Ask A Worthologist Question: Robert Pearsall Smith Map

A map of New York State published by Robert Pearsall Smith of Philadelphia in 1860, purchased for $90 at a yard sale.

A map of New York State published by Robert Pearsall Smith of Philadelphia in 1860, purchased for $90 at a yard sale.

Daniel J. came across an antique map of New York state at a yard sale. He engaged WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service, and it was forwarded to me. Here is Daniel’s question:

“I don’t know much about this map, as I picked it up at a yard sale for $90. The owner said he got it at an estate sale where it had been rolled up and stuffed into a canvas bag. It’s an 1860 map of New York State with the name Robert Pearsall Smith 1860 on it. It measures 65 by 71 inches and is in pretty good shape with some fraying on the edges. It looks really interesting, but I’d rather sell it than keep it if it’s worth anything.”

You shouldn’t have any trouble selling it Daniel. Robert Pearsall Smith of Philadelphia was a leading publisher of lithographic maps at this time. Between 1847 and 1864 he produced some 400-500 editions of city, town and county maps. He also supplied local surveyors with special transfer paper and ink, and then contracted with various lithographic shops in Philadelphia to print copies. Smith would retain full rights and copyright from the surveyors in exchange for a specific number of maps.

By the middle of the 19th century, the American map making industry expanded tremendously; a result of market demand from the growing railroads and canal systems, and westward expansion. Additionally, the tripling of the population of the United States between 1810 and 1850 increased the pool of consumers and the demanded for maps of all kinds. Pearsall filled this demand for good maps, which would be available to customers at a low cost.

In the current market, these pre-Civil War maps are highly sought after items—largely due to the fact that many of these maps were confiscated during the war and received rough usage in the hands of both Union and Confederate forces—and few now remain. Today, comparable examples of this wall map in restored condition can sell for more than $6,500. Even examples in need of some restoration, like yours, sell in the $1,000-$2,000 range.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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