Part Two:  States


After the Revolution the individual states needed detailed and accurate maps of their territories.  Such maps were necessary for locating transportation routes, stimulating settlement and commerce, and delineating public lands available for sale.  Short on cash and with a weak Federal government unable to provide support, states had to come up with creative ways of accomplishing these challenging and expensive projects.  The solutions invariably involved some form of public-private partnership, with entrepreneurs investing labor and capital in return for some mix of state subsidies, copyright guarantees, access to source material in the public records, and commitments to purchase large numbers of maps.

These projects often entailed long delays, substantial losses to the mapmakers, and much frustration on the part of state legislatures.  Nonetheless, the resulting maps were far superior to anything hitherto available and remain high points of early American mapmaking.

Click on the maps to view in high resolution.

5.  Dennis Griffith, MAP of the STATE of Maryland Laid down from an actual Survey… Philadelphia, June 6th, 1795. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Some time in the early 1790s Griffith began on his own initiative to produce this monumental map.  With the help of a loan from the state legislature he was able to complete it by 1794 and publish it the following year.  The map offers a wealth of information about the state’s topography, boundaries, and cultural and economic resources such as mills, forges, churches, taverns and even individual residences.  The inset of the Territory of Columbia, the site of the new national capital, is based on a very rare map by Andrew Ellicott (who also drew the Plan of the City of Washington in the “Nation” section of this exhibit).

Some have questioned the extent of the “actual Survey” touted in the title, given the spottiness of coverage in the western part of the state and the fact that Griffith completed the map in a relatively short time.  Most likely he drew heavily on existing material, including manuscripts available at the Land Office in Annapolis.

6.  Osgood Carleton, AN ACCURATE MAP OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS... Boston, [1798]. Image courtesy of the Harvard Map Collection.

Whereas Griffith’s map of Maryland (item 5) was a result of private initiative, this map began with a legislative edict:  In 1794 every Massachusetts town was required to submit a detailed survey of its territory, and Carleton was commissioned to compile them into an official state map (A similar process was followed to map the District of Maine, which at the time was part of Massachusetts.)

Carleton’s map depicts the state with an unprecedented level of detail.  It was rejected by the legislature, however, on account of John Norman’s almost illegible engraving as well as missing data (A note at lower left reads “As the surveys of some towns were not so full as others, the roads and streams of these towns have been unavoidably discontinued.”)  After this debacle Carleton broke with Norman, obtained additional surveys, and issued the second edition in 1801.

Carleton was a teacher of mathematics in Boston and a respected cartographer, so much so that his endorsement was sought after by other mapmakers.  For an example of a map endorsed by Carleton, see item 11 in the “Navigation” section of this exhibit.


6a.  Anonymous, Nantucket Island. [Nantucket,] May 1, 1795.  Image courtesy of the Massachusetts State Archives.

This unsigned manuscript map of Nantucket island is one of the hundreds of such surveys used by Carleton to compile his map of Massachusetts (Almost all of these manuscripts still exist and are held at the Massachusetts State Archives.)

Though Carleton’s state map omitted many place names and landmarks shown on this prototype, close comparison shows how closely he followed its depiction of the island’s coast and many ponds. 


6b.  Osgood Carleton and John Norman, PROPOSALS… FOR PUBLISHING BY SUBSCRIPTION, An Accurate MAP of the COMMONWEALTH of MASSACHUSETTS. [Boston, ca. 1797.]  AB7 C1935 797p, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Carleton and Norman published this broadside to solicit subscriptions for their map of Massachusetts.  Note Condition IV, which voided subscriptions in the event that the legislature (“General Court”) rejected the map.  When this in fact happened, they found themselves saddled with hundreds of copies, which Norman had printed in anticipation of the map’s approval.

7.  Jona[than] Price and John Strother, THIS FIRST ACTUAL SURVEY OF THE State of North Carolina… [Philadelphia,] 1808.  Image courtesy of the Harvard Map Collection.

Unlike Griffith and Carleton, Price and Strother themselves conducted the surveys for their map.  This helps explain why, though work began in 1789, their manuscript was not finished until 1799.  Financial difficulties further delayed publication until 1808.

This informative map depicts the state’s topography, watercourses, road network, county boundaries, meeting houses, and the country seats of major landowners.  Note the western extreme of the state, which due to a dispute with Tennessee remains undefined and bears the legend “Boundary not yet settled.” 

While working on their state map, Price and Strother were simultaneously employed surveying the holdings of John Gray Blount, who owned millions of acres in the state.  The data from these private surveys was incorporated into this map—an example of the frequent intersection of public and private interests in early American mapmaking.