Fine example of the Samuel Augustus Mitchell’s impressive 1847 map of Mexico and the Southwest, published to take advantage of public interest in the ongoing war between that country and the United States.
The Mexican-American War was catalyzed by the United States’ annexation of Texas in 1845 and an ongoing dispute over whether the new state’s southern boundary was properly located at the Nueces River as claimed by Mexico or the Rio Grande as claimed by the United States. It was fought from April 1846 to February 1848, ending with a total American victory enshrined in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which the United States acquired more than 500,000 square miles from the Rio Grande to the Pacific. The war prompted an effusion of print publications capitalizing on public interest, including this map by leading cartographic publisher Samuel Augustus Mitchell.
The main image depicts the Republic of Mexico, which prior to the war embraced much of what is now the western United States, including all or part of present-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. The map also depicts the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and the state of Texas in its most extended “stovepipe” configuration, the latter likely deriving from Emory’s 1844 “Map of Texas and the Countries Adjacent”. Tiny flags placed in Mexico indicate the locations of major battles at Monterey, Buena Vista, Vera Cruz and elsewhere. At upper left is in inset depicting the capture of Monterey, just south of the Rio Grande, by forces under Zachary Taylor in September 1846.
Below the main map is a large “Map of the Principal Roads from Vera Cruz and Alvarado to the City of Mexico”, along with an elevation view titled “Profile of the Road between Mexico and Vera Cruz”. These were not included when the map was first issued in 1846, but were added for this, the third edition, presumably after the landing of Winfield Scott’s army at Vera Cruz in March 1847 and its subsequent march west and capture of Mexico City in September of that year. This third edition also features many place names, roads and waterways not present on earlier versions of the “Map of Mexico”.
The “Map of the Principal Roads” and the “Profile” are credited to one “Geo. Stealey, Civil Engineer”. Probably a native of Pennsylvania, in the 1830s and early 1840s Stealey worked as a construction superintendent on the Kentucky River lock system, then served as engineer of Lock and Dam No. 1. Likely in the mid-1840s he spent 18 months in Mexico, perhaps accompanying one of the invading American armies, though I find no record of his having served in the military. Thereafter he probably returning to Louisville, where in 1847 partners Noble and Bauer published his “Map of Mexico”. A couple of years later he was lured west by the California Gold Rush, returning in 1852 “a wealthy man”. In 1853 or -54 he was appointed Louisville City Engineer, a position he held until his death in 1869. A memorial notice passed by the City Council describes him as “Dr. George Stealey”, though I have found no information about his medical training or practice.
Samuel Augustus Mitchell (1792-1868)
Mitchell was unquestionably the leading American cartographic publisher of the middle years of the 19th century. Born in Connecticut, little is known of his education, but it sufficed to qualify him to work as a teacher for some years. Becoming dissatisfied with the state of geography textbooks, he set about producing his own materials, moving for that purpose to Philadelphia, then the country’s leading publishing center. His first publication was A New American Atlas (1831), which was in fact hardly new, being an update of Anthony Finlay’s 1826 atlas of the same title. The Atlas was produced in partnership with J. H. Young, with whom Mitchell remained associated for many years. The two men had a division of labor, with Young the compiler, draftsman and engraver, while Mitchell acted as editor and business manager.
Over the next three decades the firm of Mitchell published innumerable sheet maps, wall maps, pocket maps, atlases and travel guides. According to Ristow, at its height it had more than 250 employees and sold more than 400,000 publications a year. Its longevity and success were abetted by Mitchell and Young’s readiness to shift from copper-plate engraving to the newer and more cost-effective technologies of steel engraving and then lithography, and by the country’s ravenous appetite for maps during a period of staggering demographic, geographic and commercial expansion. Mitchell retired in or around 1860, passing the business on to Samuel Augustus Mitchell, Jr. The son’s major publication was Mitchell’s New General Atlas, which replaced his father’s New Universal Atlas and which he continued to publish until 1879.
In all, an impressive and uncommon map documenting the United States’ successful prosecution of its war with Mexico.
Rumsey #4594. Streeter Sale, vol. 6 #3869. Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region, #35. Wheat, Trans-Mississippi West, vol. 3 #548.