Texas General Land Office Acquires and Conserves Atlas of Maps Made by Captain Zebulon M. Pike
Note: This post was originally published on May 8, 2019.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced that the Texas General Land Office Archives and Records, as part of the agency’s Save Texas History Program, acquired and conserved an important atlas of six printed maps created by U.S. Army Captain Zebulon M. Pike. Published in 1810, the atlas illustrates Pike’s troubled 1806–1807 exploration of the Louisiana Territory, which included the northern boundary of Spanish Texas. Captain Pike’s work greatly contributed to the knowledge of the new territory acquired by the United States as well as parts of New Spain. His Texas journey included stops in El Paso, San Antonio, Nacogdoches, and several sites along the Camino Real, eventually concluding in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
“Zebulon Pike is an important, though often overshadowed figure in American history, and a contemporary of Lewis and Clark. His work, which included a favorable report on Texas in 1806 and 1807, helped open the West to further exploration. Pike was one of the earliest Americans to explore Texas, and without him, Texas history could have been very different,” said Commissioner Bush. “I’m pleased to announce that the GLO acquired this atlas to provide new material for researchers of early Texas history, and conserved it so that it will be protected for future generations. This is another example of how the GLO is working to Save Texas History.”
Of note, these maps include the second earliest reference to “San Antonio Valero,” better known today as the Alamo, in the entire 45,000-piece map collection housed at the Texas General Land Office.
Through his journals, official reports, and maps, Pike’s observations of Texas and the Southwest helped inspire a generation of Americans to consider moving west into unknown foreign territory as one of the first steps in securing America’s so-called “Manifest Destiny.” Pike provided one of the first literary snapshots of the people of Spanish Texas written by an American citizen, which made the inhabitants of San Antonio and northern Mexico more relatable to their American neighbors. Years later, Stephen F. Austin acknowledged and agreed with Pike’s favorable reviews of Texas in a July 20, 1821 letter to Joseph H. Hawkins. Austin said, “All travelers unite with our much lamented Gen. Pike, in alleging the climate to be one of the most delightful in this, or any other country.”
The atlas has an interesting provenance of its own. Its original owner was Frederick Remington, a prominent American painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in depictions of the American West. It is believed that Remington owned this atlas to aide in his research when painting Pike Entering Santa Fe, which he completed in 1905. The atlas bears Remington’s bookplate on the inside front cover.
Pike’s atlas was treated by Carrabba Conservation in Austin, TX. Conservation treatment included removing individual maps from the text block, releasing sewing structures, and removing threads. Debris and soils from binding structures were removed from the maps, and adhesive residue was reduced. All of the maps were washed and deacidified with calcium hydroxide, and stains were reduced with the adjusted water bath, ammonium, and calcium. Tears, broken folds, and losses were mended and filled with wheat starch paste using acid-free tissue paper applied locally. Corners were reinforced, and each map was pressed and flattened under weights.
Pike’s maps, along with his journals and official reports, are a lasting legacy of the earliest American explorations of the Southwest, as well as an important part of the cartographic history of Texas. They will be available online and in-person at no charge to the public, as well as for off-site exhibitions, further study, and reproduction.
Maps Acquired and Conserved by GLO as Part of the Atlas, Pre-Conservation (Left) and Post-Conservation (Right)
About the Save Texas History Program
Created in 2004, the Save Texas History program is a statewide initiative to rally public support and private funding for the preservation and promotion of the historic maps and documents housed in the GLO Archives, and serves as a resource for teaching and digitizing Texas history. If you would like to donate to the Save Texas History program to adopt a document or collection, assist with archival acquisitions, develop educational programs, or support digital projects, please visit SaveTexasHistory.org.
 Eugene Barker, ed., Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1919: The Austin Papers, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1924), 3 vols., Vol 1, Part 1, pp. 402–404.