This extremely rare, gargantuan, and beautifully colour lithographed work is by far and away the finest and most accurate map of Hispaniola made to date. It is the result of the collaboration of Alexandre Poujol, one of Haiti’s leading jurists, statement and diplomats, and Henri Thomasset, the Frenchman who for over three decades had been the preeminent civil engineer and mining and railway entrepreneur in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Based in good part upon their unparalleled access to privileged source maps and intelligence, the work is one of the great masterpieces of cartography in the Americas of the early 20th century.
Importantly, while a rigorous adherence to empiricism guided the creation of the map regarding its depiction of topographical and manmade features, with respect to Haiti and the Dominican Republic’s disputed international borders, the map functions as a work of cartographic propaganda, boldly advancing Haiti’s maximal boundary claims as a fait accompli, in defiance of the reality on the ground (i.e., the Dominican Republic controlled far more territory than as shown on the map). Specifically, in central and southern Hispaniola, it shows the boundaries, based upon obsolete treaties, to run far to the east of their true course, granting Haiti hundreds of sq kms of additional territory beyond what it possessed. The map was officially endorsed by the Haitian government, being published under the authority of its Minister of Justice and Information.
While Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island, history has dictated that they are radically different countries and societies. Hispaniola, with an area of 76,192 sq km, is the second largest of the Greater Antilles, of which the Dominican Republic comprises 48,445
sq km and Haiti possesses 27,750 sq km. Historically, it had the distinction of being the first European colony in the New World, home to Santo Domingo, the first European city in the Americas (founded by Columbus in 1498).
While Hispaniola enjoyed a heyday in the 16th century, the Spaniards came to neglect the colony in favour of Cuba (an agrarian powerhouse), and Mexico and Peru, with their seemingly limitless bounty of gold and silver. Spain’s lethargy allowed France to take over the western third of the island during the 17th century, with the first arrivals being French pirates on the island of Tortuga, from 1625, with the first proper French settlement being founded at Léogâne in 1663. Spain and France agreed on the boundaries between their domains on the island at the Treaty of Aranjuez (1777), which gave France’s colony of ‘Saint-Domingue’ a territory somewhat smaller than that of today’s Haiti, although this included the island’s best farmland.
While the Spanish side of Hispaniola languished, being lightly populated, with an economy based upon haciendas farming cattle, employing limited slavery, over the 18th century Saint-Domingue became the world’s greatest sugar-slave economy. By the 1780s, its 7,000 slave plantations were responsible for 40% of France’s overseas trade, producing 40% of the world’s sugar and over half of its coffee!
During the extremely bloody Haitian Revolution (1791 – 1804), Haiti’s slaves and free colored men revolted, defeating France and, in 1804, declaring the country’s independence, forming the first Black-ruled nation in the Americas. However, this epic achievement was followed by the country losing itself in constant civil wars and turmoil that ruined its economy.
Meanwhile, in 1821, the Spanish side declared its independence as the Republica Dominicana, but only for the entire nation to be conquered by Haiti in 1822. Indeed, Haiti had developed into a martial society, such that the relatively peaceable Dominicans were no match for their neighbours. The Dominican Republic was occupied by Haiti until 1844, when the prior successfully rebelled. However, war between the nations continued until 1856, producing much bad blood.
Haiti, still the more powerful player, coerced the Dominicans into disadvantageous boundary arrangements, in 1856 and 1874, although these ‘accords’ were inevitably not accepted by Santo Domingo, as the ‘line of control’ remained far to the west of the supposed treaty frontiers, being close to today’s Haitian-Dominican boundary. In a rare climate of civility, in 1901, a joint commission of the two countries (which included Alexandre Poujol) amicably settled the northern part of the frontier, while the rest of the line remained ambiguous.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Haiti continued to experience extreme political and economic turmoil, further impoverishing the country (even if there was still good money to be made by certain entrepreneurs, like Thomasset). On the other side, the Dominican Republic, despite some political instability, ‘got its act together’, and rapidly industrialized, improving its infrastructure, and dramatically increasing the productivity of its agrarian and mining sectors, becoming far wealthier than its neighbour. By the time that the present map was made, the balance of power had, for the first time in history, shifted to from Port-au-Prince to Santo Domingo.
What Poujol and Thomasset could not have known was that United States, in its muscular ‘imperialist’ phase, taking advantage of the fog of World War I, would use lame pretenses to invade and occupy both Haiti (1915-34) and the Dominican Republic (1916-24), as it had done with Cuba in 1898. This saw a rapid expansion of American investment in both nations, generally of the exploitative nature, that enriched U.S. corporations and their partners amongst the local elite, at the expense of the common people.
The Poujol-Thomasset Map of Hispaniola in Focus
A mandatory prerequisite for any discussion of the Poujol-Thomasset map of Hispaniola is an awareness of General Casimiro de Moya’s Mapa de la Isla de Santo Domingo y Haiti (London: Rand McNally, 1906), which has the distinction of being the first high quality, large format map of the island. Made by the preeminent Dominican military engineer, the well-known map (which is far less rare that present work) is a grand accomplishment, especially with regards to its depiction of the Dominican Republic (although Moya’s portrayal of Haiti was less sound). Critically, Moya’s map depicted the Haitian-Dominican boundary to follow the ‘line of control’, like today’s border, which runs well to the west of Haiti’s claimed frontiers.
Please see a link to an image of the Moya map, courtesy of the Library of Congress:
At first glance, the Poujol-Thomasset map, the first edition of which was issued in Paris in 1908, looks to a ‘knock-off’ of Moya’s work, being of the same style, format, and layout. However, this impression could not be further from the truth. Poujol and Thomasett clearly intended for the map to mimic Moya’s work so that it could serve as counterpoint, in what became a duel of cartographic propaganda, depicting the Haitian reprise concerning the disputed international boundary. While Thomasset and Poujol admired Moya’s efforts greatly, they resolved to “do better”, by dramatically improving upon Moya’s depiction of Haiti, and even ameliorating some aspects the of the portrayal of the Dominican Republic.
The present second edition of the Poujol-Thomasset map, published in 1912, billed as the “Nouvelle édition rectifiée”, features notable improvements over the 1908 issue, especially with regards to the depiction of certain regions of Haiti, and details concerning infrastructure and resource development across the country, as well as featuring a much-improved plan of Port-au-Prince.
The map, beautifully colour lithographed in Paris, showcases Hispaniola to a grand scale of 1:400,000, and provides a wealth of detail on the topography, infrastructure, and economic development, predicated upon the latest sources. The ‘Legénde’, upper left, explains the symbols used to locate the national capitals, department or provincial capitals, seats of arrondissements, local centres, military posts (forts), villages, rural estates, refineries (sugar, cacao, coffee, tobacco, and rubber; often noting the name of the facility), telegraph and telephone stations, roads for pedestrians and horses, roads fit for carriages, railways in operation, railways under construction, boundaries of departments or provinces, limits of arrondissements, mines (noting the appropriate minerals and whether they were in use or in exploration). Additionally, the map features the spot heights of mountain peaks and bathymetric soundings in the seas.
Of note, the Poujol-Thomasset map was the first document to break the news of the discovery of the first major oil deposit discovered in Haiti, marked on the map as ‘Huille lignites’, at a place west-southwest of Hinche, in the east-central part of the country. While Haiti does indeed possess significant viable petroleum deposits, political instability had ensured that these resources have never been exploited, much to the detriment of such an impoverished nation.
On the controversial matter of international boundaries, a note below the Legénde states that
‘The Dominican-Haitian Mixed Commission of 1901 delimited the northern part from the mouth of the Massacre River down to its confluence with the Capotille River’, and indeed, this stretch of the frontier, in northern Hispaniola, is shown to definitively run according to its precepts. However, south of that point, the map, as explained in the Legénde, employs a Bold Pink Line to represent the Dominican-Haitian boundary as established by Article 4 of the Treaty of November 9, 1874, while a Bold Yellow Line represents the Dominican-Haitian boundary as established in 1856 ‘according to Dominican documents’. Thus, the map does not show the prevailing ‘line of control’, which in central and southern Hispaniola runs considerably to the west of these two lines, but rather indicates that Haiti’s true bounds should lie upon one of, or somewhere between, the 1856 and 1874 treaty lines. This stands in sharp contrast to the Moya map, which shows the border to definitively run along the line of control. Thus, Poujol and Thomasset’s map seeks to legitimize Haiti’s maximal boundary ambitions, moving the marker in advance of possible future negotiations with the Dominican Republic. However, Haitian-Dominican border discussions would not resume until the late 1920s, resulting in a 1929 agreement that settled 80% of the boundary, while the remaining 20% was demarcated by a 1936 Protocol, essentially producing today’s 395 km-long Haitian-Dominican frontier.
Also, below the Legénde, is a listing of the ports in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic that are open to foreign trade, as well as noting the major international shipping lines that serviced Hispaniola’s ports, as well as the shipping times along key routes (ex. Port-au-Prince to New York took 5 days).
The work features two excellent, detailed maps of the capitals of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The one on the left, ‘Ville de Port-au-Prince 1912 / Eschelle de 1:10000 / Selon de plan de l’ingénieur L.G. Tippenhauer e 1891 mis á jour’, features a key labelling 46 sites. It is after an official plan by Louis-Gentil Tippenhauer (1867 – 1959), a Haitian engineer of Polish-German descent, who was the longtime chief municipal engineer of Port-au-Prince, as well as a ground-breaking geologist and meteorologist, authoring foundational studies in these fields, as well as creating regional maps. He was a close friend of Thomasset and provided much critical source material for the general map.
The inset to the right, ‘Ville de Santo Domingo et ses Envrions / Eschelle de 1:10000 / Selon le plan de Mr. C.N. de Moya, 1905, mis á jour’, is am masterly map, with a key locating 52 sites, based upon General Moya’s plan.
Additionally, the map features two large distance tables, with the one on the left recording maritime distances between Hispaniola’s ports, and the other road distances between the island’s key centres.
The Poujol-Thomasset map was a very large and expensive work in its day and would have been issued in only a small print run for the use of government officials, diplomats, and leading businessmen. In addition to its propagandist purpose of promoting Haiti’s expansive boundary claims, it would have served critical practical uses. It would have been very valuable to anyone charged with allocating resources within their respective countries, or for investors in the agrarian, railway, or mining sectors. While the map would mostly have been reserved for elite consumption, examples were likely hung up on the walls of public bureaus such that they would have been observed by some elements of the masses.
Indicative of the map’s practical utility, the present example features extensive manuscript additions in red marker, in a very neat hand. These show the routes of an extensive tour of the island, through both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The manuscript box, superimposed in the upper left, explains that the ‘Districts Recommended in Report’ are marked by ‘circles’ while the ‘Districts covered’ are traversed by red lines. Thus, the map was used to illustrate a now supposedly lost written report. Given that the manuscript additions are in English, and that they seem to date from not too long after the map was issued, it is likely that they were added by an American entity (either a government bureau or some official contractor) who conducted an inspection tour of the island during the period of U.S. occupation in the late 19-teens or early ’20s.
The Cartographers: Alexandre Poujol & Henri Thomasset
Alexandre Poujol (1865 – 1924) was born in Cap–Haïtien, the son of Joseph-Marcel Poujol (1827-1911), a Senator of the Republic. He received his early education locally, but studied law in Paris, where he developed specializations in international boundary settlements and commercial regulations. He contributed to the prestigious journals, Revue générale de droit international and l’Annuaire de législation étrangère. Returning to Haiti, he variously served as leading private attorney, a judge, and a Deputy of the House of Representatives. He notably wrote the definitive work on the commercial laws of the Haiti, Code de commerce d’Haiti (Berlin, 1910). He served on diplomatic missions in Cuba, Porto Rico, Jamaica, France, and the U.S., and notably was the Haitian Chargé d’Affaires in Santo Domingo. Relative to the present map, he served as a member of the joint Haitian-Dominican Boundary Commission (1899-1901), which succeeded in settling the northern course of the frontier between the two nations. Latterly, he was the Chief of Staff of the Haitian Foreign Ministry and the Chief Registrar of Haiti.
Henri Thomasset (b. 1845) was for over three decades the preeminent civil engineer in both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as a leading entrepreneur in the mining and railway sectors. A graduate of the prestigious l’Ecole Centrale de Paris and an Officier de la Légion d’Honneur, he moved to the Dominican Republic around 1880. A man of enormous talent and charm, the Dominican authorities entrusted him with a series of grand projects, including the urban plan for the new city of La Romana (founded in 1897), that became a great centre for the sugar industry; the plan for the San Cristobal-Santo Domingo Railway; the building of the the Iglesia Parroquial Mayor in Santiago de los Caballeros; the plan for the Puerto Plata aqueduct and the concession to build the republic’s eastern railways. Around 1900, Thomasset moved to Cap–Haïtien, where he became Haiti’s dominant figure in developing the country’s mines and railways. His son, Charles Thomasset (b. Paris, 1874), was likewise an engineer in Haiti, serving as the director of the Port-au-Prince Tramway Company, whereupon he helped gather source material for the present map.
On the Sources and Construction of the Pujol-Thomasset Map
Poujol and Thomasset worked tirelessly to gather the best possible sources in preparing the present map. Both men had acquired many valuable maps in the process of their professional duties, while Thomasset would have personally drafted many key regional, mining and railway maps. Both men were part of the official and commercial elite on the island and would have had access to privileged sources that could not be collected by anyone else.
Fortunately, Thomasset extensively recorded their experiences in creating the present 1912 edition of the map. In a lengthy letter he penned to the Cap–Haïtien newspaper Le Cable, dated January 12, 1911, he wrote (as translated):
It remains to talk about the map from the “physical geography” point of view: I had considered this side as very important for the territory of Haiti. There were such errors in all those already published, including that of my friend General de Moya, that we were going to manage to do better, and give as much precision as possible to the position of towns, villages, rivers, roads and mountains.
This is how I brought into this map all the documents, notes and sketches amassed by me during my fifteen-year stay, all those gathered by my son Charles in Port-au-Prince, and all those published there, several times in Germany by my friend and colleague, the engineer Gentil Tippenhauer on the geology and mineralogy of different parts of Haiti.
It is not yet complete, but this map leaves far behind everything that has appeared so far on Haiti. We checked all the most recent nautical charts and I endeavored to reproduce the outline of the coasts with the most exactness possible; on this side, my friend M. de Moya had little information.
We are therefore aware of having endowed Haiti with a useful work and as the agricultural and industrial development of the country will only come through the study and examination of its territory, explorers will be able to consult and work on our card with great practical utility. (Duvivier, p. 109).
A printed line on the map itself, located above the Legénde, reads (as translated):
Note. – This Map was established and drawn up according to the documents published to date on the topography of the island thanks to our many personal works and to the many geological and topographical documents of the engineer L.-G. Tippenhauer, we were able to complete and rectify the map of the Republic of Haiti.
The outline of the coasts of the island has been reproduced, as faithfully as possible, from French, English and American nautical charts, recently published, and the notes left by passing warships.
For the Dominican Republic, we have reproduced, corrected, and updated the map of General C.N. de Moya, 1905.
The principal known and explored mineral deposits, in the two Republics, are indicated as well as the telegraph or telephone stations, the submarine cables and the soundings at sea.
A Note on Rarity
The present map is extremely rare, in either of its editions. A lavish and expensive work in its day, it seems that it was issued in only small prints runs for the use of government officials and leading business figures and was never intended to be a mass production, while the survival rate of such large format maps destined for tropical climes is extremely low.
We can trace only 3 institutional examples of the present 1912 revised edition, held by the Bayerische Staarsbibliothek, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Yale University), and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. As for the 1908 edition, we can locate 3 examples, at the Library of Congress, Boston College, and Brigham Young University (Salt Lake City). Moreover, we are not aware of any sales records for any another examples.
References: Bayerische Staarsbibliothek: Mapp. XXI,58; Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Yale University): 853 1912; Buffalo and Erie County Public Library: G4940 .P68 1912; OCLC: 219159443, 877912349. Cf. (re: 1908 edition:) Library of Congress: G4940 1908 .P6; Boston College: G4940 1908 .P6 WILLIAMS; (re: either the 1908 or 1912 editions:) Ulrick DUVIVIER, Bibliographie Générale et Méthodique d’Haïti, tom. I (Port-Au-Prince: Imprimerie de l’Etat, 1941), p. 109; LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, A List of Atlases and Maps Applicable to the World War (Washington, D.C., 1918), p. 168; Memorial de la librairie francaise: revue hebdomadaire des livres, complement de la bibliographie francaise, tom. 18 (1912), p. 93; Thomas Wayland VAUGHAN and Charles Wythe COOKE / U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, A Geological Reconnaissance of the Dominican Republic (Washington, D.C., 1921), p. 23.