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Pre-fire Chicago map auctions for nearly $200K

Prior to the tragic fire that swept through Chicago in 1871, canvasser J.T. Palmatary created an ariel-view map of the city. One such map sold for $198,600 during a Sept. auction.

CHICAGO — J.T. Palmatary’s rare birds-eye, pre-fire Chicago map sold for just shy of $200,000 in Leslie Hindman Auctioneers’ September 13 Fine Books and Manuscripts auction conducted in Chicago.

Chicago Map Only One In Private Hands

Palmatary map of Chicago

This pre-fire map of Chicago, by J.T. Palmatary dates to early 19th century. It sold for $198,600. (Photo courtesy Leslie Hindman Auctioneers)

It was printed in 1857 by Braunhold & Sonne and is one of four known copies of this Chicago map. The three other copies are with the Library of Congress, the Newberry Library, and the Chicago History Museum.

The example through Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is the only existing obtainable copy of the Chicago map in private hands. Having sold to a collector in Chicago, it remains in private hands. 

“As the map is one of only four known copies, we’re thrilled that it sold to a Chicago area collector,” said Gretchen Hause, Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

Palmatary's Work Features Historic Locations

Palmatary's aerial views of cities is iconic. The birds-eye view of Chicago came about after the building of the Illinois Central Railroad. It appears in the foreground of the map.

“The Sands,” is visible in the lower right-hand corner. Notorious in its time, the area is a place with high concentration of brothels, gambling dens, saloons and inexpensive motels. The Sands became a point of refuge for displaced Chicagoans.

Palmatary detailed notable places in the city, as depicted on the map via a lower margin legend. The view includes street names, homes, churches and points of industrial interest.

“The market remains strong for rare material in excellent condition. Both of these things contributed to the high price realized for Palmatary’s Chicago map,” said Hause.

For complete auction results and future auction information, visit

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