Map of Canada West formerly Upper Canada, 1850, Mitchell and Cowperthwait
When the United States enacted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, it meant the slaveholders were legally permitted to capture escaped slaves. The Act discouraged the aid of "fugitive" escapees by threatening a penalty of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. Therefore, in 1850, fifteen to twenty thousand African Americans fled the southern states via the Underground Railroad to take refuge in the regions of Canada West. Throughout the 1850s, African American communities began to develop in cities like Toronto and Niagara Falls where liberated slaves established anti-slavery societies to intervene in attempts of former slaveowners to kidnap refugees. In 1851, a three-day convention of African American activists in Canada West was held in Toronto to discuss freedom and the abolition of slavery.
Samuel Augustus Mitchell (1792-1868) turned his attention to mapmaking in the 1830s, due to his dissatisfaction with available school maps. He developed a map publishing business that would make him and later his son the most prominent American map publishers of the nineteenth century. By collaborating with prominent mapmakers and engravers of the day, such as James H. Young and Henry S. Tanner, Mitchell ensured that the maps he published were of the highest quality. During the 1850s, he partnered with Thomas, Cowperthwait, & Company to publish his A New Universal Atlas and his General Atlas. In 1860, his son Samuel Augustus, Jr, joined the company and he ensured that the Mitchell name remained an important one well into the 1880s.
Thomas, Cowperthwait, and Company was founded sometime in the early 1800s by Joseph Thomas and Hulings Cowperthwait. It operated under this name until 1853. The following year the company name changed to Cowperthwait, Desilver, and Butler. However, this configuration only lasted for about a year, before it became H. Cowperthwait & Company in 1856. After 1860, it appears the company experienced several more alterations, before ceasing publication at the end of the century.
- Mackenzie Pleskovic
Plate size: 13" x 16"
Condition: In excellent condition