2010/11 Winter Catalogue, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints Home

2010/11 Winter Catalogue > 12. COLTON’s POCKET MAP of DAKOTA TERRITORY


George Woolworth and Charles B. Colton. “Colton’s Dakota” (New York: G.W. & C. B. Colton Company, 1886). Lithographed pocket map with bright original full hand color. 15 1/2 x 12 1/2" at decorative strap work border, with full margins. Sheet: 17 1/4 x 14 1/2." Includes red embossed cloth cover with gilt titling, “Compliments of Aug. T. Post. Banker / 25 Nassau St. New York. Colton’s Map of Dakota.” 5 3/4 x 3 3/4." Cover has light wear and some fading on spine; previous owner’s label inside front cover. Map issued folding. Pristine condition with very minimal age toning.

Price: SOLD.

The highly successful Colton Company advertised pocket maps “in great variety, embracing . . . special maps, large and small, of all the States and Territories separately.” One of the company’s specialties was railroad maps, an item that appealed to speculators headed west. It is not surprising that the banker Augustus T. Post chose a Colton series of pocket maps to promote his firm, as Post was a dealer in investment securities who liked western town and county bonds as well as railroad stocks. The present map of Dakota distributed by Augustus Post to his clientele includes rivers, towns, township grids, and railroads with mileage markers. All extraneous points that might interest the general tourist are absent from this map.

Colton, Dakota Cover

Colton’s Dakota illustrates a poignant moment in the territory’s history, after it had been reduced to the current limits of the two states that we know today, and shortly before those states were formed in 1889. Development remains fairly compartmentalized at this time, with the majority of settlements, railroads, and completed township surveys appearing east of the Missouri River. Other pockets of surveyed areas appear along the Northern Pacific Railroad and in the Southwest corner. At this time, the only completed railroad through Dakota Territory was the Northern Pacific line, while future plans for extending other lines are here indicated with dashed lines. Brightly colored counties also emphasize other areas of change, with early divisions and names that would undergo extensive revisions. (Atypically, many small counties would later dissolve into larger counties.) A vague “Reservation for Tribes” notation appears in the southwest region.

The Colton Company was one of the most important commercial map firms in the United States during the nineteenth century. Joseph Hutchins Colton founded the company around 1831, and while not a trained geographer or cartographer, he was a genius in the business of commercial publishing. His sons, George Woolworth and Charles B., became part of the business and assumed its direction around 1865. Colton’s Atlas of the World was the first publication to bear George’s name and he henceforth served as the firm’s principal map compiler, cartographer and engraver. In producing the atlas, the Coltons discovered a publishing advantage by transferring steel-plate engravings to lithographic stones or zinc plates, thereby ensuring larger runs and the best quality for their publications. The present map reveals the culminating expertise of the Colton Company—a fine example of the mapmakers art and an excellent document of the progress of development in nineteenth-century Dakota.

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