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B Y M A R K J . S T E G M A I E R W I T H R I C H A R D T. M C C U L L E Y
Cartography, Politics– and Mischief
Ephraim Gilman’s 1848 Map
O F T H E U N I T E D S TAT E S , N OW E X PA N D E D C OA S T TO C OA S T
n December 1848, the U.S. General Land Office produced a map of the United States by its principal
draftsman, Ephraim Gilman. It displayed all of the existing states, territories, proposed territories, and the area of the Mexican Cession in the southwest acquired by the terms of theTreaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo,which ended the war with Mexico.
The Gilman map was specifically ordered by President James K. Polk to accompany his last annual message to Congress that month. Polk wanted the map to illustrate the territorial gains from the Mexican War, advance his ideas on the development of the newly acquired territories, and address the growing debate in Congress and the nation over the extension of slavery in the territories. Gilman colored the various areas in pink, light green, and light yellow and featured tables of statistics on the square miles and acreages on the right and left borders.The map is a beautiful artifact on its own, but it is also an intriguing document with features that are not immedi-
ately obvious.While the Gilman map appears to be a credible rendering of the United States at mid-19th century, closer inspection reveals serious labeling errors, misspellings, and egregious misplacements of major geographic features. This is surprising because Gilman was an experienced draftsman who had been at the land office at least since 1839.
The Gilman map shows that the 1840s had been an important decade for the expansion of the United States. The Texas annexation by the United States in 1845 brought Texas into the Union as a slave state. In 1846, the British ceded the
Gilman’s map supported Texans’ claim that New Mexican lands began to the west of the Rio Grande.
Oregon Territory south of the 49th parallel: what is now Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and part of Montana. In the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican War, Mexico ceded what are now the states of California, Nevada, and Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, and New Mexico. The United States now reached coast to coast, a fact that the expansionist President Polk wanted to highlight in this unique but forceful political statement. Some features of the map readily capture our attention. The shape of Texas looks strongly distorted to the modern eye, making west Texas appear much smaller than it actually is.This distortion reflects Gilman’s use of John Disturnell’s 1847 “Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Mejico,”noted as a source on the left-hand side of his map. A comparison of Gilman’s map with Disturnell’s shows an important difference regarding the boundary between New Mexico and Texas. Disturnell’s map, which had been used for the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo negotiations, was ambiguous regarding the Texas-New Mexico boundary. Disturnell had the area east of the Rio Grande one color and the area west of the river a different color, strongly implying that everything east of the river lay in Texas, while New Mexico lay only on the western side. But the wording Disturnell used on the map—“Nuevo Mejico” (west of the river) “O Santa Fe” (east of the river)— supported the claim that some of New Mexico lay on the eastern side of the Rio Grande. Gilman’s map did away with the ambiguity, not only having different colors on either side of the river but also clearly labeling only the area west of the Rio Grande as New Mexico. The Gilman map’s rendering of the boundary was part of President Polk’s effort to settle a dispute between Texas and New
Mexico. President Polk sent a message to Congress that definitely leaned toward the New Mexicans’ claims that their area east of the Rio Grande had never been occupied by the Texans and had always been governed as a province of Mexico until the U.This rendering suggests Polk’s policy regarding the extension of slavery in the territories. however. and ultimately the binding of this huge expanse together with a network of railroads from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Nebraska’s status would become part of the great sectional disruption over slavery expansion in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.W. with the prospect that the United States would acquire the vast region lying betweenTexas and the Pacific Coast. i. Douglas introduced both bills and chaired the Senate’s Committee onTerritories. The features on Gilman’s map reflected Polk’s sentiments. Oregon is not labeled as an organized territory nor given any specific boundary on the east. In his last annual message to Congress on December 5. Polk used the Gilman map to reiterate this recommendation to Congress. the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The beginning of the Mexican War in 1846. and President Polk had wavered on the boundary issue himself during the Mexican War. 1848.with their boundaries delineated according to Douglas’s 1848 bills.excluding California.Although his message implied that some of New Mexico might extend east of the Rio Grande. A few months later. when he signed into law the bill creating a territorial government for Oregon. Polk appeared to favor the Texas claim again. One allowed settlers in the territories themselves to determine the slavery question. A curious feature on the western portion of this map is its presentation of Oregon. and Lake Superior with cartographic exactitude. possibly indicat- ing the haste with which the map was prepared and printed. After General Stephen Watts Kearny’s forces occupied New Mexico inAugust 1847.” a progressive migration of settlement westward.It was championed by southern politicians in 1850 as an alternative to California’s admission to the Union as a free state.and he strongly urged the application of the same division line to the Mexican Cession. or Northwest Territory. another left the question to the Supreme Court to determine. 1848. he recommended that Congress establish a territorial government only in the areas of New Mexico west of the Rio Grande. These bills expressed Douglas’s vision of America’s“manifest destiny.S. Many people in northern states doubted or totally rejected the validity of the Texas boundary claim. a Senate bill that would have established governments in the Mexican session but failed to pass Congress. the line is mistakenly designated as lying at 39˚30‘ instead of 36˚30‘. had prohibited slavery north of the line and permitted it south of the line. In December 1836. and the 36˚30‘ line’s extension. Gilman apparently had a difficult time matching the bill’s description of the northeastern part of Minnesota Territory’s boundary with the features of his own map.the map shows a vaguely defined boundary and the use of a different color—yellow— in the northeastern part of Minnesota when he had used green in the western part of the territory. conquest in 1846.prompted northern politicians in Congress to rally behind Pennsylvania Rep. Nor did Gilman draw Wisconsin. establishment of territorial governments as settlers advanced (Minnesota) and sometimes in anticipation of settlement (Nebraska). government was not setting up an adverse claim to that of Texas by establishing a military government at Santa Fe. even though Congress had not organized any official Cartography.but MinnesotaTerritory would achieve organization in 1849.These features signaled administration support for Senate bills organizing territorial governments in those two areas. 1848. Polk and his administration ardently championed Douglas’s plans.S. the Texas Republic had defined its boundary on the south and west as the Rio Grande from mouth to source and from that point northward to the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty line between the United States and Spain at 42˚N. As a result of Gilman’s confusion. Overall this was the least well-executed portion of Gilman’s work. In the upper left-hand corner of the map. On Gilman’s map. Neither the Minnesota nor Nebraska territory bills had passed Congress in the earlier session. Also notable on the Gilman map is its dis- play of boundaries for two “proposed” territories. The area to the east is labeled “N. Politics—and Mischief Prologue 9 . Polk emphasized the “calming”influence which the 36˚30‘ line had had on earlier crises over slavery extension. The Missouri Compromise of 1820.”. Illinois Senator Stephen A. Congress had organized a territorial government for Oregon in August 1848. in the December 5 annual message. popular sovereignty.Then on July 24. as southerners responded that they had a constitutional right to carry their slaves into the common territories of the nation.extended further west by the Texas annexation resolutions of 1845.That boundary claim meant that Santa Fe and all the settled parts of Mexico’s northern province of New Mexico would have been part of Texas since they all lay east of the Rio Grande.Polk reassured Texans that the U. Another politically significant feature of the Gilman map is not initially apparent— a line drawn from the southern boundary of Missouri (the Missouri Compromise line of 1820) to the Pacific Ocean. and a third called for extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Coast. Polk made clear his preference for extending the Missouri Compromise line in a message to the House of Representatives on August 14. The Wilmot Proviso set off a firestorm of controversy. would become a major suggestion of compromise during the secession crisis of 1860–1861. The idea of extending the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific would recur in the debate over slavery in the territories. which may explain the inclusion of the two“proposed”territories on Gilman’s map. David Wilmot’s August 1846 proposal to ban slavery from any territory the United States might acquire from Mexico in the war. TER y.Polk probably assumed this stance to encourage passage of the Clayton Compromise. Minnesota and Nebraska.e.Alternative proposals for resolving the issue of slavery in the territories emerged.
On theTexas part of the map. A careful examination of the Oregon part of the map reveals more egregious errors. in Philadelphia. it may be that President Polk himself directed that the map be drawn with Oregon only vaguely defined to accommodate southern sensibilities.Wahlah wahlah. Michigan. Yet Gilman labels that river the “Wahlahmath River” and Fort Walla Walla as “Ft. he had never undertaken cartographic work that ambitious. indicates that Ephraim Gilman and his superiors were operating under a tight deadline to get the map and its tables finished in time to accompany Polk’s message to Congress.is given on the map as“Rio del North.For example. although it invariably appears in maps made in the 1830s and 1840s of the Pacific Northwest. but Gilman did not indicate this in his December map. The President may have preferred not to remind southerners of their recent congressional defeat by prominently displaying the new.“Rio del Norte. By the time Gilman drafted his map. and Mississippi.”Matamoros is misspelled “Matamoras. Since the other political dimensions of the map are consistent with the administration’s policies. we also examined maps from the 1840s at the National Archives.anomalies. Indiana. odd omissions. Gilman placed Mount St. When Gilman got the assignment to draft a map of the United States for President Polk. Those maps reveal high-quality work based on recent surveys but confined to rather limited geographic areas in Illinois. the river emptying into the Columbia River at present-day Portland was widely known as the Willamette River.” although we have not been able to locate other maps of that era with the same usages. the erroneous listing of the Missouri Compromise line as 39˚30’ and the vagueness of the depiction of the proposed Minnesota Territory were not corrected by anyone before this map went to the printer.” Gilman rendered the Sabine River on the map as the “Saline River.” and Nueces River is misspelled “Neuces.territory there. Helens south of the Columbia River. P. free territory of the northwest. and other peculiarities of the map might be traced to its political context. The number of spelling errors and spelling peculiarities suggest that the drafting of the map was marred by hastiness and carelessness.”another name for the Rio Grande. We were so intrigued with these errors of omission and commission that we investigated the quality of Gilman’s draftsmanship by examining other maps he produced when he was employed by the General Land Office.” although the river is correctly labeled the Sabine in the right-hand table. and peculiar spellings. That The Oregon Territory had been organized in August 1848. While some of the omissions. and they were still angry that the bill had prohibited slavery in a federal territory. the many serious errors and misspellings on a map that was an important state document indicate hurried preparation. S. from the Oregon Historical Society.Why Gilman did not clearly designate Oregon as a territory with its proper boundaries is a mystery. which was apparently prepared by someone other than Gilman. Duval. Since his 1848 map was not based on original surveys and was drafted in haste. Southerners had bitterly contested the Oregon Territory bill in the previous session. It is also curious that the major outpost of Fort Vancouver is not on the map.” El Paso or Paso del Norte becomes“Passo. and the older Indian names had fallen into dis- use. and in published sources that were either readily available to them 10 Prologue Winter 2009 .
repeatedly use the printer.sonally reported to President Polk on in the General Land Office or to which they would have had knowledge and access.” respectively.between West Virginia and Kentucky.work before its printing. Serial 537). names for the Cumbnaming a few important rivers on his erland and the Tennessee rivers before map. Since there is no evi. Walker. apparently no one Two days after Commissioner Young submitted this November 22. inaccurate maps. And the evidence vated Gilman.map contain statistics gathered from a November 22. an on the map itself shows that Gilman apparently talented would have been correct in such an draftsman. 1848. especially ones proximate to and the map was sent to the printer.hand table of the map. letter from Comperament Errors on the section of the map depicting Kentucky who did missioner Young to Secretary of the and Tennessee seem to have been deliberate. neither is its graphic features.within President Polk’s home state? Knowing that the General Land Office dence that the errors were the results of hur. concerning acreages of some The Kanawha is a river in present-day the job done. remarkable provenance. Young met with President Polk and gave him a copy of the detected the substituted Gilman map.many inaccuracies of the Gilman map place major geo. not Kentucky and Tennessee. 1848. Since the focus of the map was the western part of it and especially the Mexican Cession. 1848. of the newer states appear in the rightWest Virginia. Politics—and Mischief Prologue 11 . The mischievous Gilman simply applied the names of these lesser rivers in the area to two major rivers on his map. One can almost imagine him the names of two chuckling with delight when no one major rivers on his noticed the errors before the map went to map. When one examines the Kentucky-Tennessee part of the map. Young had perthat forms part of the boundary man have had to retaliate than by mis. Commissioner Richard M. Peeved at the pressure.are not readily apparent. letter to Secretary Walker.. and many related the most likely documents were published as House explanation is Executive Document 1 (30th Cong. and the Big Sandy is a river what more appropriate way would Gil. Those two very having to draw his map under a tight the amount and value of the lands prominent rivers had been known and deadline and probably under constant acquired from Mexico. and mis. 1848. This experienced draftsman could not have done this by mistake. But the search for clues concerning which maps Gilman might have relied on to draft the 1848 map proved fruitless and yielded no maps full of the same or similar irregularities that are found in Gilman’s. the errors appear to have been deliberately inserted. Polk’s message We conclude that of December 5. discussing Sandy..Young to get 30. Gilman changed the names of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers to the “Great Kanawha” and the “Big Cartography. not like Treasury Robert J.was operating under a tight deadline to riedly copying from complete the map and its tables. While the political meaning and the incorrect place names. that Gilman 2nd sess. however. to falsify assumption. Tables on either side of Gilman’s artistic tem.map the first among several maps at the man with an end. Figures from presented on maps for generations as pressure from General Land Office Young’s annual report dated November the Cumberland and the Tennessee. we Gilman would have guessed that no can only speculate on one was going to carefully proofread his what may have moti. with Gilman’s was a drafts.
was an estimate of approximately 145. On March 11.1848–March 1849? No.1850. not the annual report. The absence of these lines The copy of Gilman’s map preserved strongly suggest that the map was altered at the Center for Legislative Archives at after February 13 but before September the National Archives is an extraordinary 1850. although the map 12 Prologue Winter 2009 . who could it have been? Only Louisiana’s Senator Solomon W. Yet whoever inserted the California boundary did not sketch in the boundary line between Utah and New Mexico or between New Mexico Territory and Texas. Rep. if a member of Congress was responsible for the insertion of the California boundary on the Archives copy of the Gilman map. An examination of the map in January 2008 by the National Archives conservation laboratory revealed that the blue line indicating the California boundary was drawn by someone after February 13. both copied much of the entire righthand table into their pro-California statehood speeches. Others who referenced the map pointed to its statistical tables. that member was most likely Samuel Thurston of Oregon. Downs specifically referred to Gilman’s map in a speech on February 19. President Polk did use Young’s statistics in his message but quoted a few of the figures slightly in error. Jesse C. No member of the Texas delegation. Orin Fowler (W-MA) quoted a few statistics from the tables on both sides of the map. at least the printed version. The alterations were probably made by a congressman or senator in early 1850 in preparation for a speech. He also sketched in. possibly during the short second sional Serial Set and was referred to dur. the boundary line of California as proposed by its state constitutional convention of 1849. One figure that both cited. all Democrats. Peter H. Gilman extended the Missouri Compromise line of 36˚30’ both of which were all the way to the California coast. In our opinion. defined by Congress in bills during August agree with those in Young’s letter to and September 1850 as part of the ComproWalker. ous bills that proposed to organize Whoever used the copy of Gilman’s either a state or territorial government November 24 about the dimensions of the newly acquired lands and gave Polk a copy of Gilman’s map. the date President Zachary Taylor sent official copies of the California constitution to the House and Senate. document because it is somewhat corCould someone have altered this copy rected and updated from the version of the Gilman map prior to February originally published in the Congres. occupied parts of 10 pages in the Congressional Globe. and on June 3 Rep. Dickey (W-PA) on June 6. Samuel R. no boundary provision matched those defined by the California constitution later in 1849 and drawn on the map. Rep.Thurston (D-OR) on March 25 and Rep. 1850. cited the Gilman map in support of their state’s claim to all the territory east of the Rio Grande. during debate on the compromise proposals previously presented by Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky. Most citations of statistics from the map were made in the House during speeches by northern representatives supporting the admission of California as a state. mise of 1850. Downs used the map to point out that Clay’s proposal on Texas boundaries would have cut off northern Texas from the state. If a member of Congress was responsible for altering the Archives copy of the Gilman map in the first session of the 1849–1851 Congress. Silvester (W-NY) quoted a few aggregate statistics from the righthand table. or had a draftsman sketch it in for him. The report Polk referred to was the November 22 letter from Young to Walker. 1850. Polk stated in his diary that he would employ the statistics of Young’s “Report” in his upcoming annual message. The statistics on Gilman’s map for California. Two congressmen. it analyzed much of the California constitution and quoted its section on boundaries.000 square miles for the area of California as defined by its constitution’s boundaries.session of Congress in December ing congressional debate over the Com. which was not on Gilman’s map. Among the varipromise of 1850. Thurston’s speech.map now in the Archives corrected the Missouri Compromise line error in the upper left-hand corner by crossing out 39˚30’ and writing in 36˚30’ .
New Mexico.. 1987). 1840 and 1850 U.S. 30th Congress. Ordeal of the Union. and the New York Times. and they saw no need to also cite the Gilman map. OH: Kent State University Press. Bergeron. Cartography. Author Mark J.S. U. Bloom. ed. Chaplain W. Paul H. When the Texans did mention maps in the first session of the 1849– 1851 Congress. He received his Ph. research librarian at the Oregon Historical Society. Democratic Politics and Sectionalism: The Wilmot Proviso Controversy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. where he has taught since receiving his Ph. cited above. Information on Ephraim Gilman is from the United States Official Register. which had authority by virtue of its having been the map used in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo negotiations. 1897).C.from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1975. Douglas (New York: Oxford University Press. Johansson. McClurg & Co. 1992).P. H. the Jacob de Cordova-Robert Creuzbaur map of August 1848. Polk (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.. Richard T. can be found in RG 233. Records of the U. 1850. But with its presentation of New Mexico lying unambiguously west of the Rio Grande. Johnson School of Public Affairs. geographic contours. Morrison. Polk During His Presidency.The Disturnell map of 1847 is in General Records of the United States Government. Ephraim Gilman’s 1848 map proved more useful in Congress for its statistical data than for its colorful depiction of U. Congress. and the Compromise of 1850. He is the co-author of White House Operations:The Lyndon Johnson Presidency (Austin: University of Texas Press.S.O. 1848–1998 (Las Cruces.C. 1999). The map also reflects President Polk’s view that the best solution to the sectional crisis over slavery in the territories was the extension of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Coast. Ex. respectively. Center for Legislative Archives. The f loor debates in the House of Representatives that referenced the Gilman map and tables are available in the Congressional Globe. Milligan: His Journal of Fremont’s Fifth Expedition. 31–33. House of Representatives. February 23. Finally. NM: Doña Ana Co. The Diary of James K. Censuses for the District of Columbia. and William Davis of the Center for Legislative Archives. The two maps the Texans cited simply served their purpose of defending the Texas boundary claim in debate during 1850. the Gilman map illustrates how much of the nation’s history a single document can reveal and how many mysteries the draftsman embedded in this fascinating example of 19th-century cartography. Richarson. Polk’s request for the map and his statements based on the Gilman map and tables. 1967). Smith of the Cartographic for assistance in our examination of the cartographic work of Gilman. New Mexico.He is the author of Texas. 1853. Doc.. 1839–1851 at the National Archives.Washington. House of Representatives.S. Politics—and Mischief Prologue 13 . 1. and Allan Nevins. 1947). 1996) and co-author of James F. they cited Disturnell’s. See also Robert W. history from the University of Texas at Austin and was a lecturer and research associate at the Lyndon B. CA:Arthur H. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). 1st session. in U. 1986) and author of Banks and Politics during the Progressive Era (New York: Garland Press. vol. 1910). who conducted at our request a search of Oregon maps drawn before 1850. 537. McCulley is the historian at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives and Records Administration. and the Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute and Sectional Crisis (Kent. Richard H. Record Group (RG) 11.“The Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty as a Factor in the New Mexico-Texas Boundary Dispute” in John P. or a more recent and more accurate one based on actual surveys by the Texas General Land Office. Senator Sam Houston did not himself refer to the Cordova-Creuzbaur map in this session but had strongly promoted it as an accurate map of Texas during the second session of the 30th Congress in 1848. Clark Co. Correspondence relating to the Gilman map is in the U. 31st Congress. 1789–1897. Stegmaier is professor of history at Cameron University in Lawton. Quaife. Serial Set. Stephen A. and Stegmaier. 1849.S.clearly supported that claim. volume 1.. The authors would like to thank National Archives and Records Administration archivists Constance Potter for editorial suggestions and for furnishing biographical information on Ephraim Gilman. The published sources most helpful for understanding the political context of the Gilman map are Stegmaier. see Milton M. the map does illustrate the final tilt of the Polk administration toward the validity of Texas’s 1836 claim. pp. Fruits of Manifest Destiny. NARA.D. 1988). Historical Society and Yucca Tree Press. 1845 to 1849 (Chicago: A. ed. 1853–1854: His Adventurous Life on Land and Sea (Glendale. and James D. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: Papers of the Sesquicentennial Symposium. We also appreciate Scott Daniels. volumes 4 and 5 (Washington: G. Texas. The marking of the proposed California state boundary on the Archives copy of the map used during the course of the debate over the Compromise of 1850 makes it a unique document.. P NOTE ON SOURCES The map that is the subject of this article. 1973). A Compilation of Messages and Papers of the Presidents. Oklahoma. December 1848. 1847–1852 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Map of the United States Including Western Territories. We also thank NARA conservationist Yoonjoo Strumfels for conducting a ver y detailed analysis of the map. D. The Presidency of James K. National Archives Microfilm Publication M704 and M432. On President James K.D.S. 2nd session.
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