||NICHOLSON, Walter L. (topographer of the U.S. Post Office Department)
Post Route Map of the State of New York and Parts of Vermont Massachusetts Connecticut New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Also the Adjacent Portions of the Dominion of Canada
Washington: 1866 [updated 1 February 1873]. Engraved map on two sheets, period hand-colouring in outline, sectioned and linen-backed at a contemporary date. Two insets of Long Island and a portion of Canada. Sheet size: 56 3/4 x 64 inches. Housed in a contemporary brown cloth slipcase, title stamped in gilt on the covers. Provenance: John Henry Devereux, 1832-1886, President of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis Railway (name stamped in gilt on the slipcase).
Rare official Post Route map of the State of New York and vicinity, owned by the Civil War General in charge of all Union railroad lines and the President of a major railroad company following the war.
Nicholson, who was responsible for setting up the topographical department of the Post Office during the Civil War, went on to serve as the official Topographer to the Post Office for 22 years. His maps focus on the postal routes and, naturally, towns, as well as political boundaries and railroad routes. Lakes, rivers and other waterways provide the only topographical detail. The postal routes are colour-coded to indicate frequency with which they are used (e.g., black for six times per week, blue for three times per week), with rail routes differentiated by cross-hatching. The distance for each route segment is also indicated. The map includes a legend and an inset table of distances between post offices. The official Post Office Department logo and motto ('With Celerity Certainty and Security') is also present.
Nicholson's maps were originally published between 1866-1876, but it was essential to keep updating them, and to this end the map also includes a printed note "The Service on this diagram brought up to date of", followed by a space in which a manuscript date has been added.
The relationship between the Post Office and the railroads began very early. The first known contract was in 1832, just two years after the maiden voyage of the nation's first steam locomotive, for transport of mail between Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA. On July 7, 1838, an act of Congress declared all rail routes to be postal routes, and the railways rapidly became the backbone of the postal system. While these maps were distributed throughout the Post Office Department, it is not clear how often these early issues of the maps were given or sold to non-governmental users, like the present.
Devereux, the original owner of this map, was the President of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railway at the time of publication. He had served in the Civil War as the officer in charge of all the Union rail lines, eventually achieving the rank of General.
Phillips, p. 517 (1881 issue); Cf. Virginia W. Mason. The U.S. Post Office Department, Division of Topography: the Conception, Production, and Obsolescence of Postal Mapping in the United States. (unpublished thesis). Madison, WI: Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2002.