2007 Catalog, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints Home

2007 Catalog > 18. Colton, Telegraphic and Rail Road Map of the United States and Territories.


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18. J. H. Colton. “Telegraphic and Rail Road Map of the United States of America, The British Provinces &c” (New York: J. H. Colton, 1849). Copperplate engraving with bright original outline hand color. 20 x 24 3/4" at neat line. Sheet size: 22 x 26" with full margins. Vignettes of clipper ships and paddle wheelers dot the Atlantic Ocean. Overall toning of sheet; light scattered spotting; a couple of small losses and short tears in left margin, not affecting map. Very good condition.

Price: SOLD.

Colton’s 1849 map of the United States from the East Coast to Indian Territory is fascinating for its depiction of the early railroad and telegraph systems, both of which in mid-century were concentrated in the east. Although still in its infancy, the telegraph system had expanded substantially by 1849, its progress aided by a close alignment with the burgeoning railroad system. “From its very beginnings,” writes Jean Ray, “the transmission of intelligence over wire was closely allied with the railroad rights-of-way. The early histories of the railroad and the telegraph in the United States are so intertwined that the story of one cannot be told properly without touching upon the other.” Just six years before Colton published his map, Samuel Morris secured permission for his Magnetic Telegraph Company to build an experimental line along the Baltimore & Ohio right-of-way between Baltimore and Washington. In 1844, Morse sent the world’s first telegraph message over the B & O line.

Colton’s map provides graphic evidence of the early interconnection of the two systems. Railroad lines are indicated in black, while telegraphic lines are in red. In many cases, the two overlap. At upper left, a table lists the telegraphic lines in the United States and Canada that use “Morse’s Invention” and that were “completed, in progress, or contemplated” by March 1849. It is possible to trace the progress of construction for each successive line, from Morse’s early experiments in 1844 to the profusion of lines in the works by 1849. The table also indicates the length in miles of each line and the number of stations.

The map offers further interest in its depiction of southwest political boundaries. Published one year before the Compromise of 1850, the map shows Texas with its Republic boundaries extending north to the Arkansas River at the 38th parallel and west into New Mexico just past Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. The territory of New Mexico is still, of course, part of Mexico. Indian Territory encompasses present-day Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska.

As an illustration of the growth of travel and settlement in the mid-nineteenth century, the map is an important historical record of its era, especially fine for the information it provides on pioneer telegraphy in the United States.

Ref.: Jean S. Ray and Louis E. Madère, Jr., “Railroads and Telecommunication: New Orleans, Louisiana” at www.madère.com.

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