A rare and striking chart of the historical development of the United States, celebrating the Union at the outset of the Civil War.
The chart’s focal point is a mammoth tree of indeterminate species, probably printed from a wood- or metalcut in a dark, rich green. Metaphorically, the tree does double duty. On the one hand it represents the integrity of the Union at a time when it was facing the threat posed by Southern secession: The trunk is formed by the country’s leaders, beginning with “Peter” [actually Peyton] Randolph of Virginia, President of the first Continental Congress; each limb represents one or more states or territories; while the leaves name notable figures associated with them.
“… each State or Territory occupies its proper place, branching off from the Tree of Liberty, thus adding strength to the general government…. How far this Union will eventually be weakened by a continuation of existing difficulties between the Northern and Southern States, remains to be experienced…”
At the same time the tree represents the flow of American history over time, with the earliest Presidents and the original 13 states at the bottom, with succeeding Presidents and new states and territories added ever-higher up, culminating in the inauguration of Lincoln and creation of the Colorado and Dakota Territories in 1861.
The striking arboreal centerpiece, color printing, ornamental border and substantial size combine to make the Historical Chart a most impressive production. It is also very rare. OCLC lists but four institutional holdings, while Rare Book Hub lists none having appeared on the antiquarian market.
Bazin & Ellsworth
The image was designed by Oliver Ellsworth (1820-1878) and published by the partnership of Ellsworth and Thomas H. Bazin (ca 1823-1880). The partnership is a puzzle: OCLC lists the men as publishers of dozens of works, the earliest firm date being 1821 and the latest 1886, with the heaviest activity in the 1830s-50s. Most of the works are educational, historical or literary, and, while some are clearly illustrated, the Historical Chart appears to be the only large, ambitious graphic item. It would appear that Ellsworth, perhaps himself an amateur artist, was so moved by the Union’s predicament that he undertook this project as a patriotic statement in support of the Union cause.
And yet biographical information indicates that both Ellsworth and Bazin, who was member of a family of booksellers, printers, and publishers, were born in the early 1820s, and the partnership does not appear in Boston directories until 1859, operating at 1 Cornhill, Boston (In 1857 Ellsworth is listed as an employee.)
Provenance and references
This copy of the Historical Chart bears the ownership inscription of Allen Tenny of Concord, New Hampshire and a printed bookplate reflecting its donation by his widow to the Tenney Memorial Library of Newbury, Vermont. The purchaser will be provided with a letter from the Library Director confirming that the chart has been properly deaccesssioned.
OCLC 31163821 (Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Minnesota Historical Society, Newberry Library, Yale).