19th Century Changes in the U.S.-Mexico Border / Annotated Map Bibliography

Compiled by Paul Bary
Summer 1991. Last updated: April 7, 1998

This bibliography was compiled as a class project at the University of Maryland's College of Library and Information Science, and is intended as a geographical reference tool for historians and researchers studying the southwest United States, northern Mexico, and the Spanish colonial administration of the New World. The class was taught by Andrew Modelski, a retired map librarian at the Library of Congress and author of Railroad Maps of the United States. The principal focus of the bibliography is on individual maps and atlases dealing with changes in the location of the international boundary line during the 19th century. The bibliography is chronological, beginning with older maps and ending with newer ones. The annotations attempt to point out how these boundary changes show up on each map. A second emphasis of the annotations is border area placenames. The names of the area's territories, towns, and other geographical features underwent quite an evolution during the period, and I have noted maps with new, obsolete, or alternative names. Where the location of the map is not indicated, the map may be located in the map division of the Library of Congress.

Historical Outline*

1535-40: Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas were explored by the Cabeza de Vaca and Coronado parties.

1609: Santa Fe was established as capital of the Spanish territory of Nuevo Mexico.

1720s: The Spaniards founded about 30 missions in Texas.

1769: Mission San Diego was founded in (Alta) California, the first of 21.

1776: Tucson was founded.

1795: The Spanish maintained 3 permanent settlements in Texas: San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches.

1800: The Spanish population of Nuevo Mexico was about 20,000.

1819: U.S. Treaty with Spain set the U.S. western boundary along the Sabine, Red, and Arkansas Rivers to the Rocky Mountains, then west along the 42nd parallel to the Pacific Ocean.

1821: Mexican independence from Spain.

1825-1832: Stephen F. Austin founded the Austin colony in Texas.

1836-1845: Texas Republic.

1845: Texas entered the U.S. as a state.

1846-1848: U.S.-Mexican War.

1848: Mexico ceded its northern territories to the U.S. under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo [including all or parts of modern California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming].

1849: Gold was discovered in California.

1850: California entered the U.S. as a state.

1850: New Mexico Territory was established.

1854: Gadsden Purchase.

1863: Arizona Territory was established.

1880: The Southern transcontinental railroad traversed the region.

1912: New Mexico and Arizona entered the U.S. as states.

*(From Collier's Encyclopedia. New York: Macmillan, c1989).


Humboldt, Alexandre de. Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne. 1804. In Atlas Geographique et Physique du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne. 1812. Size: 26x36 in. Scale: not indicated.

This compendium of explorers' charts shows rough outlines of geographical features of New Spain and its less explored northern regions, featuring numerous written remarks on the map surface: e.g., "Pays inconnu entre le Rio Puerco et les Sources du Rio Colorado." The map provides ample names for geographical features such as capes along the seashore. Outdated place names includes the former provinces of Nueva Biscaya and Nuevo Santander.

Pike, Zebulon M. A Map of the Internal Provinces of New Spain. 1807. In Wheat, An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi...1805, 1806, and 1807. Philadelphia, 1810. Size: large; exact size unknown. Scale: 1:4,800,000.

Shows major geographical features of the northern provinces of New Spain, including mountain ranges, provincial boundaries, towns, rivers, and roads. Includes numerous remarks by the mapmaker, e.g.: "All this country was visited by Father Pedro in 1775" (north of the Gulf of California); and "Immense Herds of Wild Horses" (in modern New Mexico). The southern edge of the map delineates the "Boundary between the Vice-Royalty and the Internal Provinces Which are Independent of the Vice Roy"--an important political distinction which is difficult to find on other maps of the period. In black and white.

Mapa del Virreinato de Nueva España. 1810. In Atlas Supplementaire Geographie Universelle de Malte-Brun. Size: 13.5x10 in. Scale: 1:19,500,000.

On this small map, the Spanish possessions in the viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico, Florida, and Cuba) are outlined in green to provide a contrast with the smaller possessions of the United States. The state of Louisiana is the only U.S. possession along the modern U.S. southern border and the Gulf of Mexico, an area which is shown in its entirety. The U.S. is labelled as "Septentrionale Etats-Unis". The northern boundary of New Spain is the 42nd parallel (approximately where California and Oregon meet).

Arrowsmith. Mexico and Vicinity. 1810. Size: 13.5x10 in. Scale: 1:19,500,000.

Shows the international border extending far to the north and east of modern boundaries. From the Gulf of Mexico the border follows the Rio Salinas (near the border of modern Texas and Louisiana) to the Red River; then west to the 100th meridian, where it juts northwest along the Rio de Napestle to the Rocky Mountains; then it continues west, roughly along the 41st parallel until it fades out. All the west coast is part of New Spain up to the map's top edge above the 41st parallel. The western part of the border area is left mostly blank.

Spanish North America. 1814. In Thompson, New General Atlas. Size: 25.5x21 in. Scale: 1:7,600,000.

The international border extends well to the north of modern boundaries, indicating that the modern states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona were still integral parts of New Spain. On this and many other maps of the period, New Mexico extends far to the north of its modern northern border, in a conical configuration. The region to the west of modern New Mexico is treated vaguely.

Mexico. 181? In Samuel Lewis' Atlas. Size: 21x17 in. Scale: 1:9,500,000.

This map presents several unusual and intriguing features. A large region (the Bolsón de Mapimí) south of the Rio Grande is not shown as part of New Spain; the provinces are colored for clear boundary delineation but are not all identified by name. The Texas/Louisiana boundary is the international border, but the border river is called the Sabine. The Gulf of California is labelled as such, with the "Vermillion Sea" as an alternative name. The New Spain province of Sonora extends north almost (but not quite) to the Rio Gila (the international border from 1848 to 1854--after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo but before the Gadsden Purchase).

Carey, H.C. and I. Leo. Geographical, Statistical, and Historical Map of Mexico and Internal Provinces. 1822. Size: 40.5x60cm. Scale: not indicated.

This is one of the principal surviving maps from the period just after Mexican independence in 1821. The Mexico-U.S. border extends well to the north of modern boundaries. The province of Coahuila extends far into modern Texas; "Nueva Biscaya (Durango)" extends well into modern New Mexico; and Sonora extends well into modern Arizona. New Mexico, however, which extends north to the Arkansas River, is still part of Mexico. The northern part of Baja California is not shown.

Tanner. H.S. A Map of the United States of Mexico. 1826. Size: 31x23.5 in. Scale: 1:5,500,000.

This excellent map labels Mexico's northern border as the "Border of 1819" which was the boundary established by the U.S. treaty with Spain of 1819. That treaty, ratified 2 years prior to Mexican independence from Spain, set the U.S. southwest border along the Sabine, Red, and Arkansas Rivers to the Rocky Mountains and then westward along the 42nd parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Sonora extends far to the north, and includes an area labelled "Apachería" in the middle of modern Arizona. New Mexico, labelled "N. Mexico or Santa Fe", is also larger than its modern boundaries.

Colburn. Mexico. 1828. Size: 29.5x22 in. Scale: 1:5,500,000.

A large, generally accurate map of the new Mexican Republic. The Mexico-U.S. border, however, is not clearly delineated; and U.S. areas are sketchy. Large letters across the northern part of the map proclaim "Indian Territory".

Yeager, J. Texas, Mexico, and Part of the United States. 1830.

Published six years prior to the establishment of the Texas Republic in 1836, this map shows Texas as a separate entity outside Mexico or the United States. The Austin Colony (the original settlement of U.S. citizens in Texas) is shown near the location of present-day Houston. The Mexican colony of "N. Mexico or Santa Fe" is far larger than modern New Mexico. Chihuahua extends far to the north of Texas' western border. Texas' southern border is shown as the Rio Nueces--not the Rio Grande--supporting Mexican claims disputed during the U.S.-Mexico War. The "Rio Bravo del Norte" (Rio Grande), rather than flowing between the two countries, flows to the south through the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas.

Edwards, Frank S. Map Showing Col. A.W. Doniphan's Route Through the States of New Mexico, Chihuahua, and Coahuila. Philadelphia, 1847. From Frank S. Edwards, A Campaign to New Mexico with Col. Doniphan.

This military map from the U.S.-Mexican War shows the expedition's route from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Santa Fe, then down the Rio Grande, back up to El Paso, west to Chihuahua, then to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico slightly south of the mouth of the Rio Grande. An excellent representation of the region covered.

Map of the Mouth of the Gila River. 1849.

A manuscript map of the mouth of the Gila River, one of the terminal points of the boundary line mentioned in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The survey from which this map was compiled was led by Lt. A.W. Whipple of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, assistant astronomer in the boundary survey.

Map of the Republic of Mexico. New York: J.H. Colton. 1851. Size: 67x93 cm. Scale: 1:12,672,000.

Published just after the end of the Mexican War and prior to the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, this map shows an undefined, wavy border between the two countries. Individual states are colored brightly to delineate their boundaries. The map shows the incorporation of Texas and California as new states of the U.S., and shows the New Mexico Territory occupying all the space between, as the Arizona Territory did not yet exist. The Mexican states along the international border show their new boundaries as established by the 1851 acts of the Mexican Congress, accepting the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo settling the U.S.-Mexican War.

Emory, W.H. General Map Showing the Countries Explored and Surveyed by the United States and Mexican Boundary Commission in the Years 1850, 51, 52 & 53. New York: J.H. Colton and Co. (original); Washington: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1975 (reprint). Size: 37 x 48 in. Scale: 1:12,672,000.

The Mexico-U.S. border is shown as a light dotted line with modern boundaries (including the Gadsden Purchase as part of the U.S.). Includes rough drawings of mountains and other geographical features. Surveyors' remarks are written on the map surface, such as: "the whole country from the headwaters of the Red, Brazos, and Colorado Rivers to the Rio Pecos is a sterile and barren plain without water...timber producing only a few stunted shrubs...insufficient to sustain animal life." Shows state and territory names (e.g.: "Lower California"). The general color is faded yellow. Contains this significant note: "This map was developed by Brevet Major W.H. Emory from his own itinerary and the most up to date information available at the time. The map is noted for its depiction of the whole Western country south of the Oregon border. It was through Emory's effort that the Southwest lost its status as an unknown quantity."

Colton's Mexico. New York: G.W. and C.B. Colton & Co., 1854. Withdrawn from Colton's Atlas of the World, 1855. Size: 33x40cm. Scale: 1:8,200,000.

The Mexico-U.S. border is drawn with modern boundaries, reflecting the Gadsden Purchase of 1854. Baja California is called "California" with no dividing line between modern Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur. "New Mexico" is the label for two separate places: modern New Mexico and the region of present-day New Mexico and Arizona (the Territory of New Mexico). Phrases written on the map surface include "Uninhabitated" and "Isolated Mountains without grass, wood, or water" in Southern Arizona; and "Vegetation chaparral and cacti" north of the Gulf of California. The Rio Grande is labelled "Rio Bravo or Rio Grande del Norte." Excepting Matamoros, most present-day border cities are not shown.

Young, J.H. A New Map of the United States of America. Philadelphia: Charles Desilver, 1856.

Shows the post-Gadsden Purchase boundaries. Along the southern edge of the Territory of New Mexico is written "Gadsden Treaty Line 1854". U.S. states and territories are colored to delineate their boundaries. Texas includes disputed Adams County in southern Oklahoma, or "Indian Territory". Names of Indian tribes are written on the map surface to indicate their territories. The Great Basin is labelled "Fremont Basin". The legend says "The dotted lines which cross the continent to the west coast of the United States represent the different routes proposed for the GREAT PACIFIC RAILROAD."

General Map of the Southern Land Boundary. 185?.

A map of the area between San Diego, California, and El Paso, Texas, showing the boundary surveyed according to the treaty of 1853 and various boundary proposals made by the Mexican and U.S. commissioners. Shows proposed railroad routes, roads, and Apache trails, missions, and mines and locations of mineral deposits by kind. Comments about terrain and vegetation are included.

García Cubas, Antonio. Reyno de la Nueva España a Principios del Siglo XIX. 1885. From Atlas Pintoresco e Histórico de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Size: large; exact size unknown. Scale: 1:7,600,000.

This excellent historical map, made by a famous 19th century Mexican geographer, shows fewer provinces than modern Mexican maps, which indicates that the country was still in a very formative stage. "Nueva California" is shown as a narrow coastal strip, indicating that the region of the modern U.S. state of California was still largely unexplored, due to its history of weak Spanish political control and remoteness from the United States. The northern boundary of Nuevo Mexico extends to a line above the 40th parallel, and contains extensive unnamed territories.

García Cubas, Antonio. Carta Política. 1885. From Atlas Pintoresco e Histórico de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. Size: 52.5x68.5cm. Scale: 1:7,600,000.

This political map of Mexico shows the modern boundary of the U.S.-Mexico border, and delineates the boundaries of the Mexican states and territories almost as they stand today. The territory of Baja California is now partitioned into northern and southern halves. Above the map are portraits of the Mexican presidents; and surrounding the map are pictures of city halls and palaces of major Mexican cities.

Carta general de la República Mexicana. Paris: Erhard Hermanos for Ministerio de Fomento, 1890. Size: 109x166cm. Scale: 1:2,000,000.

The Mexico-U.S. border is drawn with modern boundaries. El Paso, Texas is identified in its actual location, but across the border in Mexico is "Paso del Norte"; not the modern Ciudad Juarez. The emphasis is on Mexican geographical locations: border cities include Tijuana, Nogales, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, and Reynosa, but not Mexicali. The Gulf of California is labelled "Golfo de California" rather than "Mar de Cortés" as it is often called on other maps. The map is particularly notable for its huge size.

American Bank Notes Company. Mapas de las líneas del Ferrocarril Central y conecciones. New York, 1896. In Modelski, Andrew M., Railroad Maps of the United States. Washington: Library of Congress, 1984.

Traces the routes of the Mexican Central Railroad throughout Mexico in thick dark lines, extending in the north to Piedras Negras (across from Eagle Pass, Tex.) and Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Tex.). Other railways are drawn more lightly, including a line to Nuevo Laredo and a Pacific line from Sonora to Denson, Arizona (within the Gadsden Purchase area, where the line connects with the U.S. southern transcontinental route).

Bartholomew, J.G. The National Geographic Magazine Map of Mexico. National Geographical Society, 1914. Size: 40x60cm. Scale 1:5,000,000.

The Mexico-U.S. border is drawn with modern boundaries. The Rio Grande is labelled as "Rio Grande del Norte". The entire Baja California peninsula is labelled "Lower California". Major roads are shown crossing the border at Laredo, Tex.; Eagle Pass, Tex.; El Paso, Tex.; Nogales, Ariz.; and San Diego, Calif. Tijuana is written as "Tia Juana"; Ciudad Juarez is labelled as "Ciudad Juarez (Paso del Norte)".

Matthews-Northrop Works. Map of Mexico: Prepared Expressly for the National Geographic Magazine. Buffalo: National Geographic Society, 1916. Size: 47x41cm. Scale: 1:6,336,000.

The Mexico-U.S. border is drawn with modern boundaries. Notable differences between this and the 1914 map include the labels "Rio Grande"; "Ciudad Juarez"; and "Porfirio Diaz (Piedras Negras)". Mexicali is shown for the first time (out of the maps listed here).

Walker, Henry P. and Don Bufkin. Historical Atlas of Arizona. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c1979.

Contains these excellent maps which document the Spanish/Mexican role in Arizona's history:

  • "Routes of the Spanish Explorers" shows the explorers' routes through the state and labels them with various names and dates for the period 1540-1776.
  • "Spanish and Mexican Missions and Presidios" locates and dates the founding of those sites, mostly in southern Arizona.
  • "Spanish and Mexican Land Grants" shows confirmed and rejected land claims in the Gadsden Purchase area.
  • "Interior Provinces of New Spain" is a series of two maps: one displays the northern reaches of New Spain from 1776-1821 (the period between U.S. and Mexican independence) and the other displays the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. These areas are outlined and superimposed over the modern U.S. for an excellent comparison of the extent of New Spain, the Louisiana Purchase, and the modern U.S. West.
  • Disturnell Map of 1847 and the Boundary Controversy, 1848-54" and the accompanying text focus on the Disturnell Map's role in the U.S.-Mexico boundary dispute that followed the Mexican War. The map was found to be in error by 130 miles east and west and 30 miles north and south, to the favor of Mexico. The Mexicans tried to defend the map's accuracy, but the Americans eventually proved the map was wrong.
  • "Mexican Cession of 1848" shows the area ceded to the U.S. by Mexico in 1848 (modern California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of modern Arizona and New Mexico--all except the Gadsden Purchase, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas); disputed areas (parts of modern Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas); and the Texas Republic of 1836-45.
  • Six maps of proposed territories to be ceded by Mexico to the U.S. in the Gadsden Treaty (two include Baja California, and one includes much of Coahuila, Chihuahua, and Sonora).

Historical Atlas of the United States. Washington: National Geographic Society, c1988.

Contains a series of 13 small maps, colored to indicate the present-day U.S. land areas which were under the control of various countries at times during, before, and after the 19th century. The maps represent the years 1750, 1763, 1775, 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1960; and detail the historical border changes that occurred between those dates. This is an excellent source on the historical changes to the U.S.-Mexico border throughout its history.

Beck, Warren A and Ynez D. Haase. Historical Atlas of the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c1989.

Contains a series of 12 small maps which detail the territorial expansion of the United States toward the west, representing the years 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1865, 1870, 1890, and 1910. Each map documents the entry of new states into the Union and the historical changes to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Other Sources

Beck, Warren A. and Ynez D. Haase. Historical Atlas of California. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974.

Beck, Warren A. and Ynez D. Haase. Historical Atlas of New Mexico. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.

El Territorio Mexicano. (3 volumes) Mexico: Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, 1982.

Gerhard, Peter. The north frontier of New Spain. (3 volumes) Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.

Preliminary Inventories: Records Relating to International Boundaries. Washington: National Archives, 1968.

Stephens, A. Ray and William M. Holmes. Historical Atlas of Texas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c1989.

Wheat, Carl L. Mapping the Transmississippi West. San Francisco: Grabhorn Press for the Institute of Historical Cartography, 1957.