Map of the Week: Eagle Map of the United States, 1833
By: Joseph & James Churchman
In 1833, The United States didn’t have an East Coast yet, for lack of a West Coast. The gigantic Louisiana Territory, acquired some 30 years earlier from the French, gave America dominion over the Mississippi basin, but Mexican land and the Oregon territory, claimed by Great Britain, still stood between the US and its ‘Manifest Destiny‘ – to stretch “from sea to shining sea”.
That’s a line from Katharine Lee Bates’ song ‘America the Beautiful‘, composed in 1893 when the west was won, mainly by the Mexican-American War of 1846-’48. It would be many decades before all the lands between Mississippi and Pacific would enter the Union as full-fledged states, but the iconic shape of America’s lower 48 states was there.
The map represents America as an eagle, with its head coinciding with New England (except Maine), its eye with Vermont, its neckline following Lakes Ontario and Erie, the wing outlines Lakes Huron and Superior. The eagle’s breast follows the Atlantic seaboard, its talons form Florida – even though the claws protrude far from the coastline, and somewhat ominously, towards Cuba.
The real reason why this particular iconic representation of America’s national bird never caught on, is in the tail-feathers – shaped to follow a border no longer in existence by 1848. The western borders of the subsequent independent and later US state of Texas are recognizable, for now as the dividing line between the US and Mexico. The feathers follow the US inland border as it moves north, and disappears out of sight at the area disputed with Great Britain. Meanwhile, the great inland empire of Louisiana is already being divided up into US states, with Louisiana and Missouri separated from the ‘mainland’ of the formerly French lands.
It is believed that Joseph Churchman authored the text and his brother, James Churchman, authored the map. The engraving was done by Isaac W. Moore. This map was published in Philadelphia in 1833 by Carey & Hart, in a now extremely rare atlas, the Rudiments of National Knowledge, Presented To The Youth of the United States, And To Inquiring Foreigners, By A Citizen Of Pennsylvania.
An image of this map was sent in by antique maps dealer Barry Ruderman, who recently put an original copy of the map up for sale. It’s yours for just under 20,000 dollars, indicating just how rare it is. As noted by David Rumsey, “the ‘eagle’ map is most extraordinary and rare: it shows an eagle superimposed in engraving and color on the United States, with the Talons in Florida, the eye in Vermont, and the wings spreading west to the Missouri Territory. It is beautifully done.”
We have curated a collection of the highest quality maps available. Printed on archival matte paper or artist grade canvas, these maps will compliment any space; be it an office, bedroom, or library. A large portion of our collection comes from David Rumsey, who holds one of the largest private map collections in the United States. Rumsey has been collecting and curating maps of North and South America since 1980, and is donating his collection to Stanford University over the next ten years. We are currently offering over 800 pieces of his 27,000 piece collection, and are adding more every day.
View our entire cartography collection: http://www.globalgallery.com/search/subject/maps