Maps of Westward Expansion

First Map of the United States to show Manifest Destiny

Arader Galleries


$ 48,000.00
First Map of the United States to show Manifest Destiny

JOHN MELISH (1767-1822)
“Map of the United States with Contiguous British & Spanish Possessions”
Philadelphia: 1816
Copperplate engraving with outline color
49” x 63” framed

This landmark wall map, by John Melish, is highly coveted by collectors, as it is the first map to show the United States potentially stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, giving visual expression to the idea of “Manifest Destiny.” In the early 19th century, many Americans felt it was their mission to expand the borders of the United States westward for ideological, political and economic reasons. This map was published just as the notion of Manifest Destiny was crystallizing in the general American consciousness, and predicted the glorious fate that the young nation anticipated.

This grand map of the United States was also highly accurate and advanced in it's depiction of the geography of the United States, as it used information from the travel accounts of early 19th century explorers such as Zebulon Pike, Lewis and Clarke, Thomas Nuttall and William Darby. As Walter Ristow, a legendary American mapping historian, states of this map, “Melish played a foremost role in many and varied sources of the geographical and cartographical knowledge of the period, and presenting it systematically and graphical for the edification and enlightenment of the citizens of the voting republic.”


John Melish was a highly educated Scottish merchant who settled in Philadelphia in 1811, eventually to become one of the first great cartographers on the American continent. Melish drew on a number of official state maps to produce this mammoth map of the United States, which was used on several occasions to determine boundary lines between the United States and Mexico.


This is a highly coveted first printing from 1816 and was updated frequently over the following several years as new discoveries came to light. Melish died in 1822, and his plates were then used by James Finlayson to publish new states of the map in 1823. It is a classic in the history of American mapping.


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