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2008 Catalog > 11. Morse & Gaston, Map of Wisconsin


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11. Charles W. Morse and Samuel Gaston. “Morse’s Map of Wisconsin” (New York: Morse & Gaston Publishers; Chicago: Rufus Blanchard, 1856). Wax-engraved folding pocket map with bright original full hand color. 14 ¼ x 11 1/8" at neat line. Sheet: 17 x 13 3/4". Beautiful decorative border. With original 12mo brown cloth covers, embossed and titled in gilt. Publisher’s advertisement on front paste-down. Old glue stains where once attached to booklet. Overall, fine with wonderful color.

Price: SOLD [ Order ]

Morse and Gaston’s excellent early map of Wisconsin focuses on settlement information that includes townships and ranges, towns and villages, the state capital, common roads, and individually hand-colored counties. Northern and western Wisconsin is devoid of development, and the map in these areas consists of large, prototypical counties containing rivers and lakes but no towns as yet. In 1856, Wisconsin had been a state for only eight years.

Click for image of cloth cover

Railroad routes on the map are confined thus far to the southeastern section of the map, where settlement appears most concentrated. However, many projected railroads are already appearing in dotted lines. A railroad frenzy swept Wisconsin shortly after it achieved statehood in 1848. The first railroad line in the state was opened between Milwaukee and Waukesha in 1851 by the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad. The railroad pushed on, reaching Milton in 1852, Stoughton in 1853, and the capital city of Madison in 1854. The company reached its goal of completing a rail line across the state from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River when the railroad was extended to Prairie du Chien in 1857. Shortly after this line was finished, other railroad companies completed their own tracks, reaching La Crosse in the west and Superior in the north, spurring development in those cities. By the end of the 1850s, railroads crisscrossed the state, enabling the growth of other industries that could now easily ship products to markets across the country.

Map publisher Charles W. Morse was the son of Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the magnetic telegraph, and the nephew of Sidney E. Morse, a publisher and journalist who devised a technique of wax engraving called cerography by which he produced maps for atlases he published in the 1840s. After 1850, Sidney Morse lost interest in the technique, but it seems to have enjoyed a short-lived revival in the mid-1850s by other map makers including his nephew Charles, who published the map offered here. The use of the technique quickly fell out of favor, only to be revived once again in 1870 when it became one of the most important reproduction techniques for commercial map making in the United States, remaining popular until the 1940s.

A beautiful example, with strong bright color, of this rare and desirable wax-engraved pocket map of Wisconsin during a significant period in the state’s development.

Ref.: Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers, pp. 468–469.

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