Map of Philadelphia, 1850, Mitchell and Cowperthwait
The first great fire of Philadelphia, also know as the Great Conflagration, occurred in the heat of the summer of 1850. At a warehouse in the city's east side, on North Water Street along the Delaware River, hay in the highest level of the structure caught fire, causing the flames to spread quickly and the warehouse to explode. At least two dozen people were killed, and over a hundred were injured. Almost twenty acres of the city were reduced to ash, and the destruction of over three-hundred residential structures left many families homeless. Luckily, Philadelphia was able to recover with thousands of dollars allocated by the city's organizations for relief.
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: Some minor foxing, but otherwise in excellent condition