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Transitory Territories

[ Horizontal Arizona | Colona | Splitting Dakota | Deseret | Jefferson | Mythical Geography ]



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One of the most popular features on old maps are mistakes. Some of these are just errors, such as mis-drawn coastlines, misplaced cities, missing mountain ranges and the like. Another category includes "geographic myths," which are geographic features which appear on the map but not on the earth; cities where none ever were, islands where there are but waves, lakes and rivers where there is dry land, and kingdoms of non-existent kings. We have a special section on our web site about these called "Illusions, Delusions and Confusions."

Somewhat similar features that appears from time to time on antique maps are what we call "transitory territories." These are political entities which either never officially existed or which existed only for a very brief period of time. Sometimes these might be the result of someone's plan that was never carried out (like Thomas Jefferson's proposal for new states west of the Appalachian Mountains), or they might be extralegal territories set up by a local group which never were officially recognized. While not mythical, these are territories which had only an ephemeral existence, sometimes just on paper.

The reason these transitory territories appeared on maps was because mapmakers hated to have their maps not up-to-date. Any map which did not include a depiction of a newly created territory would be considered out-of-date, and because there was a time delay between when the map was drawn and when it was published, mapmakers tended to jump the gun a bit. They kept their ears to the ground to learn as soon as possible about new territories that might be created by Congress, and if a mapmaker believed that such a new political entity was about to be approved, he would put it on the map even before the bill was actually passed. If the territory was created, his map would be amazingly current, ahead of his competitors, and if it never came into existence, the mapmaker just hoped no one noticed.

In this section of our web site we describe some of these transitory territories and list some maps from our inventory which illustrate these. Anyone who has questions, suggestions, or information about these or other transitory territories is encouraged to contact us on this matter.


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Mythical geographyHorizontal Arizona Territory

Mythical geographyColona Territory

Mythical geographySplitting the Dakota Territory

Mythical geographyDeseret

Mythical geographyJefferson Territory



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