“Pivotal Points: the Exploration and Mapping of the Trans-Mississippi West.” The title immediately summons up visions of Lewis and Clark, Zebulon …
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“Pivotal Points: the Exploration and Mapping of the
The title immediately summons up visions of Lewis and Clark,
Zebulon Pike, John C. Fremont, trappers and traders, Native
American tribes and endless stretches of wilderness: terra
Engage the imagination and think of the adventurous men who set
out to find the best routes across the west to the Pacific, to the
Colorado gold fields, to the southwest and Spanish territories. And
think of the ongoing political and territorial discussions and
disagreements that drove shifting boundaries.
A beautifully displayed exhibit of historic maps, most from the
Littleton Museum’s collection, opened Oct. 1 and will be in place
for a year. A collection of books and reports accompanies the
exhibit, including the portfolio-sized “Humboldt Atlas.”
Framed maps are mounted on Wedgewood blue panels, framed in
white, which brings out hand coloring, when included and also makes
the black and white maps pop. Some are yellowed and wrinkled, but
most are in remarkably good condition and legible (at times in
Early maps have long been a particular interest of the museum’s
deputy director Lorena Donohue and her depth of knowledge is
reflected in selection and wall text. She said there were a few
holes in the museum’s collection, but she knew where to borrow what
filled those gaps from private collections. Bill Hastings
installation design, as always, highlights the already intriguing
At the gallery entrance is the handsomely detailed 1720 “New Map
of the North Parts of America Claimed by France Under Ye Names of
Louisiana, Mississippi, Canada and New France With ye Adjoining
Territories of England and Spain.“ We see New Mexico, Mexico and
New Spain. California floats, a long island west of the Gulf of
California. The Great South Sea appears. On the other coast,
Florida appears truncated and the Bahamas and Cuba appear above the
Great North Sea. H. Moll was the cartographer.
A quick search shows that Moll (1654-1732) was a Dutch emigre to
London, where he became the most prominent and prolific
cartographer in 18th century London, noted for the many annotations
and illustrations on his maps.
A number of maps are specially marked as “Pivotal Points in
exploration and mapping that have shaped the way we view this
continent and this nation,” according to the Museum’s
There are changes before and after Colorado’s statehood in 1876.
It doesn’t often appear before that time, although it’s in
Johnson’s Everchanging Southwest map, dated 1864, as well as
Johnson maps from 1860 and 61.
A Pivotal Point: John C. Fremont’s “1845 Expedition to the Rocky
Mountains and to Oregon and North Carolina 1843-44.” Ordered by the
Corps of Topographical Engineers, it includes the Great Platte
River Road, which started in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Another, noted “one of the most important” and dated 1804, shows
Lewis and Clark’s route, copied by Samuel Lewis from William
There are two maps by Zebulon Pike and a roadmap to the Pike’s
Peak gold fields illustrating “all routes from the Mississippi and
Missouri Rivers and Outfitting points.” It includes the Northern,
Republican Fork and Arkansas routes.
Captain Gunnison’s 1853 map was to determine the route for the
Central Pacific Railroad. Gunnison was killed by Indians — or
perhaps by Mormons — according to conflicting accounts.
Closer to home is a map of the Colorado Territory, Denver City,
Nov. 1, 1861, which established the baseline for surveying the
state: the 40th Parallel. Think of Baseline Road in Boulder.
A sampling of these maps will undoubtedly lead a visitor to plan
on more visits, as well as a return to those western history titles
on the bookshelves for the colorful stories that accompany the
maps. History buffs will be set for the winter.
If you go:
“Pivotal Points” continues through Oct. 16, 2011 at the
Littleton Museum, 6028 S. Gallup St., Littleton. Hours: 8 a.m. to 5
p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; 1 to 5
p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays and Holidays. Admission free.
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