Recently-discovered 1799 second state of Osgood Carleton’s first wall map of the United States

[Osgood Carleton], A New Map OF THE UNITED STATES OF America Drawn from the latest Authorities. Boston: I. Norman, 1799.

Engraving on five sheets joined, 33 ¼”h x 46”w at neat line plus margins, uncolored. Conserved by prior owner—a public library--and laid on modern linen, losses mostly affecting border and margins but one affecting the North Carolina coast and another a few tributaries of the Upper Mississippi. Some rumpling at lower right from careless storage. Library ownership markings. Inappropriate modern replacement rollers removed but present.

An exciting discovery, being an unrecorded 1799 second state of Osgood Carleton’s 1791 wall map of the United States. With extensive re-engraving including both changes and additions to the Northeast, Southeast, and western Kentucky and Tennessee.

Engraved on five sheets, the map depicts the United States, as well as parts of British Canada, Spanish East and West Florida, and French Louisiana. Dashed lines delineate state and territorial boundaries, including the states of Kentucky (admitted 1785), Vermont (1791) and “Tennassee” (1796) as well as the “Western” (i.e., Northwest) Territory (est. 1787). Though the map is dated 1799, the Mississippi Territory, established the previous year, is not shown. Much attention is given to major river systems, and east of the Appalachians major roads are shown, while areas of elevation are sketched haphazardly in the archaic “molehill” style. The otherwise-blank space at top center is occupied by a table of statistics for the then-16 states, and at lower center is a “Table of the Post Roads & Distances”.

There is much of interest here, but I will point out just a few features of note: In several locations dashed lines delineate huge tracts purchased by private individuals or consortia; among these are the Gorham & Phelps Purchase in western New York, Ohio Company Lands north of the Ohio River, and the lands of the Wabash and New Jersey Companies between the Wabash and the Mississippi. Other dashed lines are not labeled, but I suspect that at least some represent boundaries negotiated in treaties with Native American peoples; a line in Ohio, for example, appears to correspond to the 1795 Treaty of Greenville. The treatment of the Upper Mississippi follows Jonathan Carver in displacing it to the northwest and identifying Bear Lake as its source. The treatment of the Great Lakes is archaic, in some respects all-but identical to that of Mitchell’s 1755 Map of the British and French Dominions in North America, perhaps filtered through McMurray’s 1784 The United States According to the Definitive Treaty of Peace.

As stated earlier, the map is a hitherto-unrecorded second state of a map first published by John Norman in 1791 under the title The United States of America, laid down from the best authorities, agreeable to the peace of 1783 (Wheat & Brun #119). That map is universally attributed to Osgood Carleton based on an attestation signed by him under the title and the well-established, long-standing collaboration between the two men. The first state is itself very rare, known in fewer than ten examples including one at the Library of Congress.

This second state has been massively re-engraved. The most obvious changes are the re-engraving and rewording of the title, the elimination of the attestation by Osgood Carleton, the elimination of an inset map of Canada at top center and its replacement with a statistical table of the states, the addition of the table of distances at lower center, and the elimination of rhumb lines in the Atlantic and the substitution of a compass rose. The geography itself shows many changes: Much of the Southeast east of the Appalachians is re-engraved, with numerous changes and additions; in the Northeast the disputed Maine-New Brunswick border has been shifted many miles to the west; the place name “Tennassee” has been added and much of Kentucky and Tennessee completely re-engraved; and “Western Territory” has been added to indicate the Northwest Territory.

There is a known third state, undated but perhaps 1802 and known in but two examples (Wheat & Brun #138, incorrectly positing a date of 1797). There is also a fourth state dated 1803, also known in two examples (not in Wheat & Brun). Other than alterations in date and imprint, I have not picked up on any substantive changes in these later states.

The erasure on our 1799 map of the Carleton attestation that was present in the first state taps into an interesting, unresolved question about the relationship between him and Norman. The two men had previously been engaged by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to produce the first official map of that state and the District of Maine. The project was a disaster, as the maps were rejected in 1798 by the General Court, in no small part due to the unsatisfactory quality of Norman’s engraving. The partnership ended and Carleton engaged new engravers to produce the revised version of the official maps. Soon thereafter Norman issued smaller versions of both maps (see the Maine here), entirely without attribution to Carleton. These circumstances, and the effacement of Carleton’s contribution to the present map, all suggest that the partnership between the two men ended acrimoniously, at least for a time. If so it was later renewed, as the third state bears the note “Carefully Revised and Corrected by Osgood Carleton, Esqr.”

In all, an exciting rarity produced by the most important and productive partnership in Federal-Era American mapmaking.

References and provenance
This state not in OCLC, Phillips, Rumsey, or Wheat & Brun.

Recently de-accessioned from a public library in eastern Massachusetts. Documentation available on request.