A James Wilson globe should be the cornerstone of any major collection. James Wilson (1763-1855), a Bradford, Vermont, farmer and blacksmith by trade, is the father of American globe making. Wilson was the first American to manufacture globes, having been inspired by European globes he saw at nearby Dartmouth College. A self-taught geographer and engraver, he not only made the globe spheres but designed, engraved and printed the cartographic gores for them. Wilson began his business in Bradford in about 1810. and in 1815 moved to New York State, opening a larger and better-equipped globe manufacturing facility at 110 Washington Street in Albany. In 1817, his eldest son Samuel joined the business and the following year, his son John became a primary partner with his father. Another son, David Wilson worked briefly in the family business, designing a three-inch globe. The firm of J. Wilson & Sons quickly became known as a globe making family enterprise. Cyrus Lancaster, a graduate of Dartmouth College and a school instructor, joined the firm in 1827. Following the deaths of Samuel and John Wilson, Lancaster continued as business manager, and two years later became a member of the family, marrying Samuel’s widow, Rebecca. Lancaster produced a number of globes in Albany under the Wilson name, the last dated one in 1845.
Read more about the firm on our Guide to Globe Makers.
Oval Celestial Cartouche: WILSON’S/ NEW THIRTEEN INCH/ CELESTIAL GLOBE/ Containing the positions of nearly 7000/ Stars, Clusters, Nebulae, &c. Carefully compil’d/ & laid down from the latest and most approv’d/ astronomical tables reduced to the present/ time,/ By C. Lancaster,/ 1840/ Albany, St. N.Y.
Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally restored and revarnished, with the usual remaining expected light toning, wear and restorations to minor scattered cracks and abrasions. Overall retains a golden antique tone with brightly colored constellations. Stand generally very good with the usual wear and shrinkage. Compass paper later replaced in facsimile.
Dekker, Elly and van der Krogt, Peter. Globes from the Western World. London: Zwemmer, 1993. pp. 125, 130-33, 139. (illustrating Wilson globe in National Museum of American History)
Fowle, Richard J. “James Wilson’s Globes.” Vermont History, XXVIII. 1960. pp. 245-49.
Haskins, Harold Web. “James Wilson — Globe Maker.” Vermont History, XXVII. 1959. pp. 319-330.
Kimball, LeRoy E. “James Wilson of Vermont, America’s First Globe Maker.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, Massachusetts: 1938. pp. 29-48.
The Dartmouth Compass. Vol. 1, No. 4, Autumn 1982.
Tyner, Judith. “A World of Their Own, James Wilson and the First American Globe.” Mercator’s World. January/February 1999.
Yonge, Ena L. A Catalogue of Early Globes, Library Series No. 6. American Geographical Society, 1968. p. 69 -70.