The Oregon Trail: The Highway of the Pioneers to the Pacific Northwest.


Cartographer(s): William Forsyth McIlwraith
Date: (1932) 1980
Place: Portland
Dimensions: 90.5 x 53.5 cm (35.5 x 21 in)
Condition Rating: Excellent

In stock

William Forsyth McIlwraith’s vibrant and historically rich Oregon Trail map.


This detailed bird’s-eye-view of the northwestern part of America highlights the Oregon Trail and other significant routes like Humboldt, Applegate, Bozeman, and the start of the Santa Fe Trail. Originally designed in 1932 as part of the Works Progress Administration operations and reprinted in 1980, it spans from Kansas City to Vancouver and Sutter’s Fort on the West Coast. The map was the work of artist William Forsyth McIlwraith, renowned for his historic illustrations, including those for the Oregon Public Works of Art program under the WPA.

Covering the expanse from Westport, now Kansas City, to the Pacific coast, the map features the Rocky Mountains, major forts like Kearney, Laramie, Bridger, Hall, and Boise, missions, herds of buffalo, and several key trails such as the Sublette and Lander Cutoffs, the Bozeman and Applegate Trails, and the Overland Trail leading to the Sacramento Valley and the California Gold Mines. It meticulously details early frontier settlements such as Ft. Sutter, Virginia City, and Oregon City.

The map’s decorative border is rich in imagery and historical context. It includes portraits of significant figures in Western expansion and a frieze of wagon trains. The seals of the states traversed by these routes form the upper and lower borders, adding to the map’s comprehensive portrayal of this era.

Published by Binford & Mort Publishing, this map is mounted on linen and would look fabulous framed and displayed on a wall. It stands as a significant, vivid, and historically rich portrayal of a pivotal time in American history.


William Forsyth McIlwraith

William Forsyth McIlwraith was an artist known for his historic illustrations, particularly those he created for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s. His work was part of the WPA’s efforts to provide jobs for artists and other workers during the Great Depression.

McIlwraith contributed to the Oregon Public Works of Art program, which was a part of the WPA. This program commissioned artists to create works that often focused on American history, culture, and landscapes, with a particular emphasis on capturing the spirit and challenges of earlier times in the United States.

While there is not an abundance of widely available information on McIlwraith’s life and entire body of work, his contributions to the WPA, particularly his maps and illustrations depicting significant historical events and locations like the Oregon Trail, suggest that he had a keen interest in and talent for bringing historical scenes and landscapes to life through his art. His work played a role in both documenting and celebrating American history during a time when the nation was recovering from economic hardship.

Condition Description

Linen backed.