A rare, detailed and attractive 1854 wall map of Iowa City produced as a promotional piece on behalf of local real estate investors.
The territorial legislature of Iowa established Iowa City in 1839. The city was surveyed and platted later that year, and in 1841 the territorial capital shifted there from Burlington. Following Iowa’s accession to the Union it served as the state capital until 1876. Carefully laid out on bluffs above the east bank of the Iowa River, it seems to have been well suited as a transport hub and mercantile center as well as a most pleasant place to settle down.
This wonderful map depicts both the original Iowa City and several “additions” to the south and across the river. It provides tremendous detail, including the street plan and numerous public squares, lot lines, major landmarks such as the State House, and the names of prominent land owners. The lines of the Mississippi and Missouri and the Iowa Central Rail Roads are shown, as well as a proposed line linking Dubuque and Keokuk. The decorative impact is greatly enhanced by a dozen pictorial vignettes of area residences, churches, schools and the state capitol. A long note at the base of the map describes Iowa City’s setting and touts the city’s many geographical, economic and cultural advantages.
The map was produced as a promotional piece for the firm of Cook, Sargent & Downey, Iowa City’s first bank and real estate agency, and in fact “Cook, Sergeant [sic] & Downey’s Addition” is shown on the southern edge of the city. The firm was a joint venture between Cook and Sargent, already established in Davenport and elsewhere, and local businessman H.D. Downey, whose residence is shown on the north side. Their promotional efforts seem to have been successful, as the population soared from 1250 in 1850 to ca. 3500 in 1854 and over 5200 in 1860.
This is only the second published map of Iowa City recorded by Karrow, being preceded by Leander Judson’s Map of Iowa City situated in township 79. M. R. 6W of the 5th P. M. (1839).
Graff #2793. Karrow, Maps of the Middle West, vol. 8 #1234. OCLC #228697679 and 5799274, giving examples at the Huntington Library, Iowa City Public Library, Library of Congress, Newberry Library, University of Illinois, and University of Iowa (July 2021). Another located in a private collection. Not in Antique Map Price Record, Phillips, or Rumsey.