Map of North America, 1850, Mitchell and Cowperthwait
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Map of North America, 1850, Mitchell and Cowperthwait

Regular price $125.00

Map of North America, 1850, Mitchell and Cowperthwait

This hand-colored atlas map is a steel plate engraving created circa 1850 by American mapmaker Samuel Augustus Mitchell. The year of 1850 was defined in North America by the Compromise of 1850, made to prevent war as the Southern and Northern states argued over the recently acquired territories in the West. The former advocated for slavery and the latter for abolition. Part of the Compromise of 1850 managed to prevent slavery's expansion, but also increased the power of the Fugitive Slave Act. The Fugitive Slave Act made it more difficult for slaves to escape to free soil, and only served to divide the North and South further. Southerners were angry that slavery was barred by the Compromise of 1850 from spreading west, and Northerners were enraged that they would be forced to aid slaveholders. Growing tension would eventually lead to North Carolina's secession from the Union a decade later. 

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.

This original antique map is single paged, as issued, with a plate size of 12" x 14". Published by Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co.

- Onastasia Youssef

Plate size: 12" x 14"

Condition: Some foxing, but otherwise in fine antiquarian condition


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