John G. Wells. “Wells’ New Sectional Map of Minnesota from the latest Government Surveys” (New York: J. G. Wells, 1857). Lithographed pocket map with fine, bright original full and outline hand color. Attractive, wide vine border with Indian portrait medallions at each corner. 28 x 19 3/4" at border. Sheet size: 29 1/2 x 23". Accompanied by 12mo green cloth booklet with blind-embossed front and back covers, title in gilt: “Well’s New Sectional Map of Minnesota.” Advertisement for Wells publications on front pastedown. Faint stain in left margin where once attached to booklet. Several very minor splits at folds. 1/8" closed hole. Overall nearly mint; crisp, dark strike and exceptional color.
John G. Wells’ beautifully colored pocket map of Minnesota provides an extraordinary early record of the state one year before it entered the Union. Counties are indicated in color, with ranges and townships delineated. At this stage in the territory’s development, settlement is clearly concentrated along major waterways in the southeastern quadrant, most noticeably along the Mississippi. Most of the counties west and north of St. Paul are unsurveyed and appear in their large prototypical incarnations. Pembina County is especially big, covering the western fifth of the territory and largely occupied by Chippewa.
Topographical information is excellent. Extremely well mapped is the extensive network of lakes and rivers for which the state is famous. Of particular interest, the Headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca Lake are indicated, as are those of the Des Moines River in the southwest corner. The map also shows towns, roads, and proposed railroads.
Although little is know about John G. Wells, the caliber of his work is apparent from the fine quality of the map offered here. Several of his maps are listed in the famous collection of Thomas W. Streeter. Rumsey notes that Wells was a New York publishing agent who specialized in supplying “Maps, Charts, Guides, Books & Prints, expressively adapted to the wants of Traveling Agents,” as stated in an advertising broadside from 1857.
This is a very rare and fascinating map of early Minnesota—a superb addition to any collection of nineteenth-century American cartography and especially fine for the upper Midwest.