The United States is divided into the states and territories with boundaries which are, for the most part, quite different west of the Mississippi than they are now. Oklahoma is called “Indian Territory” and there is a region called Dacota west of Minnesota. Alaska is called “Russian America.” Tasmania is labeled Van Dieman’s Land. Antarctica is labeled Antarctic Ocean with only fragmentary areas of coastline mapped, reflecting geographic knowledge at the time. Tracks of explorers are marked with dotted lines, including Cook, De la Perouse, Furneaux, Flinders, and Vancouver. There is a figure-eight analemma in the ocean. The horizon band is concentrically divided by the degrees of amplitude and azimuth, the zodiacal calendar by name and signs, a Gregorian calendar, compass points, and equation of time with an outer foliate border. As is typical for Wilson 13-inch terrestrial globes, the cartouche is surmounted by a highly decorative allegorical figure of Lady Columbia with dividers in her right hand, pointing at a terrestrial globe to her right, surmounted by an eagle. This image was designed by David W. Wilson — one of James Wilson’s sons — and engraved by Balch, Rawdon & Co., Albany, New York. This cartouche design dates back to Wilson globes issued in the l1820s.
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. The last known dated Wilson globe was published in 1859 by S.R. Gray, a general publisher in Albany, New York.
S.R. Gray was a general publisher of books, calendars and almanacs, etc. in Albany New York from about the 1850s through the 1880s. An extant promotional calendar published by Gray in 1886 lists it as a “publisher, bookseller and stationer” at 42 and 44 State Street Albany, New York. In 1859, they published “Wilson’s New American Thirteen Inch Terrestrial Globe” — the last in a long line of globes originally issued in 1811 by America’s so-called first globe maker, James Wilson. It is unknown how they succeeded to the Wilson business, which otherwise is generally traced to Cyrus Lancaster, and ending in 1845. It is also unknown whom S.R. Gray retained to update the Wilson 13-inch terrestrial table globe to 1859.
Read more about the firm on our Guide to Globe Makers.
Cartouche: WILSON’S/ NEW AMERICAN THIRTEEN INCH/ TERRESTRIAL GLOBE,/ Exhibiting with the greatest possible Accuracy,/ THE POSITIONS OF THE PRINCIPAL KNOWN/ PLACES OF THE EARTH;/ With the Tracks of various Circumnavigators together with/ New Discoveries and Political Alterations down to/ The present PERIOD: 1859/ PUBLISHED BY S.R. GRAY, ALBANY, 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 geographic entities. Stand generally very good with the usual wear and shrinkage.
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.