J. ELLICOTT, B.

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A Highly Important, Early Regional American Map: The First to Focus on Western New York State



New York State/ Land Speculation.  ELLICOTT, J. & B.  [Philadelphia: 1801/ 1804]  Map of Morris's Purchase or West Geneseo in the State of New York: Exhibiting Part of the Lakes Erie and Ontario, the Straights of Niagara, Chautauque Lake and All the Principal Waters ... Purchased by the Holland Land Company ... 20 ½ x 26 ¼ inches. A 3 x 3-inche area of loss at lower edge expertly reinstated in facsimile; a few minor mended edge tears; else a bright, attractive example.    


Rare—separately published. The first detailed map of New York State west of the Genesee River.  The Ellicott brothers produced the map on behalf of the Holland Land Company to aid in the sale of their extensive land holdings in the region. Nestler hails the map as "probably the most important map of western NY when Buffalo was still known as New Amsterdam, and when land companies were luring settlers to this new frontier."  It is superbly detailed, as Rumsey notes, in that it shows “every tributary of every tributary of every stream.”  The map is equally detailed regarding towns, townships, reservations, Indian villages and roads.  Offered here is the second state of the map According to Vail ,“the same engraved plate was greatly improved in the second edition [sic] by the addition of numerous roads, the village of Batavia, local headquarters of the purchase, and of the date 1804 following the dedication.” It is said to have been reissued in 1829, though we have not seen such an example.


The map displays three and a half million acres purchased in 1792 by the Holland Land Company, a Dutch consortium, from the American banker Robert Morris in a transaction known as “The Holland Purchase,” the most successful of the great American land speculations of the late 18th century.  Ellicott, operating as the agent for the company, established its offices in Batavia, whose advantageous position at a crossroads on the Geneseo Road made it an ideal location for administering the sale of the lands surrounding it.


Joseph Ellicott (1760-1826) was the brother of Andrew, the great Federal-period surveyor known for his early survey of Washington, D.C.  Joseph learned surveying from his brother and for a time worked as his assistant.  The Dictionary of American Biography states that his work for the Holland Land Company was the turning point of his career.  After completing the survey, he was for the next 21 years the chief land agent for the company, a position of great power and influence.  He is also credited with founding the city of Buffalo.  B.[enjamin] Ellicott, also a surveyor, was the brother of Joseph.  


Streeter 892; Rumsey 3712; Nestler, H., A Bibliography of New York State Communities, Counties, Towns, Villages p.109; Vail 1223; Dict. of Amer. Biog. vol. 6, pp. 90-91.

Price: $4,500.00

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