Smith and Colton’s spectacular map of Long Island

Calvin Smith, MAP OF LONG ISLAND with the ENVIRONS OF NEW-YORK AND THE SOUTHERN PART OF CONNECTICUT, COMPILED FROM Various Surveys & Documents. New York: J.H. Colton & Co., 1856.
Engraving, 34”h x 57 ¼”w, original vibrant wash and outline color. Segmented, mounted on linen and tipped into folder of embossed cloth over boards. Minor foxing, tiny paper loss along one fold, some wear to linen backing. Better than very good.

The largest, most significant, and most attractive map of Long Island, New York to be issued in the 19th century. 

Embracing the entirety of Long Island, the map also takes in the Long Island Sound, New York City and adjacent New York counties, southern Connecticut and northeastern New Jersey. Topography is indicated by hachuring, residences are indicated by tiny symbols, and the region’s fast-growing network of roads and railroads is delineated with some care, notably the route of the Long Island Railroad from New York City to Greenport (completed 1844), as well as ferry lines across the Sound. Inset street plans of Brooklyn, Newark, New Haven, and New Brighton (on Staten Island), and a perspective view of New Brighton, all lend documentary value, while the vibrant pastel color scheme and foliate border add much to the map’s visual appeal.

Compiler J. Calvin Smith is vague about the map’s sources and offers only that it was “compiled from various surveys and documents.” This is pure speculation, but one possible source was unpublished maps by the United States Coast Survey, which had long been active in the New York City/Long Island area. In any event, when first published in 1836 the accuracy and detail of the map surpassed all previous treatments of the area, such as those by William Damerum (1815) and David Burr (1829), and it provided the template for William Mather’s geological map (1842) and even Beers’ 1873 Map of Long Island.

This Map of Long Island, along with the Topographical Map of the City and County of New-York, was the first published under the imprint of Joseph Hutchins Colton, who went on to become one of the most accomplished and prolific American cartographic publishers of the 19th century. The Long Island map must have been a great success, as it was followed by editions of 1837, 1844, 1847, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855, 1856, and likely others. Offered here is an example of the 1856 edition, indeed the only example of which I am aware. I cannot comment on detail how the map evolved year-by-year, but a comparison of this final edition of 1856 with the first of 1836 reveals numerous important differences, such as the vast extension of the street grids of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the extension of the Long Island Railroad to Greenport, and the emergence of Islip.

John Calvin Smith (1809-1890)
Smith emerges as an engraver in New York in 1835, and was in partnership with Samuel Stiles and George Edwin Sherman, as “S. Stiles, Sherman & Smith”, from1837-1840. After Stiles’ departure the firm continued as “Sherman & Smith” into the 1850s, with Smith frequently performing work for the Joseph Hutchins Colton, both as an engraver and later mapmaker. The firms, and the individuals involved, were the leading New York map engravers of their day, but Smith also had a prestigious career as a mapmaker, recorded thus into his seventies. His son George Rae Smith was also a noted map engraver.

As a mapmaker, Smith he is best known for his wall maps. This map of Long Island appears to be his first production, dated 1836 but apparently issued in 1837. It was engraved and printed by Samuel Stiles for Colton. Smith drew a series of plans of New York, such as his New map of the City of New York with Brooklyn & part of Williamsburg (1840) and a sequence of important multi-sheet maps of the United States, including Map of the United States of America including Canada (1845) and Map of the United States of America, the British provinces, Mexico and the West Indies (1847). His output, particularly in his work with Colton, was wide ranging, reflecting Colton’s broad-based product line.

In all, a spectacular and important map of Long Island, associated with two of the great figures in American commercial cartography in the second quarter of the 19th century.

Phillips, Maps of America, p. 532 (1837 edition).