2011 Catalog, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints Home

2011 Catalog > 10. J. H. Colton. “Colton’s Territories of New Mexico Arizona Colorado Nevada and Utah”


J. H. Colton. “Colton’s Territories of New Mexico Arizona Colorado Nevada and Utah” (New York: J. H. Colton, 1863). Verso text: The United States of Mexico. Published in General Atlas, no. 67. Lithograph with full original hand color. 12 7/8 x 15 7/8" at decorative strap work border. Sheet: 14 1/2 x 17 1/2." Fine impression with exceptional color; very minor transference; light, even age toning. Overall excellent condition.

Price: Sold.

This beautiful map of the newly-formed territories in the American Southwest documents some of the many changes in western political boundaries wrought during the Civil War era. Previous to the official ruling by the U.S. Government in 1863, the proposed territory of Arizona had been drawn with a horizontal division from the rest of New Mexico Territory. So in Colton’s map, we see for the first time the territorial divisions which created the Four Corners. In addition, early territorial borders outline a Nevada smaller than we are familiar with today, with Utah and Arizona encompassing areas that would eventually join Nevada. Strikingly large proto-counties are shown in vivid color. As political boundaries were in constant flux, and explorations brought in new topographical information, the Colton firm revised their map of the Southwest map continuously during the period. Beginning in 1855 this map appeared in 12 different states through to its final publication in 1863.

The map includes a bounty of historical information including Fremont’s routes of 1842, 1843, 1844 and 1845, the Spanish Trail from Los Angeles to New Mexico, General Kearney’s route, Colonel Washington’s expedition, the Cimarron Route, and the location of the Ute ambush of Captain Gunnison. Of particular interest is the rarely noted locale of “Pike’s Stockade,” the site of Captain Zebulon Pike’s arrest by the Spanish when he and his men strayed south into Spanish Territory during their exploration of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Also of note is the early appearance of Fort Union, New Mexico, established in 1863. Newly acquired information from the Pacific Railroad surveys is evident, along with the proposed routes. Details include numerous forts, roads, and Indian territories.

The Colton Company was one of the most important American commercial map firms of the nineteenth century. Joseph Hutchins Colton founded the company around 1831. His son George Woolworth Colton later joined the company, and continued its successful operation after his father’s retirement. Colton’s Atlas of the World was the first publication to bear George’s name, probably signifying that he managed the project, and perhaps indicating that it was his idea to publish a world atlas. Joseph had for years specialized in the publication of pocket maps, wall maps, and traveler’s guides. 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 1855 atlas debuted as a sumptuous publication and one of the most accurate of the period, with each state and country separately mapped and extensively described in a full page of text. This expensive large-format production was discontinued after two editions, and by 1857 a more affordable and popular version took its place.

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 the Southwest during the Civil War period.

Refs.: Wesley A. Brown, J. H. “Colton’s Territories of New Mexico and Utah,” The Portolan, issue 62, Spring 2005; LeGear, Atlases, 6116 (1855 ed.); Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers, pp. 324–326; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, vol. 4, no. 832, frontispiece (state 3).

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