Archive for April 19th, 2011

The earliest atlas of Dakota Territory in the Chilson Collection is Andreas’ Historical Atlas of Dakota published in 1884. Andreas’ atlas has county maps showing physical and cultural features, though the majority of the atlas is general thematic histories, county histories, biographies, and business descriptions.

During the late 19th century, many state and county land ownership atlases were sold door-to-door through advance subscriptions, similar to the way dictionaries, bibles, and encyclopedias were sold. Some subscribers paid a higher rate to have their biographies, business notices, location of their farm, and pictures of themselves and their farm placed in the atlas. Often in areas with smaller populations, county maps were offered instead of county atlases.

Alfred T. Andreas was not a surveyor or a cartographer, as were many involved in the atlas and map business. He was an entrepreneur who learned how to organize and to lead large and complex operations while in the army, skills that he used to produce numerous maps, atlases, and histories while employing salesmen, field surveyors, biographers, portrait takers, illustrators, and cartographers. From 1867 to 1884, he published 23 county atlases “illustrated in a lavish style, developed to a degree anticipated by none, and imitated by few,” three state atlases “on a grand scale seen neither before nor since,” and many county, state, and city histories. Many years after his state atlases, he published the less elaborate historical atlas of Dakota Territory.

The entire Andreas’ atlas can be viewed on the Digital Library of South Dakota.

Information and quotes from “Maps for the Masses: Alfred T. Andreas and the Midwestern County Atlas Trade,” in Chicago Mapmakers: Essays on the Rise of the City’s Map Trade, edited by Michael P. Conzen. Chicago: Chicago Historical Society for the Chicago Map Society, 1984, pp. 46-63.

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