Mapping a Growing Nation: From Independence to Statehood, 1784-1890
Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntosh
In the nineteenth century, Americans began to use maps in radically new ways. For the first time, medical men mapped diseases to understand and prevent epidemics, natural scientists mapped climate and rainfall to uncover weather patterns, educators mapped the past to foster national loyalty among students, and Northerners mapped slavery to assess the power of the South. After the Civil War, federal agencies embraced statistical and thematic mapping in order to profile the ethnic, racial, economic, moral, and physical attributes of a reunified nation.
By the end of the century, Congress had authorized a national archive of maps, an explicit recognition that old maps were not relics to be discarded but unique records of the nation’s past. All of these experiments involved the realization that maps were not just illustrations of data, but visual tools that were uniquely equipped to convey complex ideas and information. In Mapping the Nation, Susan Schulten charts how maps of epidemic disease, slavery, census statistics, the environment, and the past demonstrated the analytical potential of cartography, and in the process transformed the very meaning of a map.
Abel Buell’s ‘New and Correct Map of the United States’, 1784
This landmark map of extraordinary significance to the historical record of the United States was published by Abel Buell in 1784. Notably, this is the first map of the newly independent United States compiled, printed, and published in America by an American. Additionally, it is also the first map to be copyrighted in the United States. Only seven copies are known to exist and survive in major institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain. The copy on display is considered to be the best preserved of all extant editions and was officially deposited with the Library by Mr. David Rubenstein in January 2010.
First Published Map of the State of Massachusetts, 1798
The state of Massachusetts, home to the port city of Boston and the scene of several pivotal battles in the American Revolution, was the sixth state admitted to the Union when it ratified the Constitution on February 6, 1788. Three years later, in 1791, Osgood Carleton, one of the first professional mapmakers in the new nation, approached the Massachusetts State Legislature to fund the creation of the first state map based on original surveys. Carleton asked that each town and village in the state provide an accurate map of their location so that he could compile an authoritative map based on local knowledge. This method of production, Carleton hoped, would set his map apart from any other commercial competitor. Due to delays in gathering information and engraving, his first map was not published until 1798, with two later editions published in 1801 and 1802.
First Map of the State of Maine Printed in the United States, 1820
The state of Maine, originally known as the District of Maine, was purchased by the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1676. Maine remained a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until March 15, 1820, when it was admitted to the Union as part of the Missouri Compromise and became the twenty-third state.
The map shown here, published in 1820 by Moses Greenleaf (1777–1834), an outspoken advocate of Maine statehood, is the first separately issued map of the newly formed state. The map depicts the existing road network, boundaries of the original six counties, as well as detailed information on the rivers, streams, and lakes.
Early Map of the State of Pennsylvania, 1829
The state of Pennsylvania, as seen on this colorful 1829 map showing railroad and county boundaries by Anthony Finley (1790–1840), was the second state admitted to the Union by ratifying the Constitution on December 12, 1787. Commercial cartography in the early nineteenth century was a thriving business. Originally specializing in scientific works, Finley switched the focus of his publishing house to concentrate on the more lucrative atlas and map production market in 1824. In 1829, Finley introduced the map shown here, which is the earliest general map of Pennsylvania that shows the state’s railroads.
First Map of the State of New Hampshire Printed in the United States, 1795
Situated between the states of Vermont and Maine in New England, the state of New Hampshire ratified the Constitution on June 21, 1788, and became the ninth state admitted to the Union. This map was engraved in 1794 by Samuel Lewis (1754–1822), a Philadelphia-based engraver, for Mathew Carey’s 1795 American Atlas, which was the first atlas of the United States published in the United States. Lewis’s map includes county and town boundaries, road networks in the state, mountain ranges, and a curious note indicating that the eastern New Hampshire’s “White Hills appear many leagues off at sea, like white clouds just rising above the horizon.”
Early Map of the State of New York Printed in the United States, 1804
Published in 1804 by Simeon De Witt (1756–1834), the map shown here is one of the earliest separately published folding maps of the state of New York. The map shows western New York as virtually undeveloped and the major cities of Buffalo and Rochester do not appear.
De Witt served as George Washington’s personal mapmaker during the American Revolution. After the war, he was appointed Surveyor General of the State of New York and remained in the position for fifty years until his death. The mapmaker also served as one of the Commissioners of the City of New York who laid out the famous grid plan of the city. In 1790 Washington offered De Witt the position of Surveyor General of the United States, but DeWitt chose to remain in New York.
Early Map of the State of Rhode Island, 1796
Rhode Island, formally known as Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations, was the last of the original thirteen colonies to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1790.
The first state map of Rhode Island appeared in 1795. This map appeared one year later in William Winterbotham’s The American Atlas published in Philadelphia by John Reid. Winterbotham’s Atlas was the second commercial atlas of the United States published in the U.S.
First Map of the State of Connecticut, 1795
On January 9, 1788 the state of Connecticut ratified the Constitution becoming the fifth state admitted to the Union. Mathew Carey’s 1795 map entitled Connecticut from the Best Authorities, was originally prepared for his American Atlas (1795). Editions of the map were also included in Carey’s General Atlas and General Atlas for Guthrie’s Geography Improved. The first editions of all three atlas titles were published in Philadelphia in 1795.
This map was engraved by Amos Doolittle, an engraver from New Haven, Connecticut, who also engraved two other maps in this exhibition: Abel Buell’s 1784 New and Correct Map of the United States of North America and Mathew Carey’s 1795 Vermont, from Actual Survey.
Early Map of the State of Vermont Printed in the United States, 1795
Vermont, from Actual Survey was issued just four years after Vermont became the fourteenth state to enter the Union. Prior to becoming a separate state, Vermont was part of New Hampshire. This map was engraved by American engraver and silversmith Amos Doolittle for Mathew Carey’s American Atlas.
Mathew Carey was a native of Dublin who immigrated to Philadelphia in 1784 where he established a publishing house. In 1795, Carey issued this map of Vermont in his American Atlas, the very first atlas of the United Stated printed in the new republic.
Railroad Map of the Eastern United States, 1856
Published in 1856, this decorative map showing the railroad networks in the Eastern United States provides a stark comparison to early state maps. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Pennsylvania Railroad connected Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and would play an instrumental role in distributing oil from the western portions of the state while the smaller Lehigh Valley Railroad connected Philadelphia to the important coal producing regions of northeastern Pennsylvania.
In both cases, as well as in the other states shown on this map, the nation’s growing railroad network fostered the economic growth of the United States.
Early Map of the State of New Jersey, 1795
New Jersey was the third state to enter the Union when it ratified the Constitution on December 13, 1787. Seven years later, prolific map publisher Mathew Carey (1760–1839) prepared this map of New Jersey for inclusion in his atlas entitled Carey’s American Edition of Guthrie’s Geography Improved.
Carey, as well as other late eighteenth century publishers in the United States, borrowed freely from works published elsewhere. William Guthrie (1708–1770), for example, published his Atlas to Guthrie’s System of Geography in London in 1795. Carey acquired the work, re-engraved some of the plates, and published it with a slightly different title under his own name.
First Map of the States of Maryland and Delaware, and Washington, D.C.
Completed in 1794 and published the following year, Dennis Griffith’s map is a prime example of eighteenth-century commercial cartography. It is the earliest printed map to show the states of Maryland, the seventh state admitted to the Union on April 28, 1788, and Delaware the first state admitted on December 7, 1787. For members of the original thirteen colonies, as both Delaware and Maryland were, order of statehood was determined by when the state ratified the Constitution. Shown in the inset is an early map of the City of Washington or the “Federal Territory,” now known as Washington, D.C.
Some question whether the map was the result of an “Actual Survey,” as its title indicates, and believe that Griffith drew on information found on existing maps of the time. For example, the inset map showing the City of Washington is most certainly based on Andrew Ellicott’s 1792 city plan. Ellicott, who served for a brief period under Pierre L’Enfant, a Frenchman who drafted the initial plan of the city in 1791, was tasked with completing and engraving the first city plan in 1792, after L’Enfant departed from the project.
Confederate States of America Map of Virginia
Published in Richmond, Virginia, in 1862 by the firm of West and Johnston, this is a rare example of a state map produced by the Confederate States of America. In 1862 the Union Army was steadily advancing on the Confederate capital of Richmond. In order to help defend the state, Confederate general Robert E. Lee ordered his topographic engineers to prepare detailed maps of Virginia, such as the one shown here.
Early Map of the State of Kentucky
The state of Kentucky was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1792, making it the fifteenth state of the United States. In 1793, Elihu Barker created his Map of Kentucky from Actual Survey, the most accurate map of Kentucky at the time.
The map includes Kentucky as well as the bordering “North Western Territory,” “Virginia,” and the “Tennassee [sic] Government.” The map divides Kentucky into nine counties, but it does not define precise county borders. It illustrates the mountains of eastern Kentucky and those between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in western Kentucky and indicates salt licks throughout the state as well as principal trails, settlements, and towns, which include Washington, Charleston, Lexington, Versailles, Louisville, and Stanford. Barker also provides useful descriptive notes, such as “fertile high land where it is reported are quantities of stones of a sulphurous effluvia” and “barren naked land.” The map was engraved for Mathew Carey, an immigrant from Ireland who in 1795 published the first atlas in the United States.
One of the Earliest Printed Maps of Tennessee
On June 1, 1796, Tennessee became the sixteenth state and the last to be admitted during the eighteenth century. This 1817 wall map by Samuel Lewis is one of the earliest following statehood created soon after the very first printed map of Tennessee appeared in Mathew Carey’s 1795 American Atlas, the first atlas of the United States published in the United States. This map includes county and town boundaries, road networks in the state, mountain ranges, and the state’s namesake―the Tinnasi River―named for an Indian village.
First Map of the State of North Carolina
On November 21, 1789, less than six months after the inauguration of George Washington, North Carolina became the twelfth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Published in 1807 by Jonathan Price and John Strother, The First Actual Survey of the State of North Carolina was the first map of the state based on actual surveys and observations. The map depicts North Carolina from the “Dismal Swamp” on the state’s northern border to the “Green Swamp” on its southern border, and from the Atlantic Ocean on the state’s east coast to the “Boundary Not Yet Settled” to the west.
First Map to Include South Carolina’s Railroad System
Published in 1836 by Henry S. Tanner, nearly fifty years after South Carolina was admitted to the Union, this is the earliest general map to show the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company’s railway system, which ran from Charleston to Hamburg, South Carolina. Completed in 1833, its 136 miles of track made it the longest railroad in the world. In addition to railroads, the map depicts existing and planned roads, road distances, canals, post offices, ferry landings, and steamship routes.
Early Map of the State of Georgia
The state of Georgia became the fourth state admitted to the Union on January 2, 1788, when it officially ratified the U.S. Constitution. This map shows the state borders extending through present-day Alabama and Mississippi, as it was not until 1802 that the state’s western border was finalized after Georgia transferred land to the United States.
This map was engraved in 1794 by William Barker, a Philadelphia-based engraver, for inclusion in Mathew Carey’s 1795 American Atlas. Barker’s map includes county and town boundaries, and locates Indian tribes, including the Chacataws (Choctaws), Cherokees, Creeks, Natches (Natchez), and Seminoles.
First Map of the State of Florida
The first-known expedition to the area now known as Florida was led by Spanish explorer Ponce De León in 1513. He christened the land “La Florida” or “land of flowers.” Published one year after Florida became a U.S. state in 1845, this map shows cities, rivers, swamps, and military forts throughout the new state.
The creator of the map, J. Goldsbourough Bruff, was a native of Washington, D.C. At an early age he was admitted to West Point, but after only two years he was forced to leave the prestigious military academy after participating in a duel. He later became a professional cartographer and draftsman, as well as an amateur artist and adventurer. Bruff created this map while he was employed by the U.S. Army’s Bureau of Topographical Engineers.
First Map of the State of Alabama
Published by Scottish mapmaker John Melish in 1819, the same year that Alabama became the twenty-second state to join the Union, this unique map highlights cities, road and trail networks, rivers, the state’s townships and ranges, and “Remarks, Statistical and Geological” that describe the state’s geography.
Melish was a prolific author, geographer, and map publisher based in Philadelphia. From 1811 to 1822 he issued several travel guides and is best known for his early-nineteenth-century maps of the continental United States. He also produced a series of loose sheet maps, such as this one of Alabama, for eventual publication in an atlas.
Earliest Map of Mississippi Published in the United States
On December 20, 1817, Mississippi became the twentieth state admitted to the Union. Prior to 1817, the area was known as the Mississippi Territory. This map, one of the earliest maps to show the state of Mississippi and the Alabama Territory, was prepared for Mathew Carey’s 1817 General Atlas. The map depicts early counties and parishes in the south (Baldwin, Washington, Green, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Amite, Wilkinson, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Claiborne, and Warren), as well as towns, forts, roads, Indian villages, and “Halfway Houses.”
Early Map of Arkansas
On June 15, 1836, Arkansas became the twenty-fifth state admitted to the Union―nearly fifteen years after Missouri became the twenty-fourth state in 1821 (the longest gap between states achieving statehood to date). Published by S. Augustus Mitchell in 1847, the map marks canals and proposed canals, railroads and proposed railroads, towns, rivers, major roads, distances, and more. A key at the top of the map delineates steamboat routes and their distances.
Mitchell, originally a teacher, became a mapmaker in the 1830s after being dissatisfied with inaccuracies in maps printed in school textbooks. During the next twenty years, he became one of the most prominent mapmakers of the mid-nineteenth century.
First Map of Louisiana
In 1803 the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory from France for fifteen-million dollars. The Louisiana Purchase, as it is known, doubled the size of the nation and the land would eventually comprise fifteen new states: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, and most or parts of Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.
The state of Louisiana, originally called the Territory of Orleans, became the eighteenth state admitted to the Union on April 30, 1812. The first map of the new state, shown here, first appeared in 1814 edition of Mathew Carey’s General Atlas.
Map of the State of Ohio, 1805
On March 1, 1803, Ohio became the seventeenth state in the U.S. Named after the Ohio River, from the Iroquoian words “oh” meaning river and “io” meaning fine or beautiful, it was the first territory to achieve statehood in the Northwest Territory. The territory, established by Congress in 1787, comprised land north and west of the Ohio River under the Northwest Ordinance. The ordinance both formalized the process of earning statehood and specified that slavery was not permitted in the territories. This map prepared by Rufus Putnam, the second Surveyor General of the United States, is the earliest map of the state of Ohio at the Library of Congress.
Michigan Territory on the Eve of Statehood, 1836
This hand-colored map of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and the Michigan Territory shows territories admitted to the Union as the seventeenth, nineteenth, and twenty-first states, and Michigan, which became the twenty-sixth state in 1837. Upon becoming the twenty-sixth state, Michigan maintained the tenuous balance between the free and the slave holder states. The map is one of more than 250 maps in the Library’s Millard Fillmore Collection, which range in date from 1741 to 1842. Fillmore started to collect maps as early as 1805, and continued collecting for nearly twenty-five years. The Library acquired the Fillmore Map Collection in 1916.
Map of the State of Indiana, 1817
Admitted into the Union in 1816 as the nineteenth state, Indiana took its name from the Indiana Territory which existed from 1800–1816. The state name literally means “land of the Indians.” This map was published in Connecticut in 1817 and was most likely prepared as a promotional tool to attract settlers to the new state.
Map of Illinoise, 1818
John Melish’s map of “Illinoise” was published in 1818, the year that Illinois became the twenty-first state. Melish was a prolific early-nineteenth-century cartographer who used his influence to encourage the creation of state-financed official state maps, rather than using commercial cartographers. The state was named after a local tribe of Native Americans, the Illini.
A New Map of the State of Wisconsin, 1852
Like many maps created for users over the decades, this map was folded for convenience in storage and usage. It was owned by President Millard Fillmore, the thirteenth president of the United States who was an avid map collector. In 1852, four years after Wisconsin achieved statehood, this map, created by Thomas, Cowperthwait & Company, was presented to President Millard Fillmore by Charles Sexton, an “unknown agent.” The map bears the annotation in Fillmore’s hand:
Presented to Hon. Millard Fillmore, President of the United States, by agent, Charles Sexton, with his kind regards, Washington, Feby. 26th 1852.
A review of the Fillmore Map Collection indicates that Sexton acquired additional maps for Fillmore during his time at the White House.
Sectional Map of Minnesota, 186—
In May of 1858, Minnesota became the thirty-second state admitted to the Union. Often referred to as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” the name has its roots in a Native American language and means “cloudy or sky-tinted water.” The term “sectional” or “section” refers to the Public Land Survey System that was adopted for surveying land in the Northwest Territory and much of the western United States. Each “section” was a thirty-six-square-mile township that was further divided into thirty-six one square mile blocks of land.
Sectional Map of Iowa . . . Compiled from U.S. Surveys and Personal Reconnaissance, 1856
Published in 1856, this state map of Iowa was printed by J. H. Colton, one of the leading map publishers of the mid-nineteenth-century. In addition to depicting counties, townships, and sections of land for future development, this map details the routes of sixteen railroads that connected thirty-two cities within the state of Iowa. Several commercial advertisements are found on this map, including one for the exchange of gold and silver for land claims within the state.
Geographical, Statistical, and Historical Map of Missouri, 1822
Originally published in Carey & Lea’s 1822 Complete Historical, Chronological, and Geographical American Atlas, this is the first printed map of the state of Missouri after its admittance into the Union in 1821.
In addition to the state map, this plate contains notes on the soil, rivers, major civil divisions and towns, population, religion, education, commerce, government and a history of the state.
Official Maps of North and South Dakota, 1889
On November 2, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed the Executive Order that officially admitted both North and South Dakota into the Union as the thirty-ninth and fortieth states, respectively. The two maps shown here are similar in appearance and witness a very enthusiastic pride about becoming states, as is evidenced in the statement “coming into the Union 400,000 strong.”
Colton’s New Sectional Map of the State of Nebraska, 1869
In 1867, only a few years after the passage of the Homestead Acts, the state of Nebraska was admitted to the Union. The Homestead Acts were instrumental in opening up millions of acres of government land throughout the Midwest, including Nebraska, to private settlement. Prospective landowners simply selected a parcel of 160 acres of land, lived on the land for a period of five years, and built a 12’x 14’ cabin. At the end of five years the land legally transferred from U.S. government ownership to the private landowner.
The map shown here is the first separately printed map of Nebraska issued after statehood.
New Sectional Map of Kansas Compiled from the U.S. Surveys, 1865
First issued in 1865, this is a revision update of a map first produced by Robert Ream and G. W. Colton in 1857. The western portions of this map are cartographically “prospective” in that they show only the beginnings of public land survey system survey private settlement that would come later.
Wyoming Becomes a State
On July 4, 1890, the territory of Wyoming entered the Union as the forty-fourth state. Almost thirty years prior, in 1868, the Wyoming Territory was formed from parts of Nebraska, Dakota, Idaho, and Utah. The advent of railroad transportation allowed Wyoming to become a ranching hub. Livestock were raised and grazed on Wyoming prairies and, when the time came, shipped off to market via rail.
Also in 1890, Wyoming became the first U.S. state to extend suffrage to women, thirty years prior to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.
The Newly Formed State of Colorado
Published by the firm of G. W. and C. B. Colton in 1878, on the 102nd anniversary of the United States’ independence from Britain, this striking map shows the newly formed state of Colorado. Major cities, counties, townships, roads, rivers, and railroad lines are shown. Interestingly, the map shows two prime meridians: one measured west from Washington, D.C., and a second measured west from Greenwich, England.
In 1884, six years after this map was published, an international conference held in Washington, D.C., was convened to formally establish a single international prime meridian to be used worldwide and increase the accuracy of nautical charts, time zones, and railway timetables.
Idaho Enters the Union in 1890
Published in 1896, six years after Idaho entered the Union, this map reflects the borders of the new state soon after it was carved out from the existing territories of Washington, Dakota, Utah, and Nebraska. Among the first non-Native American travelers were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark who from 1804–1805, traversed the state on their epic journey from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Columbia River. Settlement in later years was stimulated by gold prospecting, ranching, and farming.
Utah, the Forty-fifth State
In January 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation allowing Utah to enter the Union as the forty-fifth state after nearly fifty years of territorial status. The map shown here was published in 1895 and shows county boundaries, cities, topography, and rivers. According to notes on the map, it was designed for “the home, the office, and especially for Schools.”
The map also shows the locations of minerals such as gold, silver, lead, and copper, as well as marble, sandstone, and petroleum deposits. The export value, according to “Wells Fargo and Co.’s Bank” for gold, silver, lead, and copper alone, was estimated at more than $6,000,000 in 1894.
Map of the State of Washington, 1889
On November 11, 1889, the same year that this map was published, Washington Territory was admitted to the Union as the forty-second state. It is the only state to be named after a president. An alternative name option was “Columbia” but it was felt that Columbia would sow confusion with the District of Columbia on the other side of the country.
Map of the Gold Region in California
California, formerly known as Alta or Upper California to distinguish it from the Mexican state of Baja or Lower California, was admitted into the Union in 1850. It has the unique distinction of being the only state admitted into the Union without first holding territorial status.
One of the major reasons that California became the thirty-first state was the discovery of gold in 1848. “Sutters Fort,” near Sutter’s Mill where gold was first discovered, can be seen on this map along the river named “Rio Americanos” in Yolo County, west of San Francisco and Sacramento City, the future capital of the state.
Oregon, the Thirty-third State
On February 14, 1859, Oregon officially entered the Union as the thirty-third state. The map shown here, entitled “A Diagram of Oregon,” shows mountains, rivers, township and range layouts, and topographical features. Additionally, this is the very first map of the new state published in Salem, the state capital. Many of the place names, such as Salem, Portland, Springfield, and Oswego were named by settlers to honor the names of places they lived in the East, prior to settling in Oregon.
Map of Nevada, 1866
Published in San Francisco in 1866, this lithographed and hand-colored map of the state of Nevada shows county boundaries, county capitals, county roads, ranches, towns, trails, and topographical features. The map’s creator, cartographer, lithographer, and artist Grafton Tyler Brown, was the first African American known to depict images of the West.
1889: The State of Montana Enters the Union
In 1889, Montana, meaning “mountain,” became the forty-first state to join the Union. Almost all of its land was included in the Louisiana Purchase. The discovery of gold in 1858 prompted settlement in the region. In 1876 the territory was the scene of a major battle between Native Americans and the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary, known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and to the Native Americans the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and it was later dubbed “Custer’s Last Stand.” The Indians, who vastly outnumbered the Cavalry, won the battle, killing not only Lieutenant General George Armstrong Custer (1839–1876), but reportedly every of the more than 250 officers and soldiers of the five companies that were with him. Only Custer’s horse, Comanche, survived.
Originally published by the United States Library of Congress, 09.01.2016, to the public domain.