October 2011 Artifact of the Month

Nebraska and Kansas Map

Ca. 1854


Material: Ink on paper

Nebraska and Kansas Map by J. H. Colton circa 1854This month's featured artifact is a map of the territories of Nebraska and Kansas as published by J. H. Colton in 1854.

Nebraska and Kansas were admitted as territories of the United States as a result of the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act on May 30, 1854.  This event is famous because it repealed an earlier act, the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  The Missouri Compromise mandated that slavery could not be extended into the northern states and territories.  But after the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, settlers of these territories could now choose whether to become a free or slave state.  This option prompted many supporters of slavery to move to Nebraska and Kansas to help support their admission as slave states.  The controversy over the Kansas-Nebraska Act would fuel the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, and eventually led the nation into Civil War in 1861.  Ultimately this issue was settled after the Civil War and with the signing of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 5, 1865.

This particular map is unique because it tells the story of the forced relocation of Native Americans that had taken place during the previous fifty years.  The placement of many of the Native American tribes in Kansas and Oklahoma is the direct result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  This policy allowed the United States to relocate Native American Tribes to the western territory.  If you look to the eastern and north-east corner of Kansas, you will notice the tribal lands of the Iowa's, Sauk's and Potawatomie's.  Many of these tribes were natives of Illinois until the Black Hawk War of 1832.  At the end of this conflict, these tribes, and others, were relocated into Iowa and eventually Kansas.  Similarly, the Delaware (Lenni Lenape), who originated in the New England area, are now located in the center of Kansas after having been moved four times!  We can also see the direct result of another event known as the Trail of Tears.  This name refers to the forced relocation of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, and Seminole in 1831.  Most of these tribal names can be seen in the section marked "Indian Territory," which would later become Oklahoma.

The artist of this map, Joseph Hutchins Colton, comes from a prominent mapmaking family.  Colton was born in Massachusetts in 1800 and later moved to New York City where he began a career as a publisher in the 1830s.  In the next few decades, Colton would publish a series of successful maps, travel guides and books.

This beautiful lithograph is accented by a number of vignette engravings showcasing Native Americans and wildlife.