President Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) was elected to the Office of the Vice President of the United States in 1848 and, due to the untimely death of President Zachary Taylor in 1850, Fillmore became the 13th President of the United States. From the standpoint of the Geography and Map Division, however, Millard Fillmore’s most important contribution is his cartographic legacy: He was a map collector!
In 1916, the Geography and Map Division purchased Fillmore’s personal map collection for the sum of $80.00 or approximately $2,000 when adjusted for inflation to 2019 dollars. The collection consists of over 200 items that include maps of individual states and regions in the United States, as well as maps of various locations in Asia, Europe, Russia, and South America. Noteworthy to the provenance of the materials: Fillmore signed most of the maps himself, (e.g., “Millard Fillmore”) followed by the date that the map actually came into his possession.
One of the earliest maps that Fillmore acquired was David H. Burr’s 1829 “Map of the County of Erie” from Burr’s Atlas of the State of New York published in the same year. The city of Buffalo, the county seat of Erie County and the location of Fillmore’s law office, can be seen on the western edge of the map. This particular map is also unique in that Fillmore annotated the map with the names “Fillmore, Hall, Havens” (see detail below.) Millard Fillmore, Nathan Hall, and Solomon Havens practiced law together in the city of Buffalo. One wonders if the map was actually displayed in the law office?
Although Fillmore’s map collecting interests were varied, an excellent example of Fillmore’s curiosity in both western exploration and the development of the American West is found in Lieutenant G.K. Warren’s “Map of the territory of the United States from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean; ordered by Jeff’ Davis, Secretary of War to accompany the reports of the explorations for a railroad route” (Washington, D.C., War Dept., 1863). The map details states and territories west of the Mississippi River and shows several state and territorial boundaries that were, as of the time of publication, unresolved. Idaho, for example, includes portions of current day North and South Dakota and the territory of “Dakota” appears as one entity rather than two separate states. Most importantly, however, the routes of forty-five different western explorations in the first half of the nineteenth century.
While the maps are not considered especially rare, they were the personal property of Millard Fillmore and represent the largest map collection belonging to a President of the United States. Based on Fillmore’s annotated dates, it is likely that the collection of maps and atlases were assembled between 1829 and 1872.
View the digital presentation of the Millard Fillmore Papers from the Library’s Manuscript Division.
Use the text based searchable Finding Aid for the Millard Fillmore Papers prepared by the Library’s Manuscript Division.
To learn more about resources related to our 13th President view the Library’s Web Resource Guide entitled Millard Fillmore: A Resource Guide
The majority of Millard Fillmore’s personal and Presidential papers are held by the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society .