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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Andreas, Alfred Theodore
(May 29, 1839–February 10, 1900)

–publisher of the 1875 Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa —was one of the foremost cartographic recorders of societal and economic changes in post-Civil War America. Besides the Iowa atlas, he published some two dozen county and state atlases between 1871 and 1875, all built on the same commercial model–lavishly illustrated volumes containing basic maps, land ownership information, portraits of local and state dignitaries, and lithographs of towns, businesses, and farm properties.

    Andreas was born in Amity, New York, and migrated to Dubuque at age 18. Having moved to Illinois in 1860, Andreas enlisted in the 12th Illinois Infantry when the Civil War began. A talent for organization helped him advance rapidly in rank, and he ended his army career as a division commissary, serving with General William Sherman on the March to the Sea and the Carolinas campaigns. Discharged from the army in 1865, Andreas moved to Davenport (a town he had visited during an earlier furlough) and married Davenport native Sophia Lyter.

    Due to economic and societal factors in the rapidly growing western United States, the publication of maps and atlases increased tremendously after the Civil War. Taking advantage of that growing market and a job offer from three former army associates, Andreas began as a salesman for the Thompson & Everts publishing company in 1867. Thompson & Everts was one of a number of companies that published individual county maps based on General Land Office surveys, modified for county residents and sold on subscription. Local subscribers would receive a map that included their name in the list of subscribers as well as on the land they owned in the county. Andreas, one of the firm's best salesmen, soon determined that if one divided county maps into individual township maps and included more information on landowners, businesses, and towns at additional subscriber cost, a complete county atlas could be published and sold even to subscribers who had already purchased an earlier, relatively unadorned county map.

    In 1869-1870, Andreas quit his salesman job and founded Andreas, Lyter & Company, later A. T. Andreas, in Davenport with his brother-in-law John Lyter. That firm compiled approximately two dozen county atlases from 1871 to 1875 at considerable profit. Andreas reasoned that a similar market existed for comparable statewide atlases–large books sold on subscription and containing substantial text and illustrations beyond maps. His company, reorganized and located in Chicago, began work on a state atlas for the relatively new state of Minnesota. Problems with a financial backer, a small base of potential subscribers (less than half a million people in the state), and a wheat crop failure resulted in a substantial loss of money on the Minnesota atlas. Undeterred, Andreas used the same marketing strategy and began work on a similar atlas for Iowa, a state of nearly 1.2 million people in 1870. The Iowa atlas was sold to over 22,000 subscribers for $15, plus additional fees for nonmap extras. The resulting 600page 1875 Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa contained county maps, plat maps of 44 towns, over 300 pages of pictorial subjects, biographical sketches, brief state and county histories, 1870 census statistics, and a listing of atlas patrons. The atlas was then, and still is, an outstanding reference book, giving past and present readers a look at Iowa life in the 1870s.

    Production costs were very high, and sources differ on whether the Iowa atlas made a profit for Andreas. Nonetheless, Andreas moved on to produce an Indiana atlas, a financial disaster from which he never recovered. His company remained in Chicago and reorganized several times between 1876 and 1884; Andreas also worked off and on for other publishers. His final publishing effort resulted in what is still deemed the best historical record of 19th-century Chicago, a three-volume History of Chicago. That venture was probably also, for Andreas, a financial failure.

    Andreas left major publishing behind after the Chicago volumes and never found another gainful occupation. He died in New Rochelle, New York, in 1900.

    Among the many commercial map and atlas producers of the 19th century, Andreas stands out as an excellent recorder of everyday midwestern life. Although his publishing efforts never made him financially stable, his organizational skills and vision of marketing to new landowners were groundbreaking at the time and were soon emulated by others.
Sources For more on Alfred T. Andreas and the 1875 Iowa atlas, see Paul M. Angle, "The Great Repository of Chicago History," Chicago History 8 (1969), 289–303; Michael P. Conzen, "Maps for the Masses: Alfred T. Andreas and the Midwestern County Map Trade," Chicago History 13 (1984), 46–63; William J. Petersen, "Historical Introduction," in Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875 (reprint, 1970); and Walter W. Ristow, "Alfred T. Andreas and His Minnesota Atlas," Minnesota History 40 (1966), 120–29. For more on maps and mapmakers in 19th-century America, see John Rennie Short, Representing the Republic: Mapping the United States 1600–1900 (2001); and Walter W. Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the Nineteenth Century (1985).
Contributor: Mary R. Mcinroy

Cite as: McInroy, Mary. "Andreas, Alfred Theodore" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 1 October 2014