Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Méjico, Segun lo organizado y definido por las varias actas del Congreso de dicha Republica: y construido por las mejores autoridades, 1828
Not every map that appears in the General Land Office’s online database is physically housed at the Archives in Austin. The Holcomb Digital Map Collection is a diverse group of items consisting of 114 maps, atlases, books and pamphlets belonging to Frank and Carol Holcomb of Houston and is the result of a 2014 collaboration between the Holcombs and GLO Archives staff to preserve and make these important documents available to the public.
This map, Map of the United States of Mexico, as organized and defined by various acts of the Congress of that Republic: and built by the best authorities, published by the New York firm of White, Gallaher, & White is commonly thought to be a plagiarized copy of H. S. Tanner’s copyrighted 1826 Map of The United States of Mexico, including errors made by Tanner in his original. The map, translated and published in Spanish, has a unique cartouche — a symbol of Mexico, an eagle with a snake in its mouth, perched atop a large cactus. Above the bird’s head is the Phrygian cap, or Liberty Cap, a symbol of freedom and liberty, especially in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions, which includes both the American and Mexican independence movements.
The eagle clutches a ribbon proclaiming the Federal Republic of Mexico and each paddle of the cactus bears the name of a Mexican state. The state of Coahuila y Tejas is at the top center of the cactus plant.
Texas is labeled “Tejas” on the map and features the towns of San Antonio de Bejar, Matagorda, Nacogdoches, the missions of San Saba and La Bahia, various forts, including El Paso, and Indian settlements indicated by tipis. The Neches, Colorado, Trinity, Guadalupe, San Marcos, Brazos, Nueces, and Rio del Norte (the Rio Grande) Rivers, and other smaller ones, are all labeled on the map.
Three charts are included, which provide information on the distances between important locations in Mexico, statistical data on major Mexican towns and cities, and an inset map detailing the major roads approaching Mexico City from Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico.
White, Gallaher, and White’s map was reissued sixteen years later, in 1844, to coincide with the growing interest in Texas annexation. To capitalize on this interest in the Republic of Texas and the nation of Mexico, New York publisher John Disturnell bought the copper plates for this map and again reissued it in 1845 bearing his own name, without making any corrections to errors from Tanner’s original or updating it to include items “discovered” in the 20-plus years since its original printing by Tanner.
This map serves not only as an example of the diplomatic uses of maps, but of the rampant plagiarism of maps in the cartographic world of the nineteenth century.
Holcomb Digital Map Collection. GLO Map #93846.
For more on the Liberty cap as a symbol in nineteenth-century revolutions see: Harden, J. David. “Liberty Caps and Liberty Trees.” Past & Present, no. 146 (1995): 66–102, and