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Exhibit: Maps As Art

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Charles Preuss. Topographical map of the road from Missouri to Oregon: commencing at the mouth of the Kansas in the Missouri River and ending at the mouth of the Walla Walla … compiled by Charles Preuss, 1846 by order of the Senate of the United States.

Original map on 7 sheets: sheets 41 x 66 cm. or smaller.

Denver Public Library, Western History & Genealogy, STX V CG4051 .P25 1846 .P73 (sections 1-7)

1846 Charles Preuss Topographical Map of the Road from Missouri to Oregon

In 1846, Charles Preuss produced one of the most extraordinary maps of the nineteenth-century American West. Born in Honscheid, Germany, in 1803, Georg Carl Ludwig Preuss arrived in the United States in 1834. He accompanied Captain John Charles Fremont on his first, second, and fourth expeditions, and created this seven-section 1846 map while the explorer was busy with his third expedition to the West. The map moves East-to-West from present Westport, Kansas, to the junction of the Walla Walla and Columbia rivers. At a scale of ten miles to the inch, each section spans approximately 250 miles, and its copious annotation and tables would provide a wealth of information on the conditions immigrants to Oregon would find in the course of their travels.

*The instance of the 1846 Preuss map reproduced here was printed in House Report 145, 30th Congress, 2nd session (1849), and two of its sections (3 and 6) are juxtaposed. The correct sequence using the printed section numbers is 1,2,6,4,5,3 and 7.

Author and satirist Sarah Vowell presented Preuss' melancholy account of his time in the West as Act Three of an episode of Chicago Public Radio's This American Life aired first in 2007 and re-broadcast in 2008. Preuss was given voice by the actor, Dermot Mulroney, who read from sections of the cartographer's diary. Charles Preuss took his own life in 1854.






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Updated: June 25, 2013