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!

18th Century Maps of North America: Perception vs. Reality

Between 1755 and 1775, over the course of just twenty years, three seminal maps of North America were published in London, even though those responsible for the maps never left England! These three maps, discussed in more detail below, were prepared for a British audience in an attempt to reinforce opinions regarding British control of North America. A fourth map, also published in London, depicts the extent of the United States in 1802.

Mitchell, John, Thomas Kitchin, and Andrew Millar. A map of the British and French dominions in North America, with the roads, distances, limits, and extent of the settlements, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Halifax, and the other Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations. [London; Sold by And: Millar, 1755] Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Mitchell, John, Thomas Kitchin, and Andrew Millar. A map of the British and French dominions in North America, with the roads, distances, limits, and extent of the settlements, humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Halifax, and the other Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners for Trade & Plantations. [London; Sold by And: Millar, 1755] Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Arguably the most important of the first three pre-1800 maps addressed in this blog is John Mitchell’s iconic 1755 Map of the British and French Dominions in North America pictured above. At the request of the English Board of Trade and Plantations, the equivalent of the State Department, Mitchell was tasked with preparing a large map of North America based upon maps provided by each of the thirteen colonial governors. The intriguing story behind the map lies with its illustrated claim of English sovereignty extending from the Atlantic Ocean westward past the Mississippi and, eventually, to the Pacific Ocean. These claims are evidenced by the horizontal colonial boundaries extending into French territory.

Our second map, pictured below, was originally published in London by Emanuel Bowen in 1763. Unlike Mitchell’s map, which incorporated the territorial aspirations of the British colonies, the 1763 map by Bowen illustrated the political realities dictated by the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Year’s War in North America.

Bowen, Emanuel, -1767, J Gibson, and Robert Sayer. An accurate map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British and Spanish dominions on this great continent; according to the definitive treaty concluded at Paris 10th Feby. Also all the West India Islands belonging to, and possessed by the several European princes and states. London, Printed for Robert Sayer, 1763. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Bowen, Emanuel, -1767, J Gibson, and Robert Sayer. An accurate map of North America. Describing and distinguishing the British and Spanish dominions on this great continent; according to the definitive treaty concluded at Paris 10th Feby. Also all the West India Islands belonging to, and possessed by the several European princes and states. London, Printed for Robert Sayer, 1763. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The third revolutionary map in our saga was published in London by Carington Bowles in 1771. Like the Bowen map illustrated above, it, too, includes colonial territory lost in 1763, but also emphasizes unsettled colonial boundaries.  Of those, the most notable are the western boundary of Pennsylvania, the northeastern boundary of Virginia, and the western boundary of New York, as establishment of each defined those colonies’ access to Lake Erie.

Bowles, Carington. North America, and the West Indies; a new map, wherein the British Empire and its limits, according to the definitive treaty of peace, in , are accurately described, and the dominions possessed by the Spaniards, the French, & other European States. The whole compiled from all the new surveys, and authentic memoirs that have hitherto appeared. [London, 1774 ?, 1774]

Bowles, Carington. North America, and the West Indies; a new map, wherein the British Empire and its limits, according to the definitive treaty of peace, in , are accurately described, and the dominions possessed by the Spaniards, the French, & other European States. The whole compiled from all the new surveys, and authentic memoirs that have hitherto appeared. [London, 177?, 1771]. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The final map of North America in our brief exploration of revolutionary maps was published in London in 1802. Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823) produced the most current and accurate cartographic representation of the American West up to that date. Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark carefully studied the map in 1803 and even carried a copy on the first leg of their landmark expedition. Arrowsmith’s map immediately pre-dates the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and subsequent 1804-06 expedition by Lewis & Clark.  Rather than fill in the American West with conjectural or inaccurate data, he has deliberately left large areas blank, allowing viewers to envision for themselves the nature of the vast territory recently acquired before the landscape could be recorded by scientific surveys.

Arrowsmith, Aaron, and J Puke. A map exhibiting all the new discoveries in the interior parts of North America. [London: A. Arrowsmith, 1802]. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division. 

So why are these maps significant? And how do they illustrate cartographic perception and geographic reality?  First, British control of North America is implied in Mitchell’s 1755 map which depicts British colonies extending from “sea to sea”.  Secondly, the geographic reality of British control of North America are all shown on the commercially produced 1763 Bowen map, the 1774 Bowles’ map, and Arrowsmith’s 1802 map which all relied on factual data. It all comes down to the intentions of each cartographer and those who employed the cartographers!

Learn more:

Creating the United States. A Library of Congress exhibit drawing heavily on items related to American Revolution from various parts of the Library. (April 2008 – May 2012).

Rivers, Edens, and Empires: Lewis and Clark and the Revealing of America. A Library of Congress exhibit showcasing items from various collections the related to Lewis and Clark expedition. (July 2003 – November 2003).

Read more »

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