A marvelous ” National Historical Chart “

[National Historical Chart.] [Long Prairie, MN:] National Historical Chart Co., 1890 [but prob. 1891].
Lithograph printed in six colors, 16”h x 234 ¼”w plus margins, mounted on linen as issued. Housed in original two-part case of wood and molded plywood with metal fittings and two steel cranks. Chart with a minor abrasions, losses and edge wear, but remarkably sound with colors still vivid. Case scuffed with some longitudinal cracks, but mechanism apparently entirely original and fully functional.

Published in 1890, the National Historical Chart is a marvelous, informative and extremely rare mechanical timeline of United States history, intended for use in schools.

A masterpiece of economical graphic design, this chart tells the story of American history chronologically from the American Revolution to the administration of President Benjamin Harrison. It is divided into blocks by administration, with each block listing the president and his cabinet, major issues of the day, events, inventions, discoveries, people &c. The whole is extensively illustrated with portrait busts, pictorial vignettes of significant events and places, and a small map of each state shown in the year it was admitted to the Union.  Of particular interest, flowing through the center of the chart are interweaving “streams” indicating the major political parties, color coded by party. One can track the rise, fall and occasional resuscitation of parties as the streams flow in to and out of one another. The same color coding—for example, pink for the Federalists—is used in a table at the bottom indicating the majority party in each house of Congress for any given time.

The National Historical Chart was produced with dowels mounted at each end and housed in a two-part wooden case with steel cranks for winding; by turning the cranks in unison, one moves forward or backward in time. Mounts on the back enabled the chart to be hung on a wall and wound from one side to the other while students looked on. Ours is in excellent working order, a remarkable survival of a fragile mechanism that must have seen very hard use in many classrooms.

The National Historical Chart Co. was incorporated in in 1890 in Long Prairie, Minnesota with capital of $10,000. The chart bears a stamp with a copyright date of 1890, but the latest date appearing in the chart itself is the death of William Tecumseh Sherman in 1891.

Rarity and references
As of March 2020 OCLC #23555523 lists but a single example at the Lilly Library, Indiana University. Another is at the Library of Congress, and a fourth, with a facsimile case, is held by Princeton University, which purchased it from this firm and The Old Print Shop in 2016. I am aware of one other example having appeared the antiquarian market, offered some years ago by George Glazer. Whether this is one and the same as the example at either the Library of Congress or the Lilly Library, I cannot say.