Late 1850s Giant Antebellum Wall Map by S. Augustus Mitchell

Value (2006) | $2,800 Retail$3,000

GUEST:
We were cleaning my grandmother's house, and it was standing in the corner behind a door. And we have the intentions of hanging it in our old house that we're restoring.

APPRAISER:
Well, it's a map from the late 1850s.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
The only date on it is an 1850 census, but this map was issued a number of years later. And it was issued in Philadelphia, where we are today, by S. Augustus Mitchell. And you can see over here, it's called Mitchell's New National Map, and, down here, published by S. Augustus Mitchell in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the center of mapmaking at this time. And Mitchell was one of the major players, and one of the most important types of map he did were wall maps. Now, what gets me excited about maps... I like maps. I mean, some people do, some people don't. I love maps. But what really gets me excited is that maps show the history of their time unlike almost anything else. And a wall map like this of the United States prior to the Civil War is a fabulous snapshot of the country. That was the time when the West was just opening up. All sorts of things were happening, and they're all depicted on this. So the detail is remarkable. First of all, just as an overall thing, you can see that the territories are very different than today.

GUEST:
Most definitely.

APPRAISER:
It was the political situation at the time. They have this huge Nebraska territory, Kansas, the Indian Territory, which is today Oklahoma, and you have Utah and New Mexico hadn't been divided up yet. And up here you have Washington and Oregon, and they were later divided. But, if you go back to Nebraska up in here, this is where the Indian tribes were located when the settlers were first moving out in this pre-Civil War period. Also, one of the exciting things about that period was the beginning of proposals for a transcontinental railroad. And different regions were all vying to have the transcontinental railroad go through. This shows the different proposals. You have, up here in the North, you can see this dotted line along here--

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
--is Governor Stevens' proposed route for Northern Pacific Railroad. Okay, you also had a Southern one down here. The proposed Southern Pacific railroad route, and the one which kind of won in the middle-- the proposed Central railroad route to the Pacific. Now, you were worried about the condition on this, right?

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
Yes. And what worries you about it?

GUEST:
It's starting to fall apart.

APPRAISER:
Okay. This is actually, for a wall map, is in very, very good shape. What they did with these wall maps is they were printed on paper, the paper was glued to a linen backing, and then they varnished it. And that's why it's yellow, because that would protect it from insects and the environment and things. Those things, though, do lead a few years later to problems, and they start drying out, and they get wet, especially at the top. This was rolled up. These maps are almost always better at the bottom, which was inside the roll, until you get to the top, where they were exposed. A lot of these things, the paper is falling off, and that's a real problem because they are very expensive to restore. This map, you can strengthen the top, so that you could then frame it-- I would think $500, $600. If this was all falling apart, and had big tears, and sheets coming off-- to fix one of these is $1,000 to $2,000 in restoration.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
To find one in good shape is so important to people. So this map has a lot of value, both because of the condition and because of its history. In this kind of condition, I would probably have about $2,800 on it.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Maybe $3,000.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm. Wow. I'll fix it, and put it in my room.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
The Philadelphia Print Shop West
Philadelphia, PA
Appraised value (2006)
$2,800 Retail$3,000
Event
Philadelphia, PA (August 05, 2006)
Period
19th Century
Form
Map
Material
Paper

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