Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mapping your Marriage in the 1850s by Vince Szilagyi

We see maps of all sorts in our line of work, but recently the shop acquired one that had even us shaking our heads in amusement. The map in question is a marvelous and charming 1850 lithograph by Philadelphia printmaker Augustus Kollner which examines and charts one of the most important and difficult areas of the human experience, marriage!

At the top of this map, an appropriately solemn wedding is being conducted in front of a crowd of earnestly praying guests. Beneath this scene lies “The Great Ocean of Love.” This ocean, according to the text on the map, “represents a period of life that all persons are supposed at some time or another to pass. By an examination of the chart voyagers will be enabled to avoid the dangers that beset them, and arrive safely at the haven of felicity."

The aforementioned dangers are graphically illustrated in the map by the numerous islands, bays, straits, gulfs, harbors, rivers and other geographic features which dot the Ocean of Love with names like “The Rocks of Jealousy”, “Mountains of Deceit” and “Divorce Isle”. The left and right sides of the map are filled with text detailing the various locations in the Ocean of Love, and how they are to be traversed safely in order to reach a happy and loving marriage. The dangers presented range from the serious, [“River of Abuse”, “Mountains of Hatred”], to flippant [“Silly Isles”] to memorable [“Hymen’s Light-House”]. Guiding the would-be lovers is a compass rose in the bottom left corner, on which the cardinal directions are Hope, Love, Despair and Hatred.

My personal favorite of the obstacles and descriptions is Port Desire. “Port Desire, From what cause we are unable to explain, is not visible on any of the Charts. Yet it affirmed to by many, that from time immemorial, it has been a place of great resort, by all classes. The tides about the coast are very rapid, so much so, as to rise and fall almost beyond the power of imagination. In running for the harbor, it is necessary to bear up betwixt the rocks of Philosophy and Prudence. After passing them, the traveler may be considered clear of danger, always taking care never to bring too at shallow water.” While Bachelor Fort, is a strong contender, Port Desire neatly encapsulates the unique combination of 1850’s American culture, artwork and humor that make this map so charming.

This print is exceedingly rare, with the only other extant example we could find being a copy at the Library of Congress. However, as seen above, this copy lacks the descriptive text along the left and right of the image. The Library of Congress states that this space was for recording marriages but we disagree. We feel that the blank columns indicate that this version of the map was sent to the Library of Congress before the print was finished as a copyright copy, designed to guarantee Kollner ownership of the image itself. With the copyright secure, Kollner finished the map and began to sell copies with descriptive text in the columns, like the one the shop now holds.

Although this particular map is rare, there are some other matrimonial maps in private collections and in the hands of particular dealers. Matrimonial maps originated in late 18th century in Europe, and became fairly popular in the 19th century in both Europe and the United States. Maps like this were used both as d├ęcor and as a tool to help preserve the virtue of young men and women and help guide them into happy, stable marriages. Using these maps people could avoid obstacles like the “Sands of Inconstancy” and the “Floating Isles of Flattery” and eventually reach the promised land of “Lake Affection” and “Baby Fort”. Some struggles really are timeless.

Matrimonial maps faded in popularity but some examples of 20th century maps do exist. A British collector and antiques dealer named Rod Barron has a wonderful collection of matrimonial maps on his website Thanks to the Library of Congress and to Ella Morton at www.altaobscura.com for putting us on to Mr. Barron’s collection.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

American State Exclaves: The Dakota Thump

One of my favorite exclaves is the Dakota Thumb, which existed for five years in the Bitterroot Mountains, where a part of the Dakota Territory lay separated from the main part of Dakota by about 365 miles!

In 1838, the northeastern part of the original Louisiana Territory, those lands lying between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, north of the state of Missouri, became a very large Iowa Territory.

Eight years later, the southeastern part of the territory was admitted as the state of Iowa, with the remainder of the region—those lands between the Mississippi and Missouri River north of Iowa, becoming the Minnesota Territory in 1849.

In 1850, the vast lands north of Texas between the Missouri River and the Continental Divide were unorganized, with no formal government. The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act created two large territories in this area, with a vast Nebraska Territory consisting of all the lands north of the 40th parallel that lay west of the Minnesota Territory and east of the continent divide.

Four years later, the eastern part of the Minnesota Territory was made into a state, with the western part being left legally unorganized, though a provisional government for a territory to be called Dakota was set up.

It wasn’t until 1861 that the Dakota Territory was officially created, but when it was created it was much larger, encompassing not only what had been the western part of the old Minnesota Territory, but also that part of Nebraska Territory north of the 43rd parallel.

At about this time, gold was discovered in the eastern part of Washington Territory (which basically surrounded the state of Oregon in the northwest) and as new emigrants moved into the area, it was decided in 1863 to create a new territory—-called Idaho-—which included not only the eastern part of Washington Territory, but extended well to the east, as far as the 104th degree longitude. This included what had been the western part of the very large Dakota Territory, leaving Dakota encompassing what is today North and South Dakota.

Within a year, miners in the eastern part of the vast Idaho Territory requested that a new territory be created for them. They were located on the eastern side of the Bitterroot Mountain Range and felt cut off from, and ignored, by the Idaho government located on the far side of the Bitterroots. Thus in 1864, the Montana Territory was created. Its eastern border was the old Idaho Territory with Dakota down to the 45th parallel. The southern border followed this line of latitude to 111 degrees west, then turning south for half a degree (44°30’), where it turned west again until it ran into the Continental Divide in the Bitterroots. From thence it ran along the crest of those mountains until it intersected the 116th degree line, which it then followed to the Canadian border.

Idaho’s border was also redrawn south of the 44°30’ line. It followed the Bitterroot range as far as the 100th degree, at which point it dropped straight south until it intersected with the Utah border. This left an almost-rectangular shaped section of land south of Montana—-which had been part of Idaho Territory-—which now was attached to Dakota Territory, giving it a strange butterfly-like shape.

The re-enlarged Dakota was not only very large, but its strange shape was impractical, so in 1868, the southwestern block was separated to become Wyoming. This territory was created as a rectangle, with the eastern border simply continuing the Montana border down to Colorado, thence running along the 41st parallel to the 111th meridian, which the border then followed up to the Montana border at the 45th parallel.

This all sounds very reasonable, but a small exclave was created because of how the borders of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana were defined.
  • Wyoming’s western border was the 111th meridian
  • Idaho’s border followed the Continental Divide until it intersected with the 111th degree line
  • Montana’s border followed the 111th meridian to 44°30’, whence it turned west until that line intersected the continental divide.
The map above shows how Wyoming would have looked if Congress had not determined to make it a rectangle. That little pointed bit at the left is the area which would have been included in Wyoming, but was not.

That little wedge of land was actually left out of all the territories because the Continental Divide runs into the 111th degree line south of 44°30’. As it had been part of the Dakota Territory previously, and the new borders didn’t change its status, this little “thumb” of land remained part of Dakota, detached and well west of the rest of that territory. Very few maps show the thmub; the detail above comes from the 1868 GLO map of the United States. The thumb remained as part of Dakota until 1873, at which time it was given to Montana.