{ subscribe_url:'//loc.gov/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/geography-and-maps.php', }

Mapping A World Of Cities

Sponsored by the Leventhal Map Center of the Boston Public Library and the MacLean Collection Map Library in Chicago, IL, the Library of Congress is pleased to announce its participation entitled Mapping A World of Cities in a joint project with the American Geographical Society (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), the David Rumsey Map Center (Stanford Libraries, California), the Harvard Map Collection (Boston, Massachusetts), the John Carter Brown Library (Providence, Rhode Island), the New York Public Library (New York, NY), the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine (Portland, Maine), and the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan), centered on maps of cities large and small from each collection. The goal of the web site is to provide an opportunity to investigate and compare detailed maps of cities from different continents, countries, time periods, and institutions – all from the comfort of your living room!

Curators from each of the participating institutions were invited to select maps and provide captions detailing their significance.  The Geography and Map Division selected a total of five maps and two focusing on Washington, DC are shown below.  The fist, published in 1792 and annotated to show information from 1798, presents a picture of urbanization in the city.  The second map, published in 1884, clearly illustrates the dramatic growth and urbanization of Washington, DC:

Andrew Ellicott. Plan of the city of Washington in the territory of Columbia : ceded by the states of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America, and by them established as the seat of their government, after the year MDCCC. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. Based on the original 1792 map by Andrew Ellicott considered to be the first official plan of the Federal City, this map was annotated in 1798 by William Thornton, Commissioner of Public Buildings and Grounds, to show the various types of building construction (brick, wooden, two story and three story) in the growing city.

Andrew Ellicott. Plan of the city of Washington in the territory of Columbia : ceded by the states of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America, and by them established as the seat of their government, after the year MDCCC. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. Based on the original 1792 map by Andrew Ellicott considered to be the first official plan of the Federal City, this map was annotated in 1798 by William Thornton, Commissioner of Public Buildings and Grounds, to show the various types of building construction (brick, wooden, two story and three story) in the growing city.

 

Adolph Sachse. The national capital, Washington, D.C. Sketched from nature by Adolph Sachse, 1883-1884. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. Published in 1884 by the prolific Baltimore lithographer and printmaker, Adolph Sachse, this view features extraordinary detail. Large portions of the map, as well as the margins, are devoted to advertisements, explanations of the street layout, and a city directory, which allow one to easily locate commercial and government establishments.

Adolph Sachse. The national capital, Washington, D.C. Sketched from nature by Adolph Sachse, 1883-1884. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.  Published in 1884 by the prolific Baltimore lithographer and print maker, Adolph Sachse, this view features extraordinary detail. Large portions of the map, as well as the margins, are devoted to advertisements, explanations of the street layout, and a city directory, which allows one to easily locate commercial and government establishments..

The web site poses several interesting questions and answers including how, when, where, and why do cities develop? Maps are one of our best tools for answering these questions. Cities are founded and grow in particular locations, driven by geographical features like fresh water or deep harbors as well as historical events like royal charters or speculators’ claims. Looking at maps helps us to understand the changing geography of urban life. Maps didn’t just serve as snapshots of how cities looked at one moment in time; in the form of plans, maps were also used to build, speculate, and fight over urban form. Historical maps reflect cities’ ethnic and economic transformations, systems of domination and oppression, sites of monumentality and squalor. They capture good times and bad, expansion, decay, and destruction. City dwellers take great pride in their cities, as part of a shared sense of place that embedded in a historical trajectory. Maps tell the stories of a city’s past, present—and perhaps its future.

Mapping A World of Cities is a digital collaboration between ten map libraries and collections in the United States. Covering four centuries, these maps show how world cities changed alongside the changing art and science of cartography. Explore the maps and images, and click through to the host institutions’ pages for more collections.

The Library of Congress is grateful for the invitation to participate in this unique project as we continue to search for ways to share our collections.

Do you have a suggestion for future collaborative projects?  Please leave a comment below!

Canals of Washington, DC

Washington, D.C., was established as the “permanent seat of the Federal Government” by the passage of the Residence Act in 1790. This act allowed President George Washington to select the site for the new city anywhere along the banks of the Potomac River between its junction with the Shenandoah River, near present day Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and its junction with the Eastern Branch or Anacostia River, just below the current location of Washington, DC.

The area demarcated for the new city was a blank slate and President Washington selected Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant (1754-1825) to create a design for it. The map below, published in 1794, reflects L’Enfant’s vision for the new city with a few improvements attributed to Andrew Ellicott (1754-1820).

Ellicott, Andrew. Plan of the city of Washington in the territory of Columbia: ceded by the states of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America, and by them established as the seat of their government after the year MDCCC. [Perth, Scotland?: s.n., ?, 1792], Geography and Map Division. Published in 1792, the map shows canals leading along from the Potomac River, down the format location of Tiber Creek, to the base of the Capitol, and then south to the Navy Yard.

Ellicott, Andrew. Plan of the city of Washington in the territory of Columbia: ceded by the states of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America, and by them established as the seat of their government after the year MDCCC. [Perth, Scotland?: s.n., ?, 1792], Geography and Map Division. Published in 1792, the map shows canals leading from the Potomac River, down the former location of Tiber Creek (see below), to the base of the Capitol, and then south to the Navy Yard.

The detail below shows the Potomac River, the mouth of Tiber Creek, and the United States Mall as laid out by L’Enfant and Ellicott. Running along the  Mall, as we know it today, was a creek that led westward from roughly the current site of Union Station to the Tidal Basin and, ultimately, to the Potomac River. What many Washingtonians may not realize is that both L’Enfant’s original design, and Ellicott’s improvement incorporated canals to facilitate the shipment of goods and construction materials to build the new city.

United States Office Of Public Buildings And Grounds, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, F. D Owen, Theo. A Bingham, and United States Army. Corps Of Engineers. The Mall as proposed by Pierre L'Enfant: from the original: Washington D.C. [Washington?: Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, 1791]. Geography and Map Division.Map

United States Office Of Public Buildings And Grounds, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, F. D Owen, Theo. A Bingham, and United States Army. Corps Of Engineers. The Mall as proposed by Pierre L’Enfant: from the original: Washington D.C. [Washington?: Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, 1791] Geography and Map Division.

In addition to the canal running past the White House, there were grand plans for a university on the west end of the Mall and a turning basin for the canal at the base of Capitol Hill. The proposed University resembles the original campus of the University of Virginia!

 District Of Columbia. Office Of The Surveyor, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Plan of the west end of the public appropriation in the city of Washington, called the Mall: as proposed to be arranged for the site of the university. 1816. Geography and Map Division.

District Of Columbia. Office Of The Surveyor, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Plan of the west end of the public appropriation in the city of Washington, called the Mall: as proposed to be arranged for the site of the university. 1816. Geography and Map Division.

 

District Of Columbia. Office Of The Surveyor, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Map exhibiting the property of the U.S. in the vicinity of the Capitol: colored red, with the manner in which it is proposed to lay off the same in building lots, as described in the report to the Sup't of the city to which this is annexed. 1815. Geography and Map Division.

District Of Columbia. Office Of The Surveyor, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Map exhibiting the property of the U.S. in the vicinity of the Capitol: colored red, with the manner in which it is proposed to lay off the same in building lots, as described in the report to the Sup’t of the city to which this is annexed. 1815. Geography and Map Division. In addition to the Washington Canal, the topography of Capitol Hill, also known as Jenkins Hill, can be seen running from north to south through the center of the map.

So why the canal?  It was simply a time saving measure.  The sandstone blocks that were used in Read more »

Propaganda Maps to Strike Fear, Inform, and Mobilize – A Special Collection in the Geography and Map Division

Filled with heavy topics of war and occupation, War map: pictorial and propaganda map collection 1900-1950 contains maps and messages that frequently are pointed, unapologetic, and echo the anger and desperation of nations at war. The collection of 180 maps typifies how cartographs were used to influence popular opinion and garner support for military and political efforts […]

Map Helps Uncover Civil War Battlefield Tunnels at Petersburg, Virginia

The Union ambitiously tunneled 511 feet to reach the Confederate lines during siege of Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864. Unique to this Civil War battle, they set off a massive explosion that created a 170-by-120-feet crater beneath the Confederate lines and stormed the defenses in a failed effort, known as the Battle of the Crater. Thereafter, the Confederates worried […]

For Love, War, and Tribute: Featherwork in the Early Americas

This is the second in series of guests posts by Giselle Aviles, the 2019 Archaeological Research Associate in the Geography and Map Division, where she is delving into the treasures of the William and Inger Ginsberg Collection of Pre-Columbian Textiles and the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the History and Archaeology of the Early Americas. […]

Charting the Gulf Stream

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) noticed something odd as Deputy Postmaster General for the American colonies in London: mail took much longer travelling west across the Atlantic than it did travelling east. Several weeks longer, in fact. In a 1746 letter, Franklin ascribes this anomaly to an effect of the Earth’s rotation, making an eastward journey faster […]