Mexico the British Possessions in North America and the United States . . . 1846 [Case Map]

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James Wyld

Mexico the British Possessions in North America and the United States . . . 1846 [Case Map]

London: 1846

Framed Dimensions: 61 1/2" x 63 1/2"

Wyld's 1846 Map of the Mexico and the United States is one of the rarest and most fascinating maps of the region from the period.

Wyld's map of Mexico and the United States was specifically prepared for the London market at the outset of the Mexican-American War, capitalizing on British interests in the region, including Britain's own aspirations for possession of Texas and part of the disputed regions in Oregon Territory, which were resolved in this time period.

The map is a fascinating amalgam of information dating from Lewis & Clark to the early 1840s. The detail of the map is truly extraordinary, both in terms of content and as a snapshot of American history. The earliest information provided by the map includes a number of boundary lines and other details set in the years prior to Lewis & Clark. Lewis & Clarks' route to the Pacific and back is tracked, and the map includes several notes on the observations of the exploring party. An offshoot route from main route shows Colter's route in 1807. The map also provides a detailed treatment of the Pike Expedition, with notes, tracks and several block houses constructed by Pike. While instinct suggests that the map was probably rushed into production as a result of the California Gold Rush of 1849, the geography in the west pre-dates Fremont's explorations and includes the remnants of a number of the more fascinating mythical features of Western maps in the first half of the 19th Century.

The extraordinary stove pipe extension of Texas (nearly reaching Ft. Laramie) and configuration of New Mexico is much more reminiscent of an 1846 date. Perhaps most fascinating of all is the overlay of multiple geographical names for the same region. This is especially prevalent west of the Mississippi River, where the Cape Girardeau District, St. Louis District, Lawrence District,Sioux District, Howard District, Arkansas District and DeVallier's Grant are still noted, as are Northwest Territory and a double wide configuration of Arkansas, to name but a few. The map is richly annotated, with many of the notes derived directly from (and citing quotes by) Humbolt, Lewis & Clark, Pike, Melish, Bouchette and several Spanish Sources. The detail in all of parts of the US and Canada are truly extraordinary. In addition to the fascinating details in the west, the details in the Upper Midwest, South and Southeast are all excellent, including early boundary lines with the Indians, a proposed Canal from the Amelia Island area to the Gulf, Arredondo's Grant and a second unnamed grant east of Tampa in Florida, Tennessee Company Lands in northern Alabama, Army Lands in Ohio, Northwest Company Houses throughout Canada and the Northwest, and many other notes on early boundaries, treaties, etc. The only example of the map which we could locate is the copy in the Historical Society of British Columbia.

The map is not in Rumsey and not identified by Rumsey in his survey of Wyld maps of North America and derivatives, nor were we able to identify any other references to the map in other institutional collections.

John Wyld was one of the most prolific publishers of separately issued maps during the 19th Century. His 6 (and later 7) sheet map of North America is a testament to Wyld's publishing accumen. First published in 1823, the map was periodically updated to incorporate new discoveries. However, Wyld had the curious habit of frequently leaving older information on the map, making for a very curious mix of geographical details.

The evolution of Wyld's map of North America is truly fascinating, and reflects Wyld's commercial savy. The map was periodically updated in the 1820 and 1830s. With the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in 1846, Wyld issued a special 4-sheet edition of the map (eliminating the top 2 sheets and the bottom central America sheet), with a new title (Mexico the British Possessions in North America and the United States . . . 1846), which included a number of geographical revisions in the regions depicted and focused on the battlegrounds of the Mexican American War. Following the resolution of the Mexican-American War, Wyld re-issued his map of North America, showing the boundaries as established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and with significant updates in the polar region, Alaska and northern Canada.

In 1849, with the discovery of Gold In California, Wyld again saw commercial opportunity. Wyld again issued a section of his 7-sheet map of North America, under the title The United States Of North America With Part of the British Possessions And Mexico . . . 1849 . For this map, Wyld completely re-worked California and incorporated for the first time the information from John Fremont's seminal map of Oregon and Upper California. The following year, Wyld would again release a revised edition of his 7 sheet map of North America, retaining the changes made in the US Gold Rush map of 1849, but with additional updates in both the US and again in the northern sections of the larger North America map which had not been offered as part of the US Gold Rush map of 1849.

While we have not attempted a complete cataloguing of all of the later editions, we note that Wyld issued editions of his map of North America in 1860 and again in 1875. We suspect, although we have not made the analysis, that some of the Civil War maps issued by Wyld during the early 1860s are probably again fragments of his larger map of North America.