Monday, January 31, 2011

Find your way to the Miami Map Fair

Detail of 1850 map. Please click to enlarge.
This weekend, Lighthouse Books will be exhibiting at the Miami Map Fair and we'll have plenty of maps from our collection.  The fair is a cartography lover's paradise. Miami Today called it "the Super Bowl of mapdom."

No wonder. Fifty dealers from across the country and overseas gather with a treasure trove of cartographic artifacts guaranteed to vibrate the Mercator projections of the most discriminating collectors.

The event is hosted by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, part of HistoryMiami, the go-to organization for celebrating South Florida history. HistoryMiami includes the museum, a research center, South Florida Folklife Center, Miami Circle and much more.

Some of our favorite maps, of course, depict our home state of Florida; the older, the better, though if you were using some of the earlier specimens to get from St. Petersburg to Miami you might have some problems. Those cartographers of yore didn't always get it right.

Case in point: The Pinellas peninsula as represented in this 1850 map published by Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co. of Philadelphia. (You can click on the image to enlarge it). Give them credit for having the general idea, but they missed subtle details of the peninsula's shape. Still, it was the best you could get in 1850.

In those days, Florida had only 28 counties. Hillsborough (spelled HIllsboro) was huge, stretching all the way over to the Kissimmee River and down to present-day Cape Coral.

Sen. Thomas Hart Benton
North of the Tampa Bay area rested Benton County, and an interesting tale in Florida history. When it was established in 1843, it was originally named Hernando County for the Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto. But in 1844 the name was changed to honor Thomas Hart Benton, a senator from Missouri who was a fiery advocate of territorial expansion. He helped get the county established. The county existed under that name for about six years.

But Benton County residents became disenchanted with Benton when he supported the Missouri Compromise, a measure the pro-slavery residents viewed as detrimental to their cause. The Missouri Compromise ultimately failed, but it didn't matter. Benton was no longer a local hero.

Forgotten was the help he gave in getting the county established. Forgotten was his support of territorial expansion. Ah, the winds of politics!

The name reverted to Hernando and remains so today.

Sen. Thomas Hart Benton shouldn't be confused with the famous landscape painter of the same name. The painter was the senator's great-nephew.

This map is interesting for another reason. It was relatively peaceful in Florida in 1850. The Second Seminole War had been over for eight years. The Third Seminole War (known as the Billy Bowlegs War) wouldn't start for another five years.

Still, no one wanted to forget the key dates of clashes between Seminoles and settlers, including the massacre of Major Francis L. Dade and more than 100 soldiers on December 28, 1835. They are duly noted on the map.

We hope to see you at the Miami Map Fair. As for getting to it, Google it or put it in your GPS. Save the maps for fun.

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Our specialties include Floridiana (Florida History, Florida Authors, Florida Related Ephemera), American History, Literature of the South, Military History (including, but not limited to, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korean War), Children’s Literature, Maps, Leather Bindings and Rare & Unusual items.

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