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Samuel Augustus Mitchell was supposedly inspired to begin his map publishing firm by the poor quality of maps and geography books he encountered as a schoolteacher. Many of his early works were created as educational materials, such as Mitchell’s School Atlas, which included the displayed map of Texas [#4]. While the map is dated 1846, this particular print is possibly from the 1847 edition of Mitchell’s School Atlas or an even later edition, since many of its maps were reused from edition to edition. Texas is shown with its borders extending well to the north of 36°30′, the latitude north of which slavery was prohibited in the United States. Soon after achieving statehood, Texas relinquished its lands north of 36°30′ in order to remain a slave state. Because Texas was deeply in debt from its years of independence, it also sold its segment of land west of 103° and north of Mexico’s border, and thus acquired the shape and borders it still has today.
Mitchell’s works went beyond textbooks, however, to include impressive and historically significant mid-nineteenth century atlases, such as his 1846 New Universal Atlas, which included the displayed maps of Georgia [#5], Tennessee [#6], and Mississippi [#7]. This atlas is believed to be the first American atlas converted to lithographic map plates, a much more affordable mode of production than the traditional engraved copperplate. As atlases became cheaper to produce, their prices became more affordable to the public.
In 1860, Mitchell retired and was replaced by his son, also named Samuel Augustus Mitchell. Under his leadership, Mitchell’s New General Atlas was produced in 1860. Several editions followed, including the 1870 edition that included the displayed map of California [#8].
4. S. Augustus Mitchell, Map of the State of Texas, 1846
Fun Fact: The oldest Live Oak tree in Texas, nicknamed The Big Tree, is estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,000 years old.
5. S. Augustus Mitchell, A New Map of Georgia with its Roads and Distances, 1846
Fun Fact: Athens, Georgia is home to a tree that owns itself.
6. S. Augustus Mitchell, A New Map of Tennessee with its Roads and Distances, 1846
Fun Fact: Tennessee is home to a salt and pepper shaker museum.
7. S. Augustus Mitchell, A New Map of Mississippi with its Roads and Distances, 1846
Fun Fact: Mississippi is the birthplace of the teddy bear.
8. S. Augustus Mitchell, County Map of the State of California, 1870
Fun Fact: The fire station in Livermore, California is home to a lightbulb that has been on for over a hundred years.