Between 1831 and 1890, the Colton firm dominated American map publishing, and their atlases were the finest
produced in the U.S. during the 19th century. The company was founded by Joseph Hutchins Colton (1800-1893), who
had no formal training in geography or cartography; he began by purchasing copyrights of maps prepared by other
individuals or companies, and his principal role was to manage the production and distribution of the maps.
His first maps were drawn by the esteemed cartographer David H. Burr in the 1830s. By the 1850s Colton was also
publishing guidebooks, atlases and immigrant and railroad maps. The firm was renamed G.W. & C.B. Colton in the
1860s when Colton was succeeded by his sons -- George Woolworth Colton (1827-1901) and Charles B. Colton (c.
1831-1916). It is believed that George Colton compiled the company's 1855 Atlas of the World and served thereafter
as the firm's principal map compiler, cartographer and engraver.
The Colton firm refused to compromise quality, choosing to compete for sales in the more expensive international
market rather than the cheap domestic one. Because of this, all maps were engraved by steel plates rather than by
wax engravings which was the most common method used at the time. Colton's maps were also especially admired for
their wide decorative borders.
Below are portions of a Colton map typical of the detailed appearance of these prints.
The original Colton Maps can be purchased at: