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A PROSPECTUS FOR THE ‘CHESAPEAKE LINE COMPANY’ ENCOURAGING IMMIGRATION THROUGH VIRGINIA VIA STEAMSHIP WITH 3 HAND-COLORED MAPS

[[CHESAPEAKE LINE COMPANY]. ] Compagnie Franco-Américaine des navires a vapeur de la Chesapeake par Lorient-Norfolk. Chesapeak Line Company. . Paris, [c. 1854].

4to [26.8 x 19.9 cm], 15 pp., (1) p. blank verso, with (3) folding lithograph maps. Disbound. Very minor waviness to leaves, otherwise pristine.
[With the map:] Planisphère indiquant la route directe de Lorient à San Francisco, par Norfolk. Lith. Napoléon Chaix & Cie., Paris.
[And with:] Plan de la rade de Lorient. Extrait de la Carte hydrographique de Beautemps-Beaupré. Lith. C. Oberthur, à Rennes.
[And with:] Rail Road Map of the United States Showing the routes of all the rail roads in progress, Constructed et [sic] Proposed 1851. Compagnie Franco-Américaine des Bateaux à vapeur de la Chesapeake par Lorient-Norfolk. Lith. Napoléon Chaix & Cie., Paris. The maps with hand coloring and annotations, and excellently preserved.

$3,350

Very rare first edition of a mid-19th-century French prospectus promoting investment in the Chesapeake Line Company of transatlantic passenger steamers, here in an example containing 3 rare, hand-colored, folding, lithograph maps charting the journey from Lorient in Brittany, to Norfolk, Virginia, and thence via railroad into the interior of the United States. We have located only two copies of this prospectus in public collections, and neither contains the maps, suggesting the present example is an especially rare complete copy, or perhaps a copy extra-illustrated with maps first used in other contexts by the Chesapeake Line Company; the map of the harbor at Lorient, in fact, seems to have been ‘recycled’ from another source and annotated in manuscript to make it relevant for inclusion in the present document.

The prospectus extolls Virginia’s beauty, its central location, historical importance as the home state of presidents, its varied geography, its agricultural and mineralogical resources, and Virginians’ enterprising spirit and proclivity for political involvement, but is also critical of the state’s recent neglect of industry and commerce. The document suggests that investment in the Compagnie Franco-Américaine des navires a vapeur de la Chesapeake par Lorient-Norfolk might help both Virginia and Brittany awaken from their economic slumber. Space is given to enumerating advantages of steam ships over sailing ships in terms of cargo capacity, safety, speed, and reliability, to describing the rail lines leading into the American west, and to analyzing the rise in German immigration after the Revolutions of 1848-49 as a steady customer base. Full calculations of projected expenses and revenues of the initial series of voyages are provided.

The first map shows the route of from Eastern and Central Europe via Lorient across the Atlantic to Norfolk and then overland to San Francisco (the California gold rush of 1849 was, of course still much in force at the time this prospectus as printed). The second map depicts the harbor at Lorient and has been annotated and hand colored to indicate the location of the proposed docks of the Chesapeake Line Company, while the third map shows the eastern U. S. railway network in 1851, extending from Norfolk as far as Houston.

OCLC locates examples (without the maps) at UVA and the Library of Virginia. OCLC locates none of the three maps.

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