Travis E. Ross

Historian of capitalism, knowledge, and the Pacific World

Utah Drawn

For demonstration purposes only, please do not share.

Maps serve a number of purposes. They identify physical geographies, recording landmarks, routes, and boundaries in a graphic way. They also reflect varying perceptions, imaginations, values, and aspirations. This is certainly true of the maps presented here. Over five centuries, empires and explorers, printers and publishers, worked first to trace the outline of a continent that was new to Europeans and then, eventually, to fill in its vast center.

Maps are more than cartographic representations of known or imagined physical features on the landscape. They show the steady increase of geographic knowledge of the Americas. They also demonstrate the economic and political interests that produced that knowledge, providing insight to the motivations of the benefiting parties. They hint at what mapmakers and their sponsors determined was worth documenting, identifying, and, in some cases, possessing. They often erase, obscure, and distort.

The maps displayed in this exhibition offer a unique window into the geographic area Governor Gary R. Herbert describes as “the Great State of Utah.” These rare historical maps—depicting the region that became the state of Utah from its earliest imaginings by European cartographers (mapmakers), through the historical process that produced the modern state’s boundaries—are part of an extraordinary private collection belonging to Stephen Boulay. Mr. Boulay has generously agreed to display them for the people of Utah, here in the “People’s House.” Several other institutions have produced high-quality duplicates of rare maps in their collections and can be seen here as well.

This exhibit is generally organized chronologically, but you may proceed through the exhibition in any order you wish. Each section touches on some or all of the following themes: Native American History and Territory; Business and Economic Interests; Exploration, Transportation, and Navigation; and Settlement. Move between each section as it catches your eye and read as much or as little of the supporting text as desired. But please take the time to inspect and examine the maps, noting not only what they show but what they do not.

Return to this exhibition with your family and friends to “read” the maps anew. With each reading we promise you a new appreciation for Utah’s geography and history.