Rachel's Blog: Enid Blyton's Map of North America

Thu, 15 Dec 2005

A few months ago I bought a book, a secondhand sewing guide, from a delightfully messy bookstore in Box Hill. When I got it home a folded map fell out of it. (Yes, I know this sounds just like an Enid Blyton story.) I glanced at it, absorbed only that it was out of date and of North America, and put it on top of the filing cabinet.
Some weeks later, in a researchy mood, I had a closer look at it.

(click for larger image)

Here's what I learnt:
The Hudsons Bay Company is the oldest corporation in Canada. That's only logical. The first thing I need in a new and unexplored land is a department store.

York Fort was an actual fort built to defend the department store from the French. Unfortunately it sank. So they built another. If only they'd built their fort the way I do - with pillows and blankies - they would never have to worry about it sinking into the permafrost.

Ross, Parry and Franklin were all looking for a Northeast passage through the Arctic between 1818 and 1845 when Franklin took crystal and silverware with his crew instead of food, got icebound for a couple of years and were forced to eat each other. More men died looking for Franklin than were lost to cannibalism*.

East and West Florida - when one Florida just isn't enough.

Also worth noting is the large tract of Unexplored Territory in the middle of Russian America. In 1867 Alaska was sold to the US for $7.2 million dollars. Not only did this result in a move of the International Date Line, but also a switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The poor Alaskans not only had to suffer two Fridays in a row but lost a fortnight. Sadly for the Russians it turned out that hiding within the Unexplored Territory was the Klondike Gold Rush.

Lower and Upper Canada - see above re: Florida.

The 49th Parallel border between the United States and British Territory (not yet Canada) on this map dates from 1818 when it ran from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. Lake of the Woods? I told you this was an Enid Blyton story.

It wasn't until 1846 that the border at the 49th parallel was extended to the sea by the Treaty of Oregon, or Treaty with Great Britain, in Regard to Limits Westward of the Rocky Mountains. This was despite the Democratic Party trying to name rock bands 150 years ahead of time with the slogan Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!

*Alleged cannibalism.

All this time I had assumed it was a print I was working from, after all who would tear a map out of a book and then use it as a bookmark? On searching for information on the engraver, J. Dower of Pentonville, London, all I came up with were eBay auctions, but one of those lead me to the very friendly folk at the Melbourne business, Classical Images.

Here's how to detect an original map from a print or forgery.

A couple of emails later had my precious, precious map dated to the 1840s and valued at between $150 and $200.

I'm just glad I hadn't blu-tacked it to the wall.

Comment by Ricky Buchanan on Fri, 16 Dec 2005


Are you going to sell it?


Comment by Rachel Holkner on Fri, 16 Dec 2005

No, I'm not going to sell it. It's far too pretty - hand coloured and all.

Comment by jeanette on Fri, 16 Dec 2005

"... the slogan Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" is actually a quilt block, one of those devices that got all the good names before there were rock bands. The Pig War is an interesting side note.