Give the Gift of Texas History: The Compass Rose of Austin’s Colony, a Commemorative Christmas Ornament
Inspired by the Connected Map of Austin’s Colony, the General Land Office Save Texas History program has released the perfect Christmas gift for Texas history lovers — the Compass Rose of Austin’s Colony, the first Christmas ornament produced by the program. Availability of the Compass Rose of Austin’s Colony is extremely limited, with a production run of only 250 hand-numbered ornaments. While supplies last, the ornament can be purchased through the GLO’s online map store by clicking here.
The Compass Rose of Austin’s Colony was derived from the compass rose found on the Connected Map of Austin’s Colony, which is among the most beautiful pieces of cartographic art in the map collection of the General Land Office. With its vibrant colors, classic configuration, and beautiful symmetry reminiscent of the Star of Bethlehem, this ornament is a perfect fit for any tree.
Of all the striking artwork found upon documents and maps within the Archives of the General Land Office, why was the Compass Rose of Austin’s Colony selected as the design for an inaugural Christmas ornament? It’s simple — the compass rose is beautiful, elegant, and historically significant to the most important map in our collection, and it makes for a beautiful ornament.
Work on the Connected Map commenced in 1833 when Stephen F. Austin tasked Gail Borden, Jr. to create a map of the lands granted through Austin’s empresario contracts. The enormous undertaking included all land grants between the San Jacinto and Lavaca Rivers, an area covering nineteen present-day Texas counties. During the Texas Revolution, the map was transported across Texas from San Felipe so the Mexican Army would not capture it. After the revolution, Gail, Thomas H., and John P. Borden, the first Republic of Texas Land Commissioner, completed the work in 1837, shortly after Stephen F. Austin passed away.
In 1842, the Connected Map was likely one of the items that was seized by the citizens of Austin during the Archives War, where it was buried under the hotel of Angelina Eberly for over a year before being returned to the Land Office. At this point, the map was nearly lost to time. Because of its tremendous size — seven and a half feet by six and a half feet — it could not be stored flat, so it was rolled and stored on top of a cabinet, where it remained for over a century.
In the year 2000, the Connected Map was unrolled, and a massive cabinet was built to house it, and other maps of similar stature. After being unrolled, the map was immediately conserved. The Connected Map of Austin’s Colony was given another chance at life — in other words, it was saved.
In 2016, the Connected Map of Austin’s Colony found new life yet again when over 100,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to see this amazing piece of history while on exhibit at the Witte Museum. Certainly, more people got to see the Connected Map this year than at any point since work first commenced some 183 years ago. Hopefully the Connected Map was able to inspire a new appreciation for Texas history, as the scale of this map is absolutely astonishing for anyone who views it.
The Connected Map of Austin’s Colony is perhaps the best example of why we work to save Texas history, and it provided the inspiration to kick off a new program to help raise awareness and funds to conserve Texas history.
Like map and document duplication fees, 100% of the money collected on the sale of archival-inspired Christmas ornaments will go towards document and map conservation.
 Conservation funded in 2002 with a donation from Gardere, Wynne, Sewell LLP. Digitized in 2012 with a generous donation from the Daughters of the American Revolution.