Home » Product » Ye True Chart of Pirate Treasure Lost or hidden in the Land & Waters of Florida

Ye True Chart of Pirate Treasure Lost or hidden in the Land & Waters of Florida

  • Author: ODUM, Ralph Emerson (designer) / SANFORD, Warner (artist)
  • Publisher: Ralph E Odum Maps, Lakeland, Florida
  • Date: 1950
  • Dimensions: sheet: 43 x 50 cms / map: 41 x 48 cms


Ye True Chart of Pirate Treasure [1950]: Ralp E Odum’s colourful pictorial chart of Florida’s best-known pirate treasure sites

About this piece:

Ye True Chart of Pirate Treasure Lost or hidden in the Land & Waters of Florida…

Colour-printed lithograph on lightly toned parchment-like paper. Some verso toning. Barely noticeable reinforcements & cosmetic repairs to blank margins at sheet edges. One barely visible neatly closed tear just intruding into map border on side at lower left. With all a fine example.

This archetypal “pirate treasure chart” of Florida, “being a map to show the whereabouts of much Gold and Silver and other Loot which with good cause is believed to be lost or buried by Gasparilla, Black Caesar and other pirates of the Spanish Main” was conceived and compiled by the unlikeliest of American post-war cartographers, Florida’s Assistant State Attorney General, Ralph Emerson Odum [1913-1966], working in close cooperation with Tallahassee draughtsman, Warner Sanford [1906-1984] of the Florida State Highways Department, who is also credited at the lower right.

Odum’s map was originally published in two slightly different editions – a larger Tallahassee first edition (44 x 50 cms)  copyrighted in January  1950 and this slightly smaller-scale second Lakeland edition (41 x 48 cms) copyrighted six months later. The copyright for the larger map was seemingly renewed by Odum’s widow, Christina in June 1977.

According to an article published in Alabama’s Anniston Star in July 1950, Ye True chart was the product of a three year research project by Odum which had involved sifting hundreds of legends, rumours and stories of Floridian treasure. His investigations led him to the archives of the Florida State Library & Library of Congress as well as to the files of the Encyclopaedia Britannica! Selecting only the best documented stories, Odum’s map pinpointed the persistently-reported locations (of course, marked by red crosses!) of some $165 million worth of treasure.

These locations reference not only gold and treasures from the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries but also more recent wreck sites, such as that of the rum-laden boat which supposedly floundered in the estuarial waters of the Apalachicola River at the end of the American Civil War with a cargo of 1500 gallons of now vintage liquor.

Nor did Odum’s chart pretend to be an exact and precise guide to ancient bucaneering loot. “If I could do that, I’d go and dig it up myself” noted Odum when interviewed by the Anniston Star, though, in the course of his initial research, he claimed to have visited almost all of the sites marked on his map.

The map reflected the rapidly growing popularity of both pirate stories and treasure hunting in early post-war America. Increasing numbers of treasure-seeking permits were issued by the Florida state after World War II. In the early 1950s they cost just $100 and offered a 12.12% royalty on the proceeds of any valuables discovered, though of course they depended upon the honesty of those involved in declaring their discoveries to the authorities. They were a legal requirement for hunting treasure on all state-owned land or in coastal sea and river beds. Amongst the most favoured areas were the Gulf Coast of Florida, the Florida Keys and the mouth of the Suwannee River, supposed site of a sunken Spanish treasure galleon. Odum’s own No.1 choice was the wreck of the Spanish galleon, Santa Rosa, en route from Mexico, which records suggest sank off Key West in 1520, reputedly carrying the Aztec gold of Moctezuma. It was believed to have been re-discovered off Key West just 4 years before the publication of Odum’s map, in April 1946, by famed US diver, Irwin A Williamson.

Warner Sanford embellished the chart with sketches of indigenous Floridians natives, swash-buckling pirates, their brutalised victims, a pirate galleon flying the Jolly Roger and a compass spur in the form of the skull & crossbones. A decorative border frieze is inscribed with the names of well-known bucaneers and pirates such as Henry Teach, William Rogers and Henry Morgan. A subsequent Tallahassee reissue of the map, possibly coinciding with the renewal of the map’s copyright by Odum’s window in August 1977, is also known. At the time of Richard S Ladd’s compilation of the Library of Congress listing of Treasure Maps & Charts in 1964, Odum’s two maps were still available for sale direct from the publisher in Lakeland, FL.

A very similar pictorial map, The Pirates & Treasures of the Southeastern States, drawn by Floridian newspaper cartoonist & illustrator, Henry (Hank) G Schlensker [1914-1997], clearly modelled on Odum’s but embellished with striking individual pirate portraits & encompassing all of the coastlines between the Carolinas & Louisiana, was copyrighted & published in 1952 by Orlando’s Fred C Keiser.

Refs: Rumsey Collection;

A Descriptive List of Treasure Maps & Charts compiled by Richard S. Ladd (Map Division, Reference Department, Library of Congress, 1964) p.12, Nos 63 & 64 (Odum maps) & 65 (Keiser map)