Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Africa’s Shifting Regions by Vincent Szilagyi

Antique maps of Africa are an excellent choice for both novice and expert map collectors. Maps of Africa show wonderful (albeit often inaccurate) detail. The relatively late exploration of the continent by Europeans and the ever-changing colonial boundaries mean that maps only a few years apart can show vastly different pictures of the continent. Maps of Africa are also less in demand than some other areas of the world, allowing people to acquire great pieces of history and art at very reasonable prices. One of the interesting things about maps of Africa is the relatively fluid use of terms describing regions and states. A term used for one area on a 1770s map can be found referring to a wholly different region thousands of miles away on a 1780s map and so on up until quite recently. There are quite a few of these terms, many of which appear briefly and then disappear or were only used by one cartographer. However, there are four regional terms that had significant staying power through the years and through the coming and going of different cartographic minds. These terms defined Africa for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years, and are still found on maps today. Many should be familiar even to those without much knowledge of African history; they are Guinea, Congo, Ethiopia and Libya.

Guinea (or Guinee, Guiney)

Map of Guinea by Herman Moll, 1727

Map of Upper and Lower Guinea by Andriveau-Goujon 1838 (Courtesy of

Guinea is a name still found on African maps today. In addition to the Republic of Guinea, the countries of Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea share the name of this ancient region. (The island of New Guinea in Oceania is also named after this region, as is Papua New Guinea, the country on its eastern half.) In general, Guinea historically referred to the West African region bordering the Gulf of Guinea. However, some maps show Guinea extending along the entire Atlantic African coast, while others have a small confined Guinea near what is now Ghana and the Ivory Coast. There wasn’t a great deal of consistency in the placement of Guinea beyond this, and it was mostly used as a catchall for West Africa. Later, Guinea was divided into Lower Guinea in the North and Upper Guinea in the South. As the colonial race went on, Guinea became less and less used as other names took precedence. As such, by the end of the 19th century, Guinea disappeared as a region and was replaced by terms like West Africa or the names of the various British and French colonies in the region.

Kongo (or Kongo)

1848 manuscript map by Marianne Hunt showing the Congo (Courtesy of

The Congo is another old name, stemming from the Kingdom of the Kongo that interacted with the Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries. Starting with the Portuguese, European maps began to place the label “Congo” in a variety of places. Simply put, the Congo referred to anywhere within the Congo River drainage basin. While this explanation seems fairly straightforward, for most of Africa’s history mapmakers had no idea where the Congo River actually went. Many geographers thought it was connected to the Nile or the Niger, while others thought it connected to the Zambezi. This confusion resulted in the “Congo” being anywhere in a vast region that covered the entirety of Central Africa from the Sahara to the Zambezi and from the Atlantic to an ill-defined border in the East. Over time, as the region was mapped, the Congo began to refer specifically to the colonial holdings of King Leopold II, which occupied the modern territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. In addition to the DRC, the Republic of the Congo is also named after this region and river.

Libya (or Libye)

Reconstruction of the World as described by Herodotus

Libya is a region inherited from Roman and Greek geographers. To most geographers, Libya was a shorthand for the entirety of desert North Africa. While certain regions like Egypt and Mauritania had their own names, they were considered part of the greater Libya region. In fact, on several maps the term Libya is used as a synonym for Africa as a whole. This was the standard for centuries, until the Age of Exploration when Portuguese and Spanish sailors determined that Africa was much, much larger than previously thought. As this European penetration of Africa moved the frontiers of geographic knowledge further and further from the coast, Libya expanded inland. Libya became the lands between the Mediterranean and Guinea. The entire Sahara was often called Libya, among other names. As the centuries progressed, Libya eventually took on a second meaning, the land of light-skinned Africans. Libya was the land of the non-black Africans: the Arabs, Copts and Berbers. Another familiar term was used for the parts of Africa inhabited by black-skinned peoples.


Ethiopia was the land of black-skinned Africans. The term comes from the Ancient Greek term Aethiopia (Burnt-Faces) which was first mentioned by Homer in the Iliad. Later Aethiopia was described by Herodotus as the farthest region of "Libya" (i.e. Africa): "Where the south declines towards the setting sun lies the country called Aethiopia, the last inhabited land in that direction. There gold is obtained in great plenty, huge elephants abound, with wild trees of all sorts, and ebony; and the men are taller, handsomer, and longer lived than anywhere else." As time went on and more of Africa became mapped, Ethiopia moved frequently. At times, Ethiopia was all of Africa below the Sahara. At other times, Ethiopia became more closely related to the modern day Ethiopian Highlands. This area was also called Abyssinia. It is not unusual to see Ethiopia and Abyssinia on the same map, often in very different places.

When looking at maps of Africa, some or all of these our terms will almost always be present. Even though they have been used for centuries and into the present day, just because a term is familiar, does not mean you will know where to find it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Battle of New Orleans

The War of 1812 officially ended on December 24, 1814, when the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent. However, the physical war had one more spasm of violence for word of the treaty did not reach North America until after one of the conflict’s biggest battles. In early 1814, Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to Elba, allowing the British to focus more on their war in North America. One of their major thrusts was to be campaign to capture New Orleans, thus gaining control of the Mississippi River.

In December, 1814, a large naval and military force under Admiral Alexander Cochrane and General Edward Pakenham arrived in the Gulf of Mexico and proceeded to establish a base just south of New Orleans. On January 8, 1815, the British marched against New Orleans, but were repelled by Andrew Jackson and his motley force consisting of militiamen, slaves, Indians and pirates. This great victory, though it did not affect the final outcome of the war, did help build American morale and it catapulted Jackson to a fame which eventually led him to the White House.

The victory caused a sensation around the country, so it is not surprising that an American publisher from Philadelphia, Joseph Yeager, would issue a colorful print of the battle to take advantage of the national enthusiasm over this victory. The print was drawn by William Edward West and engraved by Yeager himself. It was issued within a short period of time after the battle, when the public was eager to get its hands of any graphic image of the famous encounter.

The print shows the battle from behind the British lines in order to highlight the death of General Pakenham, who is shown lying mortally wounded and surrounded by his staff. Among these was General Sir John Lambert who is showing crying into his handkerchief. The battle ranges in the background, with the British shown attacking the American ramparts, from which can be seen two proud American flags.

It is interesting that either because the plate was not selling that well or he felt it needed a bit more “oomph,” Yeager reworked the plate shortly after it was first issued to add extra figures, mostly British casualties.

Of even more interest is the fact that for some reason Yeager again reworked the print, this time changing the figure of Lambert so that he is no longer weeping into a handkerchief, but is instead vaguely pointing to his left. Why this was done is not clear, but it is an interesting example of the “recycling” of prints.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Osage in a Strange Land

This portrait of an Osage woman named Mohongo was issued in the McKenney & Hall History of the Indian Tribes of North America (1837-44). It shows her holding her two year old daughter, who is playing with a Presidential medal with the profile of Andrew Jackson. One of 117 portraits of Native Americans included in this important volume, it portrays an individual whose adventures leading up to her portrait being painted are among the most interesting of any of the Indians included in the volume.

Beginning with Columbus and continuing thereafter on a regular basis, Native Americans were shipped off to Europe, often unwillingly, as objects of curiosity. Europeans, even into modern times, have been fascinated by the colorful and out-of-the-ordinary cultures and appearance of American Indians, and there have always been those who took advantage of this by bringing these “exotics” across the Atlantic for their own purposes. The Indians have been displayed, examined, interviewed, put on stage and otherwise used by others for hundreds of years.

The Osage were a tribe which had originated along the Ohio River, but had moved westward to the Great Plains by the mid-17th century. They became the dominant power in the region by the 18th century and soon developed trade and diplomatic contacts with the French, who were most impressed by their appearance, fierceness and dignity.

In 1723, Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont established Fort Orleans on the Missouri River, the first European post on that river. In 1725 he took a group of their chiefs, including one Osage, to Paris to show them the power and glory of France. The “sauvages” proved a great novelty and generated huge interest throughout France. They were feted, dined, went to the opera, and were given gold-trimmed coats and cock hats and other gaudies. Their visit was a popular success and the Indians seemed equally impressed, stories of their trip passing down over the years after their return.

The Osage maintained their relations with the French in subsequent years, doing extensive trade with René Auguste Chouteau of St. Louis. In the 1820s, the Osage became acquainted with a friend of Chouteau’s, David Delaunay. This led, in 1827, to the Osage being taken to France by Delaunay for an eventful and not so successful, two year visit. About this trip there is a fair bit of graphic illustration and documentary information, but there is much about the Osage’s visit to Europe in 1827 which remains unclear.

The main problem is that there are two conflicting sources of information. One consists of a number of pamphlets which were published in France during the Osage’s visit. The original source of the story told in these pamphlets was likely Delaunay himself and they present a generally positive report. The other source is the biography of Mohongo, one of the Osage travelers, that appeared in the McKenney & Hall History of the Indian Tribes of North America. That account takes a much dimmer view on the whole episode.

According to the French pamphlet accounts, the Osage instigated the idea of visiting France on their own, inspired by the stories they heard of the earlier visit of 1725. According to the pamphlets, initially 25 Osage planned to make the trip and spent four years raising money for it. Eventually the number dropped to 12 and then a boat full of furs, which they were planning to sell in St. Louis, overturned and they lost everything. They supposedly then met David Delaunay in St. Louis and he agreed to take a small party with him to France.

This is not the story as told by McKenney & Hall. There it was Delaunay’s idea to take the Osage to France in order to profit by exhibiting them in various venues; “decoyed from the boarders of Missouri, by an adventurer, whose intention was to exhibit them in Europe for the purpose of gain.” Supposedly they were impressed with Delaunay’s wearing an American uniform and they were further persuaded by Paul Loise, a Frenchmen who had been appointed by Meriwether Lewis in 1808 as Osage interpreter.

Whatever the case, in 1827, a small party set out for France from St. Louis. It included Delaunay, Loise, M. Tesson, another Frenchmen, and six Osage. These consisted of Little Chief, Washingsabba (or Black Spirit), Marcharthitahtoongah (or Big Soldier), Minckchatahooh, and two women. These Mohongo, also known as Sacred Sun, and Gretomih, or Hawk Women. The status of these women is unclear, for Mohongo is said to be the wife of Little Chief or possibly Black Spirit, and Hawk Woman is said to be Little Hawk’s wife or cousin.

This group arrived in France on July 27, 1827. The handsome and exotic Osage brought the romantic American West to life in France and thousands swarmed the docks to see them. They attended the theater in Havre, where they were the object of great curiosity, and the throng was so intrusive that during the intermission they left and returned to their hotel. They later moved on to Rouen, where they attended an opera performance, which seemed to go better than their first visit to a theater. It was at the Rouen opera that an artist drew their picture, an image which subsequently appeared in prints published in France and Germany, feeding the immense public fascination with the wild Indians.

The Osage continued on to Paris and continued to be a huge hit. Delaunay placed advertisements of their appearances at the theater or other events and attendance was tremendous. Supposedly the only competing attraction in Paris at the time was the arrival of a giraffe at the Jardin du Roi. Delauney organized a Fête Extraordinaire, again charging a fee, where there was a balloon assent (in which Little Chief went up) and Indian dances by the Osage. More prints were made, and vendors sold Indian dolls, work bags with pictures of the Osage embroidered on them, bronze Osage paperweights, and even Indian figures made of spiced bread. The high point of their trip—at least from the French viewpoint—was an audience with King Charles X at St. Cloud on August 21st.

Eventually, though, interest faded and soon the unhappy Osage were wandering around Europe as Delaunay tried to revive the inflow of receipts and perhaps also to avoid creditor. In the winter of 1828-29, Delaunay was jailed for debt; at that time either in jail or just on the lam, Delaunay disappeared from their lives. In January 1829, a newspaper in January reported that “The Osage abandoned at at Fribourg, Breslau, by their conductor have been brought here [Munich] by a friend of humanity; they find themselves in the greatest destitution, suffering from hunger...”

To add to their travails, Mohongo had given birth to one or two daughters about six months after arriving in France. If she had twins, it seems that she gave up one of the children for adoption to a wealthy Belgian woman, for by the winter of 1829, she had only one daughter with her.

In financial straits and left in a strange land, the Osage eventually made it back to France, where they did find help in their desire to return to their American home. They had split into two groups, one of which connected with Bishop William DuBourg, who had got to know the Osage when he resided in St. Louis from 1818 to 1823. The bishop was able to get this group back to the United States via Bordeaux.

The other group received help by money being raised for their passage by a subscription supported by none-other than the Marquis de Lafayette, who supposedly gave them medals with his likeness on them. This group sailed back from Havre to Norfolk in late 1829. It was then that Thomas McKenney heard of the return of the Osage and brought them to Washington before sending them back to St. Louis; it was during this visit that Mohongo’s portrait was painted by Charles Bird King.

Not all the Osage made it back to America, for either two or three died of small pox on the trip back. The survivors did return to their tribal lands, where the History of the Indian Tribes of North America reports that “although they suffered much from the treachery of one of our race…they were indebted to the white man for many acts of kindness and sympathy during their novel and adventurous journey.” (Vol. I, p. 22)

In 1833, Mohongo and Little Chief were seen in 1833 on the Neosho River, and also that year Little Chief was at the treaty conference at Fort Gibson. Big Soldier lived until 1844 and he would proudly show off his Lafayette medal. French tourist Victor Tixier met him in 1840, saying that he was a minor chief of great pomposity, but Big Soldier was befriended by John Mix Stanley, who painted his picture in 1843, the year before he died.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dr. Syntax

One of my favorite series of British prints are the delightful images drawn by Thomas Rowlandson of the (mis-) adventures of Dr. Syntax. These colorful prints are a delight to the eye and also have a wonderful humor, showing this elderly schoolmaster in various situations that reflect the daily life of early nineteenth century England. So who was this Dr. Syntax and why were these prints made?

Dr. Syntax was a totally fictional character. From 1812 through 1821, a series of volumes were published about the “tours” of Dr. Syntax. The prints were issued along with poems by James Combe, with the always humorous misadventures of the parson Dr. Syntax portrayed both in verse and picture. The story of Dr. Syntax first appeared in Ackermann’s Poetical Magazine from 1809 to 1811, and its popularity resulted in the publication in 1812 of Tour of Dr. Syntax in search of the Pictureque.

These adventures and illustrations were issued in response to the thousands of early nineteenth-century tourists that swarmed the English countryside in search of the picturesque. Obsessed with finding “natural” beauty, these vacationers often found themselves in very artificial situations. This invited the the tease of Rowlandson’s and Combe’s wit, as they satirized the Reverend William Gilpin’s flowery accounts of his picturesque tours, works very familiar to Britain’s middle and upper classes. In place of Gilpin, the satirists insert stumbling clergyman Dr. Syntax into highly detailed landscapes and interiors. Like all good caricature, they comically twist current events and trends to produce visual jokes that transcend period and place.

This work got its start through a series of drawings done by Rowlandson showing an elderly clergyman and schoolmaster who traveled during his holidays looking for the picturesque. Rowlandson had offered these to printseller and publisher to Rudolph Ackermann who was just about to begin his Poetical Magazine. Realized that the images would do better with text, Ackermann approached William Combe to provide “poems” to accompany the images.

Such was the success of the first volume that two more “tours” appeared, with Dr. Syntax in search of consolation and then of a wife. The process of the production of the tours is interesting, for Combe’s doggerel was always based on Rowlandson’s images. Once a month a new drawing would be furnished to Combe, who would write up an account to match the image. This went on for years and interestingly, Combe wrote that “the artist and the writer [had] no personal communication with, or knowledge of each other”!

The story and pictures of Dr. Syntax were a huge success, leading to the popularity of “Syntax hats,” “Syntax wigs,” and “Syntax coats.” The Staffordshire china firm of Clews got into the act with a series of plates and other china showing the good doctor.

There were also some Staffordshire figures done showing scenes from the series.

Not only are these prints a delight, but they are still generally available and affordable to collectors today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Under the Guillotine: Exhibit of caricatures by James Gillray.

A terrific exhibit featuring caricatures by James Gillray will be appearing at the Center for Visual Art at Metro State University of Denver. Curated by Cecily Cullen, the exhibit is drawn from the amazing collection of British caricature prints owned by Professor Arthur N. Gilbert.

James Gillray one of the greatest of political caricaturists and this exhibit is part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of his death. Gillray (1756-1815) made a name for himself through his witty compositions, capable draftsmanship, and exquisite detail. Through his copious political satires, he set a new standard for the genre, becoming a measure by which his successors were judged. He satirized both British society and royalty and foreign figures. Napoleon particularly attracted his etching needle, and Napoleon one states the Gillray did more to cause his defeat than all the armies of Europe.

Gillray’s caricatures were published as etching, each of which was hand colored, mostly by women whose names are unknown today. They are all delightful simply in their appearance, but well reward careful study. They were sometimes relatively benign, but could also be very pointed and even savage. This exhibit is dedicated to the editor and staff of Charlie Hebdo and it is interesting to contrast today’s society with that of England at the time, where this sort of very intense caricature was so well tolerated.

The exhibit runs from December 18th until March 19th, and other events are planned. More information can be found on the Metro State website.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mourning Prints for George Washington

On December 14, 1799, George Washington passed away at Mount Vernon and the nation went into deep mourning. Washington was a figure revered by most Americans so his death took on an almost religious aspect and citizens from all walks of life wanted to memorialize the “Father of his country.” Thus right from the start of the nineteenth century, there was a large outpouring of objects of art honoring his life and commemorating his death. These included drawings, paintings, needlework and embroidery, and—-of course-—prints.

Interestingly, one of the first memorial prints of Washington was issued in London on April 10, 1800. Entitled “George Washington Late President of the United States,” it was engraved by P. Roberts and dedicated “to the friends of the Above Gentleman.” A bust portrait, based on a painting by American artist William Birch, is set into a scene with weapons of war and flags, giving Washington a setting of military glory.

Perhaps the earliest American morning print, “Sacred to the Memory of the truly Illustrious George Washington,” was designed by John Coles, Jr., engraved by Enoch G. Gridley, and published in Boston in July 1800. A large marble monument glorifies this “Great and Good Man.” A portrait of Washington, based on Edward Savages 1792 engraving, is held by Minerva, representing Washington’s military past. Fame hovers above the portrait blowing a trumpet from which hangs a banner listing Washington’s Revolutionary War triumphs. A weeping Columbia morns the loss of her son, as does a soldier standing in front of the monument.

Shortly after that print appear, in December 1800, this a stipple engraving by David Edwin, based on a drawing by Rembrandt Peale, was issued. Entitled “Apotheosis of Washington,” the President is shown rising to heaven from Mount Vernon (shown in the bottom right of the image) with a cherubim holding above his head a wreath of Immortality. Two figures look on, welcoming Washington, representing two slain Revolutionary War generals, Richard Montgomery and Joseph Warren.

The notion of the apotheosis of Washington led to the publication, in 1802, of another print on this theme, based on another important American artist of the period, John James Barralet. The initial advertisement for the print described it thusly, “The subject—General Washington raised from the tomb, by the spiritual and temporal Genius [that is ‘Father Time’]—assisted by Immortality. At his feet America weeping over his Armour, holding the staff surmounted by the cap of Liberty, emblematical of his mild administration, on the opposite side, an Indian crouched in surly sorrow. In the third ground the mental virtues, Faith, Hope, and Charity.” Other symbols in the picture include several representations of the Washington’s country; the American Eagle and Crest, as well as rattlesnakes, which referred to America’s revolutionary spirit. This print was so popular that it went through at least four states and was copied into other forms, including transfer china.

A number of prints focused on the fact that the people of the United States continued to mourn for Washington. This print by Boston printmaker Thomas Clarke, issued in 1801, shows a man and woman weeping into handkerchiefs while being consoled by a figure of Hope, who points to heaven and has the symbol of an anchor (“ an anchor of the soul.”). A monument to Washington, with his face engraved below a cherubim is set below a weeping willow.

The publication of Washington mourning images slowed down for a number of years, but the renewed patriotism motivated by the War of 1812 inspired a new group of such prints. One of these was a calligraphic image, a popular type of print at the time. This was drawn and published by Benjamin O. Tyler, “Professor of Penmanship,” in 1817, engraved by Peter Maverick. The print is entitled “Eulogium Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious George Washington, Columbia’s Great and Successful Son: Honored Be His Name,” and in it Tyler uses clever symbols and other images.

This sort of print remained popular, as demonstrated by a second calligraphic memorial print, “Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious Champion of Liberty, General George Washington; First President of the United States of America, issued about two decades later by John I. Donlevy. The face of the portrait is done with straight engraving, but the rest of the bust is made up of effusive swirls, and the writing gives the title and dates in Washington’s life.

Another print from the 1830s was a third apotheosis print, a lithograph issued in London based on a painting by Samuel Moore. The image is explicated by text at the bottom, but the image is readily understood even today. At the top, Washington is being born to heaven by the seven virtues, "the inmates of his Soul in his terrestial Pilgrimmage." Beneath, just below the American crest with its eagle, stands Columbia, "who looks up to him [Washington] as the rock of her consolation." In the foreground are shown the sixteen "Orphan States, dissolving in sorrow at his Tomb, and lamenting the departure of their adored Friend, Benefactor, and Protector." This refers to the sixteen state which were part of the U.S. at the time of Washington’s death.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The origins of the Nebraska Territory

With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the United States essentially doubled its territory with the addition of the lands drained by the Mississippi to the west of that river. This area was mostly unknown, so the federal government tried to learn more about this new American territory by sending out a number of exploring parties, including those of Lewis & Clark in 1804-1806 and Stephen H. Long in 1820, and these expeditions did provide some understanding of the geography of the Louisiana Purchase.

One of the main reasons for acquiring the area was so the United States would eventually be able to open up an outlet for the nation on the Pacific Ocean, but also to provide new lands for emigrants from the east. Americans soon moved into the areas just to the west of the Mississippi, for instance into what would become Missouri and Iowa. By the 1820s, there was considerable settlement in the Louisiana Purchase lands near to the Mississippi River from New Orleans up to St. Louis, but beyond that there little American presence.

There was little incentive at the time for Americans to move into the western parts of the original Louisiana Territory. Reports from the western expeditions had not been glowing in their descriptions of region-—Stephen Long described the High Plains as a “desert”-—and it was already extensively occupied by Native American tribes. And on to top of this, it was far removed from the center of economic and political life in the U.S., bordered beyond by seemingly impenetrable mountains and then Spanish territory.

This made it the ideal place to help solve one of the vexing issues Americans were facing at the time, viz. what to do with the Native Americans in the East. Unlike the western tribes, those in the East occupied lands which were coveted by the Euro-Americans and in the 1820s, the federal government began a policy of moving the Eastern Indians to lands west of the Mississippi, culminating in the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This seemed a perfect solution-—to the Euro-Americans-—for they would gain lands they desired and gave up lands that were deemed essentially useless for civilized folk. An additional benefit was that this would set up a buffer between the United States and the Spanish, protecting the countries back door.

So, in 1834, an Indian Intercourse Act set aside for Native Americans "…all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri and Louisiana, or the territory of Arkansas…" This Indian Territory was steadily reduced over the years, but by 1845 in what had been the Louisiana Purchase, other than a single row of states and territories strung along the Mississippi River, the rest was unorganized Indian lands.

The out-of-the-way, practically useless character of this region, which made it such a perfect place to stick the Native Americans, was soon to radically change. With the increased emigration of Americans to the Oregon Country and California beginning in the 1830s, there was concern in Washington of the need for the development of the lands through which the emigrants would have to pass on their way from the Mississippi River to the Rockies. The need for a military presence for protection, a formal government structure for laws, laws for economic development, and new settlements to help feed and house the emigrants, all made it evident that there had to be some sort of governmental presence crossing the Indian Territory.

Then with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War, the urgency of this was made even greater. By the Mexican Cession, the United States gained another huge swath of territory, now extending the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The Indian Territory was now no longer at the inaccessible, back-end of the country, but was smack-dab in the middle, between “the States” and newly gained California. The Indian Territory now separated the population, money and power of the East Coast from the golden lands on the Pacific. What had been a buffer was now a barrier. Travel by sea, either around the tip of South America or by way of a land crossing at Panama, was possible, but it was quite clear that a land route across the Indian Territory-—preferably by railroad-—was something that was an economic, social and political necessity.

The need for some sort of U.S. government control over a land bridge between the territories and states along the Mississippi River and California and Oregon was clear. Between 1844 and 1854 there were 8 proposals for a new territory spanning the Indian Country. The name for this proposed territory was to be "Nebraska," a name first used by Frémont to refer to the Platte River, which was for much of its length the main route for the emigrants heading west. "Nebrathka," was an Otoe word for ‘flat water' and was used by them as the name for the Platte.

The first official proposal was by Secretary of War William Wilkins in his annual report of Nov. 30, 1844. This was taken up by Stephen Douglas with House bills in December 1844. The idea was to create a territory along the Platte River Valley with a string of military posts from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. These bills failed. Another bill was put forth in 1848, and others in 1850 & 1852 & 1853, but all failed.

A number of maps in this period show these tentative Nebraska Territories. The reason none of these acts were passed was because of sectional tensions over slavery. Southerners continued to stonewall the creation of a Nebraska Territory in this region, for any such territory would, by the Missouri Compromise, have to be a free territory.

It wasn’t until Stephen Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that a Nebraska Territory was finally created spanning the Great Plains and allowing for the building of a trans-continental railroad. The final territory was quite different than those previously proposed, for not only was it joined by another new territory to the south, Kansas, but it encompassed about half of what had been Indian Territory. By this act, the territory set aside for specifically for the Indians shrunk to just what is today’s Oklahoma (actually, the panhandle of today’s Oklahoma was not then included in the Indian Territory).