Amazing wall chart illustrating the evolution of American political parties

Rand, McNally & Co., HOUGHTON’S NEW REVERSIBLE Political Map AND UNITED STATES MAP COMBINED. Chicago: F.T. Neely, 1890.
Lithograph printed in colors, 46”h x 65 ½”w at neat line. Segmented and mounted on linen, with marbled paper self covers. Two brass rings mounted at top for hanging. Gently toned, minor soiling corners of a few segments lifting a bit, and some reinforcements to linen on verso, but very good.

Best described as a “geopolitical compendium,” this rare and impressive poster features a profusion of large and small maps and charts. However the absolute star of the show is a “Diagram of the History of Political Parties in the United States” occupying the top half of the image. This chronological diagram charts the evolution and interrelationships of American political parties, which are depicted them as rivers and streams flowing in to and out of one another (a visual technique pioneered, I believe, by Friedrich Strass’s 1803 Der Strom der Zeiten). For example the Federalist “stream” is shown merging with the Democratic-Republicans around 1820, though by the Election of 1828 the Republicans are shown diverging into Democratic and National Republican streams. The message is unmistakable: Though we have come to think of the two-party system as fixed (in every sense of the word!), in the 19th-century it was fluid in the extreme, even as many of the tensions shaping American political life retained their force.

The diagram’s informational value is enhanced by captions highlighting the core principles, positions, and legislative accomplishments of America’s political parties. It is flanked above by portraits of each President and a list of their cabinets and congressional leaders, and below by the results of every Presidential election through that of Republican Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

The lower half of the poster includes several hemispheric maps on a variety of projections and small maps of Southern Africa, Nubia and Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Persia & Afghanistan, Central America and Alaska. Several smaller charts compare the sizes of the world’s major armies, the populations of major religious faiths, tonnage of major navies, and even the the sizes of the world’s largest mountains and rivers. The verso features a map of the United States, though this is largely obscured by the backing linen applied at a very early date, perhaps at the time of issue.

The map is extremely rare: it is not listed in the usual references, I find but one possible institutional holding (State Library of Massachusetts), and neither the Antique Map Price Record nor Rare Book Hub list any examples as having appeared on the antiquarian market. A new edition was published in 1893, substantially reformatted, updated to the Election of 1892, and renamed Neely’s New Reversible Historical Chart. That version is only somewhat less rare, with OCLC listing a single institutional holding at the Leventhal Map Center, acquired from this firm in 2013.

Not in OCLC, Phillips or Rumsey.