Slave state or free state?

This map from LaBudde Special Collections shows again just how exciting and historically interesting maps can be. Drawn in 1851 and published in 1854, the map shows the state of Missouri as well as the area to its east: the highly contentious Nebraska territory, with no sign of Kansas as yet. The westward drive for expansion and the building of railroads meant that there was a lot of pressure to develop the territories.

There was a fight about whether Nebraska would be a slave state or free state. Congress fought like cats in a bag over the issue. Finally in 1854, in defiance of the Missouri Compromise and not without much animosity, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed which created the two territories, and launched us well on our way to the Civil War. This map captures the region just on the brink of all of that. Add in the Missouri counties census figures from 1840-1850 of freedmen and slaves included on the map and you have a dynamic portrait of a regional crisis about to explode on the national scene.

Garth Tardy, Library Specialist, Special Formats

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