AmericA the beAutiful

courteSy of ArAder gAllerieS

mAp of the united StAteS with contiguouS britiSh & SpAniSh poSSeSSionS. publiShed by John meliSh. philAdelphiA, circA 1820.
ohn Melish was a highly educated Scottish merchant who settled in Philadelphia in 1811, eventually to become one of the first great cartographers on the American continent. Melish drew on a number of official state maps to produce this mammoth map of the United States, which was used on several occasions to determine boundary lines between the U.S. and Mexico. He first published it in 1816, updating it frequently over the following several years as new discoveries came to light This great wall map is coveted by collectors, for it was the first to depict the United States potentially stretching from Atlantic to Pacific, thereby embodying the nascent notion of “Manifest Destiny.” Furthermore, it demonstrated a remarkably precise understanding of American geography, for the travel accounts of Zebulon Pike, Lewis & Clark, Thomas Nuttall, and William Darby were used as soon as they appeared. Walter Ristow, the legendary historian of the mapping of America, could not heap enough praise on this map. He considered it “a significant milestone in the history of American commercial cartography,” and wrote that “Melish played a foremost role in bringing together from many and varied sources the geographical and cartographical knowledge of the period, and presenting it systematically and graphically for the edification and enlightenment of the citizens of the young republic.” No nation ever existed without some sense of national destiny or purpose. The notion of Manifest Destiny revitalized a sense of “mission” or national destiny for many Americans. The term was first coined by a democratic leader and influential editor by the name of John L. O’Sullivan, who wrote: “.... the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and… of self government entrusted to us. It is right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth.”


Although O’Sullivan spoke these words in self-advancement. The idea of Manifest Destiny the 1840s, he summed up a sense of destiny that became the torch that lit the way for American had its origins several decades earlier and found expansion. its first true visual expression in Melish’s great Melish’s map was produced just as the notion map. Already in the early of Manifest Destiny was “thiS exceptionAl 1820s, the people of the United crystallizing in the general States felt it was their mission American consciousness, mAp wAS meliSh’S to extend the “boundaries and it gave visual expression moSt noted of freedom” to others by to the glorious fate that was AccompliShment, A imparting their idealism compelling teStAment anticipated for the young and belief in democratic nation. Recognizing the to the irreSiStible institutions to those who were seemingly endless demand for pull thAt mAnifeSt capable of self-government. geographical information on deStiny -- then But there were other forces the American West, Melish and political agendas at work purely hypotheticAl undertook to accumulate a -- exerted on as well. As the population of vast amount of descriptions, the original thirteen colonies statistics, and maps. Published the AmericAn grew and the U.S. economy just after Melish’s death, this conSciouSneSS.” developed, the desire and edition shows the alterations attempts to expand into new land increased. For made in 1820 when he enlarged the size of the map many colonists, land represented potential income, to show the West Indies and all of southern Mexico. wealth, self-sufficiency and freedom. Expansion For the Texas area, Melish relied heavily on the into the western frontiers offered opportunities for surveys conducted by William Darby, who had

personally surveyed much of the Sabine River area. Melish’s map significantly improved the descriptions and depictions of the Texas interior, but even more significant is its official association with the AdamsOnis Treaty. Also called the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty was one of the critical events that defined the U.S.-Mexico border, and Melish’s map was the main one consulted by negotiators. Perhaps its most lasting value to history, however, is its depiction of the young nation stretching from coast to coast. This exceptional map was Melish’s most noted accomplishment, a compelling testa ment to the irresistible pull that Manifest Destiny -then purely hypothetical -- exerted on the American consciousness. There is little difference between the 1820 fourth state and the 1820 third state of the Melish’s 1820 Map of the United States with Contiguous British & Spanish Possessions. The single apparent difference is the alteration of the total population column changed to read from “81,629,903” to “18,629,903.” More substantial changes are manifest in the third state of the 1820 edition. The third is the first state of Melish’s map to be published from nine plates. It extends southward beyond 16 north latitude and embraces the southern half of Mexico, part of Guatemala, all of Cuba, Jamaica Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the southern Bahamas. The inset map has also has also been extended southward to 6 north latitude. A second “General Statistical Table” has been added in the southwest corner of the main map, in which the population table column is incorrectly given as 81,629,903. In the old statistical table the following changes are noted: Arkansas Territory is added below Alabama ; “ Ceded to U.S. by Treaty” inserted before “Floridis”; Territory is dropped after “Missouri”; and a new “Missouri Territory” is inserted. The Tennessee-Kentucky border east of the Tennessee River has been moved northward. Christian C.H. in southern Kentucky is changed to Hopkinsville. “Philda” is added in north central Kentucky. In Illinois the following are deleted : “Ceded by the Sac & Fox Indians 3 Nov. 1804”Indian Bondy”, “Indian By.”, “I Boundary,” and three dotted boundaries adjacent to these designations. Place names added in Illinois are Alton, Vandalia, Carlisle, Covington, Browns Ville, Vienna, Hamburg, America, Golconda, Carnir, Palestine and Harrisonville. In Missouri the names Jackson, Boonville, and Bluff Town are added Herculaneum is relocated, Bonhomme R. is deleted, and the final Y in Missouri Territory is move westward beyond the limits of the State of Wisconsin. The oblique name “Arkansaw Territory” is replaced by Arkansas Territory, lettered horizontally; is changed to “Arkansaw District” is changed to “Arkansas District; and Cedran and Lawrence are introduced as new names in Arkansas Territory. In Indiana “Ceded at Ft. Wayne Sept. 1809 is deleted along with eight dotted Indian boundaries; Fredonia, Mt. Carmel, Palmyra, and Terre Haute are added; Ft. Hairrson is relocated ; and several roads and trails in the southern part o the state are rerouted.

Additions in Ohio include N. Haven, Huron, Mecca, Putney, Woodsfield, Burlington, Hillsboro, Wilmington, Xenia, and Troy. A dotted Indian boundary is deleted in the western part of the State. Deletions in Mississippi include “Yazoo Lands” “Ceded by the Choctaws” “Indian Boundary” and several dotted boundaries. In the same State the names Warrington, Monticello, Holmville, Medville, Shieldsborg, and Cotton Gin Pt. are added from Natchez to Stephens. An unnamed canal (obviously the Erie) is added to north central New York State. The designation Gulf of Mexico has been moved slightly southward. On the inset map are added the names Merida and Caribes, latitude numbers 8, 9, and 10, and three unnamed tributaries to a southern branch of the Orinoco River. The following modifications are noted along the U.S. - Mexican boundary, established by the 1819 treaty: the dot-dash boundary line has been completed along the 42 parallel between the Multnomah River and the headwaters of the Arkansas and the boundary line is moved and reengraved on the west bank of the Arkansas between the junction of parallel 42 with the 34 meridian (west of Washington, D.C.) and the intersection of the 41 parallel with the 32 meridian. Courtesy of Arader Galleries. For more information, please email or call (212) 628-3668.

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