Coloney & Fairchild’s Patent Ribbon Maps, Coloney, Fairchild & Co. St. Louis: 1866

Coloney & Fairchild's Patent Ribbon Maps ... Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters. Coloney, Fairchild & Co. St. Louis: 1866

Coloney & Fairchild’s Patent Ribbon Maps … Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters. Coloney, Fairchild & Co. St. Louis: 1866

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Two thousand six hundred miles in eleven feet. Someone standing at the barely perceptible headwaters of the Mississippi near Lake Itasca, Minnesota cannot imagine a single map could capture all 2,600 miles of the Mississippi into a strip map a mere two inches wide and eleven feet long. But here it is, the river’s natural sinews straightened to allow it to fit on a scroll. The river begins faintly, a thinly penned line, and then traverses Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. This is the most ambitious of Coloney & Fairchild ribbon maps, backed on linen and coiled around a covered spool controlled by a hand crank. This is the revised edition, with significant material on river towns added by William Bowen, president of the Pilot’s Association of St. Louis. While there is no record of the first issue, copies exist at the Minnesota Historical Society and the Newberry Library. Distances from New Orleans are printed on the river at intervals to the source.

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