Tanner’s map of Mexico

Henry Schenk Tanner, A Map of the United States of Mexico, As organized and defined by the several Acts of the Congress of that Republic, Constructed from a great variety of Printed and Manuscript Documents by H.S. Tanner... 1846. Philadelphia, 1846.
Lithograph, 22 ½"h x 29"w plus margins, full color. Original pocket folder present but no longer attached.

Fine example of the groundbreaking 1846 “Third Edition” of Tanner’s map of Mexico, one of the most important American maps of the 19th-century and the most influential general map of the Mexican-American War period.

This fascinating map embraces all of what was until 1848 the Republic of Mexico, which included the modern-day nation as well as the future U.S. states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Utah, and parts of Oklahoma and Colorado.

Tanner published the first edition of the map in 1825 and in all issued 11 variants over the next quarter century, with the last appearing in 1850. The evolution of the map thus captures the evolution of the Southwest over a tumultuous quarter century.

The early issues of the map were important records of European-American knowledge of the region. For example the 1826 issue was the source for the White, Gallaher and White map of 1828, which in turn became the source for Disturnell’s 1846 Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Mejico, which provided the basis for the erroneous boundary in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. However, the early versions of the map were in large part based on the work of non-American sources, such as Alexander von Humboldt, and showed the region long before the United States had significant involvement in its affairs. Over time, as knowledge of the Southwest evolved, American sources began to shape successive editions of the map.

Early in 1846 the enterprising Tanner hastily issued what he called a “Second Edition” to capitalize on the start of the Mexican-American War (1846-48). This edition was however deficient, as it did not incorporate the results of recent explorations such as those of Fremont.

“So far as areas now in the United States are concerned, this is a throwback map…. Tanner must have been trying to live on his reputation-or else he was in a great hurry-when he published this map. It was in no sense a creditable production by the great mapmaker….

Apparently others felt the same way-or perhaps Tanner’s conscience pricked him-because before 1846 had closed, he published a “third edition” of this map…”” (Wheat, Transmississippi West, vol. 3 p. 37)

This third edition is the first to incorporate many groundbreaking American sources at a time the region was at the epicenter of American affairs. It was by far the most important and influential general map depicting the theater of war with Mexico, which arguably transformed the country from an Atlantic power to a World power, extending from sea to sea across North America. As such, the map would have been of great interest to the American public, which generally knew very little about Mexico or the Southwest.

Texas had of course declared independence in 1836 and been annexed by the United States in 1845, an event that triggered the open conflict with Mexico. Perhaps befitting the times, its status on the map is somewhat ambiguous, as the coloring suggests it remains part of Mexico, though it has been deleted from the table of Mexican states at the right. The geographical detail of most of Texas is quite accurate, based on Stephen F. Austin’s 1830 map (also published by Tanner), a point underscored by the inclusion of Austin’s Colony in east-central Texas. Much of West Texas owes its form to William Emory’s map of 1844, though the famous “stovepipe” shown on many maps of the period is not present. The map embraces Texan territorial claims against New Mexico and shows all of the left bank of the Rio Grande to be in Texas, including the New Mexican capital of Santa Fe. The Mexican state of Chihuahua extends north to embrace the southwestern part of modern New Mexico.

The remainder of the Southwest is shown to be a part of the Mexican region of Upper (Alta) California, which has a curious conjectural boundary with Lower (Baja) California, located well to the south of San Diego. While the mapping of the coastal northern California is quite assured, the coast of Southern California is rather crudely outlined.

This “Third Edition” is also the first to feature the discoveries of John Charles Frémont’s expeditions from 1842 to 1844, which were first published on his 1845 Map Of An Exploring Expedition To The Rocky Mountains. Important features include a “Great Salt Lake” in the region where Brigham Young would lead Mormon pioneers in 1847. Also noted are significant revisions to the Platte, Colorado and Snake Rivers and in the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The map features a large inset “Map of the Roads &c. from Vera Cruz and Alvarado to Mexico City.” This corridor details the region where the decisive action of the war would be fought. General Winfield Scott’s successful campaign to capture Mexico City lasted from April 25, 1846, to February 2, 1848.

In all, this “Third Edition” of Tanner’s Mexico map sequence is one of the great maps of the American Southwest, and is certainly the finest and most influential general map of the theatre of the Mexican-American War.

Rumsey #2822. Streeter Sale, vol. 6 #3824. Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region, #176. Wheat, Trans Mississippi West, </>vol. 3 #529.


Flattened, with some minor restorations along old folds including tiny areas of image in facsimile.