Auction 127, Lot 177

"Map of the United States of America", Melish, John

Subject: Eastern United States

Period: 1816 (published)

Publication: Travellers Directory

Color: Hand Color

17.8 x 13.5 inches
45.2 x 34.3 cm

This important map by the noted American cartographer John Melish is the uncommon and early issue from the Travellers Directory of 1816. Engraved by H.S. Tanner, it should not be confused with Melish's more common and nearly identical "United States of America Compiled from the latest & best Authorities" that was published in several editions between 1818 and 1822. Pencil note on verso indicates that the map is from Melish's Travellers Directory…1816. That appears accurate as there is at least one date engraved in the map of "Ceded by the Sac & Fox Indians 3. Novr. 1814, and Ristow writes that the 1816 edition of the Travellers Directory did have a map by Tanner. This very early edition has the script title in a simple border of interlocking chains. Later editions of the Travellers Directory replaced this map with the later edition mentioned above, which included the flying eagle vignette with a shield above the title.

The map extends west to include all of Louisiana and part of the huge Missouri Territory. It provides a good view of the first 300 miles of the Missouri River based on information from the expeditions of Lewis & Clark, Pike, Humboldt and others. The only state shown west of the Mississippi is Louisiana. Above Louisiana, Missouri has good watershed detail south of the Missouri River, but is blank to the north and labeled "Unexplored Country." The early territories of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana are noted as well as the North West Ter. that takes in the area that would become Wisconsin and Minnesota. A notation of Yazoo Speculation in the oversized Mississippi Territory refers to the Yazoo Land Fraud perpetrated in 1789-1796 when the region was part of Georgia. Three companies bribed and intimidated a bill through the Georgia assembly that allowed them to purchase millions of acres of land for next to nothing, resulting in a huge public outcry. The bill's supporters were swiftly voted out of power, and Senator James Jackson took office. He vowed to repeal the Yazoo Act if it cost him his life, saying he would repeal it even if he had to shoot everyone involved in passing it. He didn't have to shoot anyone, and the law was rescinded in 1796. The fact it is shown on a map produced many years later attests to the importance attributed to this fraudulent scheme. Good detail throughout the states with towns and villages, Indian place names, roads and trails, forts and watershed. The genesis for this map was Melish's pocket map of 1812.

References: Ristow p. 184.

Condition: B

The map is sound with a dark impression and fine original coloring. Linen backed with some stains along the eastern seaboard and stains at left in Missouri Territory.

Estimate: $800 - $1,200

Sold for: $550

Closed on 2/25/2009