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Map, United States, Humphrey Phelps, Antique Print, New York, 1846

Humphrey Phelps
Map of the United States and Mexico Including Oregon, Texas and the Californias
New York: c. 1846-1848
Hand-colored engraving
17.5 x 22 inches

Bound into:
Benson J. Lossing (author)
The Lives of The Presidents of the United States; Embracing a Brief History of the Principal Events of Their Respective Administrations
Humphrey Phelps, New York: 1848
Octavo, printed wraps

Book with an extremely scarce issue and variant of the Map of the United States and Mexico Including Oregon, Texas and the Californias. It is attached folded, as issued, to inside back cover of an historic account of American Presidents, published in 1848. Various versions of this US-Mexico map by Humphrey Phelps were published by related New York publishers from 1846 to 1848, including Phelps & Ensign as well as Ensign and Thayer. In this period, during the Polk administration, the Mexican-American War was fought between the two nations. The war followed the 1845 American annexation of Texas and ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and the expansion of United States territory with land ceded by Mexico.

The map shows the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It is surrounded by an inner border on left and right sides with historical and statistical information about the various states of the union. An outer border on all four sides contains images of state seals. The map is of particular interest for its detailed cartography, including the many Native American tribal regions west of the Mississippi. It divides those areas into broader regions along various boundary lines, some of which were formed by rivers or the Rocky Mountains: Oregon Territory, Missouri Territory, Sioux District, Indian Territory, New Mexico, Texas, and New California. Mexican state boundaries, cities, and rivers are also shown. Mountain ranges are shaded. A dotted line between San Francisco to Great Salt Lake and then east to the Rockies is labeled “Route to the United States.” The southern portion of Canada is mapped in far less detail and is labeled British America, Canada West, and Canada East. This particular example of the map is also of note for its unique hand-colored free-hand outlines around various boundaries, as issued, some apparently relating to the Mexican-American war.

Product description continues below.


The map is not dated, but based on various criteria and other extant maps it was likely published between 1846 and 1848. As indicated above, the map is incorporated, as issued, in a book published in 1848 by Humphrey Phelps, though no publisher is given on the map and it could have been of slightly earlier date than the book. Indeed the map appears to be identical to one of the same title and border design shown on the Rumsey website, though the Rumsey example has full color shading of the states unlike the offered example. The Rumsey map has no publisher or date, but Rumsey states that it was published in 1846 based on various criteria, though this conclusion does not seem to be definitive. In another comparison, the map portion of the offered example appears similar (other than coloring and the presence of a distance table) to a dated 1848 version of the differently titled Ornamental Map of the United States and Mexico (shown on both the George Glazer website and Rumsey), which was printed as part of a vertically oriented broadside with additional illustrations and text above and below the map. Other examples of the offered map were also incorporated into other books by the Phelps firm and its associates, circa 1846-48, as discussed in notes in Rumsey.

Yale University’s Beinecke Library has a related version of the map though with some different place names, typeface,  detail, etc., titled Phelps’ Ornamental Map of the United States and Mexico, which they have tentatively dated 1847It is most noteworthy because like the map we offer, the Yale example uses a similar style of loosely hand-coloring various boundaries. Yale notes that their example “[a]ppears to have been colored after the Mexican War settlements in 1848, as the Gila River boundary is used.” Quite interestingly, the offered example does not use the Gila River boundary, but rather a mapping in which Mexico had extended further north prior to the end of the war in 1848.

The Lives of The Presidents of the United States, the book into which this map has been attached, presents eleven biographies of presidents from George Washington through James Polk illustrated with engravings of their portraits and significant places. The text also includes the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, Washington’s Farewell Address, a list of cabinet officers, and a Table of the Yearly Expenditures of the General Government. The final page is a full-page facsimile of a $50 treasury note. The author, Benson John Lossing (1813-1891) was an American historian known for his popular illustrated books on American history and features in Harper’s Magazine. He published over 40 books and is still esteemed today for his devotion to historical accuracy and fact checking to a degree that was unusual for his time. He sought out primary records, and where possible interviewed participants in events and people who knew his biographical subjects, making him a trusted source for later generations of historians.

Condition:  Map generally very good, folds as issued into book, no margins beyond state seal border as issued, noting light toning, handling, wear. Book very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Some slightly greater wear, handling, short tears, etc. to stiff paper covers but still overall very good.


“Benton John Lossing.” Wikipedia. 7 June 2019. (1 July 2019).

“Map of the United States and Mexico.” David Rumsey Map Collection. 2019. (1 July 2019).

“Map of the United States and Mexico Including Oregon Texas and the Californias.” David Rumsey Map Collection. 2019.,-Mexico,-O (1 July 2019).

“Ornamental Map of the United States & Mexico.” George Glazer Gallery. (1 July 2019).

“Phelps’ Ornamental map of the United States and Mexico.” Yale University Library. 2019. (1 July 2019).

Additional information


18th Century