Map of Central America, 1856


This 1856 map of Central America was created by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, based on information provided by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and edited and printed by the New York mapmaker and publisher Adolphus Ranney (1824‒74). It shows the extreme southern part of Mexico and the six countries of Central America: Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador (El Salvador), Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the Mosquito Coast (later British Honduras, today Belize). Panama is still part of Colombia, which at this time is called New Granada. Relief is shown by hachures, contours, and spot elevations in feet. Depths are shown by soundings in feet. Three inset maps at the lower left show the Bay of Fonseca, the Port of San Juan de Nicaragua, and the southern part of Nicaragua from San Juan to the Bay of Fonseca, i.e., from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. The main line of the proposed canal route, running through Lake Nicaragua, is marked on the latter map. In the 1850s, Nicaragua was thought to be the most likely route of an isthmian canal, with Panama not yet seriously considered. Notes on the main map provide information about distances and geographic features, information found on other maps, and competing territorial claims and the status of various boundaries in the region. Under the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, signed by Great Britain and the United States in April 1850, the two powers agreed not to seek exclusive control of the proposed isthmian canal or territory on either side of such a canal, not to fortify any position in the canal area, and not to establish colonies in Central America. The Mosquito Coast, where the British already had settlements, was an exception. The scale of the map is in statute miles.

Last updated: April 13, 2016