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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Oh, the places you'll go...

...with a reproduction 1863 map.  And here is the story of where I went.

The first thing I do with old maps is try to make a guess of the date of the drawing.  KC gave me the first clue when he pointed out...

...Canada was labeled "British Territory".  That told me "before 1867", as did a couple other items...

 First off, Alaska was "Russian Territory"...

...and second was "Austria" (rather than "Austria Hungary").  Prussia as a nation and Germany as an area didn't hurt either.  But Italy as a nation put us after1860, so now we had a range.  The thing that threw me off was that there was no mention of the Confederacy in the United States, so I guessed 1866.

But before I went to actually digging up a date, I noted a couple of things I'd never heard of before.  Here's one of them:

"Zanguebar".  Turns out this was the Portuguese mis-translation of the word WE mis-translated as Zanzibar.  In other words, this was the domain of the Sultan of Zanzibar, before he sold out to the British.  I had to go on Wikipedia-French to learn this, as anything in English came up with Zanzibar.

Another one I found that really tripped me out:

Not the part that the Hawaiian Islands were called the Sandwich Islands back then, but that the big Island could be spelled Hawaii or "Owhyhee."

KC, not as hip to the historical things as I, also liked this:

The Chinese "Empire."  A few other things to note here:  Don't you love how they spelled "Mantchooria"?;  Corea with a C rather than a K;   the H in Thibet; India as "Hindostan"; Chinese Tartary, which comes into play in the next picture; and even though there is a "Japan Sea", the island nation itself (off frame) in labeled Nipphon- which I knew Nippon but not with an H.

And one more thing I found pretty neat.

Independent Tartary, which we used to call Soviet Central Asia.  This was before the Tsar's troops had fully subjugated the area, and area was filled with kingdoms like the Emirate of Bokhara and the Khanate of Khiva.  Just as the rivalry with the British in the area, an informal contest called The great Game, was just heating up.

Oh, and check out Africa:

Note that what we now call Ethiopia was going by the ancient name Abyssinia, while "Ethiopia" was applied to what we once called "Darkest Africa", before Stanley and Livingstone mapped out the Congo valley.  I also noted how the Boer Republics of South Africa had not come into being yet... just Cape Colony, and "Hottentots."  Also, see the coastline as "North Guinea" and "South Guinea"?

So anyhow, I finally looked it up and found the story behind the map.  Alvin Johnson was a salesman and copyrighter for map maker JH Colton.  In 1859, Colton hit the financial skids, and Johnson and a partner named Browning worked a deal to pay his debts for the rights to his maps, which were engraved into steel plates.  The partners switched the images onto easier to use stone lithographic slabs, and Johnson and Browning was born.  Sometime in 1863 Browning was bought out by one Benjamin Ward, and thus the name change to what it is on my map.  With the easier to use lithos, they could just update the old Colton maps as needed, as Johnson was no cartographer himself.

Ward was bought out in 1866, and Johnson ran it himself  until 1879, when it became Johnson and Son.  This son, for whom I did not find a name, ran the business from Alvin's death in 1884 until 1887. 

The website I found most of this info on finishes Johnson's story thusly:

Alvin J. Johnson was not the most famous of American atlas publishers of the 19th Century, in fact in most cartography texts he is merely an afterthought.  However, his atlases were extremely popular, as evidenced by their current availability relative to those of his competitors, and his success as a salesman and publisher helped establish the atlas as vital family reference book.  The fact Johnson most likely played a role in financially saving the failing Colton firm is probably as an important, if not greater, than his contribution to cartography.

Another neat thing about the Johnson Atlases- they were sold entirely door-to-door.


  1. Chris:
    Well, that explains why you didn't drop a comment on my blog yesterday...LOL!

    Nah, just messin' with ' found some intriguing history (behind the history) of the map/atlas.

    Never knew ANY of this, and I thought you "splained" it in a way that brings to light just HOW valuable such maps were, and not to those studying geography in school.

    How things have CHANGED since that map was first
    (Wonder if that atlas was ever "translated" onto a version of a GLOBE? Be cool to find out.)

    Good history lesson.

    Stay safe (and informed) up there, brother.

  2. VERY cool!! Sadly, I wouldn't even have noticed most of this.

    Sandwich Islands? Yum.

  3. Well, I hate to sound ignorant but, I don't know most of this stuff now, let alone what it was back in 1863. Now, my hubby would love something like this. He's into history. Me, not so much.

  4. Its SO interesting how much our maps have changed over the years. We saw a show recently about France, Italy, etc and how much it changed. Very cool!