of Guatemala. Sometime around 1858 - 1859 he returned to the New York to manage the publication of his two most important maps, state sponsored maps of the new Central American republics of El Salvador and Guatemala. He returned to Nicaragua shortly thereafter, continuing in his state position and naturalizing as a Nicaraguan citizen in 1869. In 1874, Sonnenstern published Report of the Nicaragua Route for an Interoceanic Ship Canal, which was commissioned by the Nicaraguan minister of public works and published in the United States by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. Sonnenstern served in Nicaraguan post until his death, at the age of 76. He was eulogized as a hero of the Nicaraguan republic, with cartographic legacy encompassing not just Nicaragua, but three Central American nations. We are aware four maps that can be attributed to Sonnenstern: Mapa General de la Republic de Guatemala (Kraetzer, New York, 1859) Mapa general de la Republica de Salvador (Kraetzer, New York, 1859), Mapa de las Republicas de America Central (London, 1860), Mapa de la Republica de Nicaragua (Paris, 1863).



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