Alvin J. Johnson (1827-1884)

Alvin Johnson started out as a book canvasser, selling books and atlases door to door, before going into the business of atlas publishing himself in 1860. Johnson was able to draw on maps originally developed by J. H. Colton, whom he and his business partner Ross C. Browning had helped rescue financially in the late 1850s. Later his maps were drawn in-house. Johnson’s publishing company went through regular name changes as his business partnerships changed until 1879, when its name stabilized as “A.J. Johnson, Publisher” or “A.J. Johnson and Co.” Regardless of the name of his company, Johnson’s main product was Johnson’s New Illustrated (Steel Plate) Family Atlas, With Descriptions Geographical, Statistical and Historical. It was first published in 1860 and was nearly continually reprinted until 1887 (with the possible exception of 1875 and 1876, from which no atlases survive). The Family Atlas was kept up to date with new maps and contributed to a general sense that a reference atlas belonged in every good home library.

This exhibit contains one map associated with Johnson: