New to the Old Print Gallery website are several maps of the United States. The maps range from 1711 to 1851, and mark the exploration and development of settlements beyond the East Coast. Development across the continent was slow after the initial East Coast settlements were established ( Saint Augustine in 1656, Jamestown in 1607, New Plymouth in 1620 and later Detroit in 1700 and New Orleans in 1718). Knowledge of the vast Northern interior was limited to a few miles either side of river courses and to the southwest regions thanks to the establishment of Spanish and later French missions. Accordingly, much of the cartographical information of the United States before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and Lewis and Clark explorations of 1804-06 was scarce and dominated by misconceptions. With the beginning of the Nineteenth century, North American maps tell a story of the great settlement of the west, the exploration of territories, and their subsequent achievements to statehood.
1) A New Map of North America According to the Newest Observations. This copper plate engraving is by Herman Moll. It was published in London 1711 and is from his “Atlas Geographus” . In this map, California appears as an island on the Sanson model. The myth of an insular California has been discussed before on the blog (read about it here and here). Above California, the Straits of Anian are sketchily outlined. The Great Lakes all appear and the Mississippi River is correctly located. In the interior, another early American map misconception is present- Lahontan’s mythical River Longue. (Detail of River Longue below).
French manuscript maps of the 1670s propose a vast flowing river joining the Mississippi to the Pacific. In 1703, Baron Lahontan wrote and produced a map of the “River Longue” that stretched from the Mississippi to a great range of mountains in the west. He depicted a short pass through the mountains from which another river flowed (presumably) into the Pacific. He included accounts of Indian tribes who lived on islands in a great lake near the source of the river, and tales of crocodiles filling the waterways. The story of the large river flowing from the west fired the imaginations of many of his readers, since early exploration of North America was inextricably linked with the quest for a route to the Orient. The River Longue was thus a variant of the North West passage myth, and helped keep it alive. Lahontan’s concept was copied by virtually all cartographers through the 18th century.
2) A Map of the United States of America, with Part of the Adjoining Provinces. This copper engraving, with original hand color, was published June 2, 1791, by R. Wilkinson, London. It was engraved by T. Conder. This map is an early map of the United States, with little development in the West. The Tennessee area has special interest: Clarksville and Knoxville both appear, but not the name Tennessee. Instead the area is divided between “Cumberland” and “Holston,” while still joined to North Carolina.
3) Map of the Northern Part of the United States of America. By Abraham Bradley Jr. This copper engraving was published by Thomas & Andrews, Boston, 1797. It is the first state of two from the “Morse’s American Gazetteer.” Notable for being one of the earliest maps printed in America to extend to the Mississippi River, Bradley’s map is equally important for outlining States I (Ohio), II (Indiana), III (Illinois), IV (Michigan) and V (Wisconsin) — the new states formed from the Old Northwest Territory, as proposed by the Ordinance of 1789. On this map, the Western Reserve is called New Connecticut.
4) United States. By John Tallis. This steel engraving was published by the London Printing and Publishing Company, c.1851. This map is from “The Illustrated Atlas and Modern History of the World” and is a highly sought-after decorative map of the United States. It includes two portraits, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, as well as inset views of a Buffalo Hunt, Penn’s treaty with the Indians, and Washington’s Monument. It also shows a strangely configured Texas and New Mexico, a pre-Indian Territory region called Western Territory, a massive Missouri Territory, and a strangely elongated Nebraska Territory extending northward to Canada.
5) Map of the United States : Engraved to Illustrate Mitchell’s New Intermediate Geography. By J. H. Young. Published by S. Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia. Engraved by E. Yeager. This is an informative United States map, especially in the West. Despite vast developments, many areas retain their territorial status, including Montana, Wyoming, Dakota, Arizona and New Mexico, all of which did not gain statehood until 1889 or later.
To view these, and the other United States maps, available at Old Print Gallery, visit our website ( here) or stop by our Washington, DC gallery, located in the heart of historic Georgetown.