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Antique Maps of Colona



In 1858, gold was discovered near the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on the western edge of the Kansas Territory. As thousands flooded into the area, in what was called the Pike's Peak gold rush, settlements (such as Denver City) were established and the population boomed. This area was located well away from the Kansas territorial government, and the locals realized that their interests were not necessarily the same as the interests of those located in the eastern part of the territory. Besides there was no machinery available for the enforcement of law & order, a real concern to those who hoped to make their fortune there. Thus these miners and other settlers wanted a new territory to be carved out of Kansas, to provide local government.

A delegation was sent to Washington for the creation of such a territory. On January 6, 1859, Schuyler Colfax, representative from Illinois, introduced a bill in Congress to organize a territory along the eastern slope of the Rockies. The territory was to include the western-most parts of Kansas and Nebraska as far north as the 42nd parallel, between the 103rd degree longitude and the continental divide--except that the border would pass on the western side of Middle Park "in order that the Three Parks shall all be in the new Territory." The southern border was to be the 37th parallel, thus taking in the northeastern part of New Mexico.

The bill introduced by Colfax to the House was "To organize the Territory of Colona." This name was taken from the Spanish for Columbus and the New York Times stated that this name was favored by the settlers of the area. However it seems the name was not particularly popular with many others, for Colfax himself had suggested Cordillera, and others put forth the names of San Luis, Aureola, and the Indian names Uintah or Ogalala.

The Colona bill was referred to the Committee on the Territories for consideration. At that time there was great concern amongst Congressmen from the slave states that no new "free" states be added to the country. The bill introduced to Congress included, as its last clause, "the Constitution and laws of the United States are hereby extended over and declared to be in force in said Territory, so far as the same or any provision thereof may by applicable; and that slavery, peonage, and polygamy, are hereby prohibited in said Territory." As a consequence, there were not enough votes to support this bill and Colona was never created.

Colona did not have a very long life even as a proposal, but it did appear on a number of maps being prepared in early 1859. Not surprisingly, once it appeared on a map by an influential mapmaker, it then turned up on other publisher's maps, sometimes many years after even the hope of the territory had disappeared.

"Colton's United States of America." New York: Johnson & Browning, 1859. 15 1/2 x 26. Lithograph. Original hand color. Paper darkened and some stains. Some rubbed or whitened surface areas in western US, not affecting very much printed surface. Chip in bottom margin. Denver.

An important atlas map of the United States showing guesses, hopes, and mistakes concerning the political configuration of the western part of the country on the eve of the Civil War. The map is entitled "Colton's United States," but it was issued by Johnson & Browning. A.J. Johnson had worked for J.H. Colton as a book canvasser, but then began helping him with his publications, including publishing an 1859 edition of Colton's Atlas, along with his partner, I.L. Browning.

This map contains three examples of incorrect territorial depictions. The most unusual is the depiction of Colona; this is the only American atlas map to show Colona (there are actually two versions of Johnson & Browning's map with Colona, of which this is the first. The later edition shows Colona colored in a separate color). In addition to this, a new territory is shown in the western part of Utah Territory, what became Nevada, although that territory would also not be created for another two years (the second version of this map shows Nevada extending down into the New Mexico territory). The final incorrect territorial depiction is a horizontal Arizona lying to the south of New Mexico. The citizens of this region petitioned Congress for such a territory, and when this was not granted they actually formed their own territory, which joined the Confederacy. When Congress did eventually create Arizona, they made it run north-south, rather than east-west.

The map contains much else of interest, including mail routes, explorer routes and the potential lines for the proposed transcontinental railroad (these lines are missing from the second version of this map). Overall, a unique picture of the country on the eve of the Civil War, showing the political forces at play, even if not necessarily the correct borders. $375

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