An extraordinarily rare temperance broadside with auto-biographical overtones, designed and published by a former–possibly drunken–sailor.
Employing a metaphor derived from the life of a seafarer, Murrell’s map presents the hazards of drink vis-à-vis the saving graces of abstinence, as encountered by all those who voyage on the Ocean of Life, shown here lying between two continents representing the opposing principles of inebriety (to the West) and sobriety (to the East). The Alcohol Islands appear at the top center and consist of eight landforms named for different beverages, including Whiskey Island, Wine Island, Cider Island, etc. The Islands are flanked by the Inebriety Sea and Dissipation Straits to the westward, and eastward by the Abstinence Sea and Temperance Straits. The countries on western continent include Sickness Province, Dishonesty Kingdom, Lunacy Province, Misery Regions, and so on, with lesser place names within each country reflect its character. On the abstinent eastern continent are such realms as Repentance Kingdom, Friendship Regions, and Religious Possessions, among others. Washingtonian Straits, dividing Missionary Island and the lands of temperance, is a designation intended to evoke the rectitude of the Nation’s first president.
Meacham’s “Explanation,” which appears in three columns of verse below the map, begins:
Life is an Ocean, both extant and wide;
Man’s the ship, that doth o’er its surface glide;
Happiness the port we ever strive to find;
Temperance must be the Pilot to navigate the mind;
Reason then takes the helm, free from doubt,
To steer the course–as by Heaven pointed out.
In somewhat vague, figurative language the narrator alludes to the travails he endured on “alcoholic seas,” then describes the course by which the voyager may reach the “Port of Happiness.”
This broadside is to our knowledge unique. A similar item is held by Brown, but the “Explanation” employs different type and border design and bears the imprint of Howe’s Sheet Anchor Press in Boston instead of the Pawtucket imprint on our copy. It is not known why Murrell felt the need to have editions printed in both Boston and Pawtucket.
William Meacham Murrell
Murrell, described as “the reformed Cruiser” just below the title of the broadside, was the author of the Cruise of the Frigate Columbia Around the World, Under the Command of Commodore G.C. Read, in 1838, 1839 and 1840, his personal journal of the voyage. The USS Columbia was dispatched along with the frigate John Adams to participate in the suppression of piracy affecting American shipping in India. In the course of her cruise she visited Rio, Madagascar, Muscat, Ceylon, Sumatra, Singapore, Macao and Hawaii, among other locales. It is unclear whether Murrell had much experience as a sailor outside of his service on the Columbia, but at least one passage in his book indicates that he was repelled by intemperance. This suggests that he either reformed himself during the voyage or adopted the persona of the “reformed Cruiser” to lend greater authenticity to his narrative.
Whether the work of a former drunken sailor or not, Murrell’s map belongs to a long tradition of allegorical maps with roots at least as far back as the fifteenth century. However, it seems likely that it was most immediately influenced by Reverend C. Wiltberger Jr.’s Temperance Map, first published in Philadelphia in 1838, but re-engraved and published in Lahainaluna, Hawaii in 1843, under the direction of missionary Lorrin Andrews. Wiltberger’s map anticipates Murrell’s in concept, with regions of temperance and intemperance divided by a body of water. Indeed, the similarity between the two maps, Murrell’s visit to Hawaii aboard the Columbia, and his inclusion of a Missionary Island on his map (like Hawaii, located mid-ocean between two huge continents), strongly suggest that Murrell saw a copy of Wiltberger’s map while visiting the island. Murrell could, of course, have become familiar with the Wiltberger map subsequent to his voyage. In any case, there seems little doubt that it served as the inspiration for his own map.
An extremely rare and captivating temperance map.
Not in OCLC, which does however record a variant edition held by Brown (Brown also holds an unsigned copy in manuscript.) Not in Antique Map Price Record or R.V. Tooley, Map Collector’s Circle No. 1: Geographical Oddities.
Slightly toned, with tears at center and right edge neatly mended