Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823)
A Map of the United States of North America
London, 1802. Printed map, 48 x 55.5 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

This large wall map details the United States at the onset of the 19th century. The young nation’s western boundary is the Mississippi River, based on the 1783 Paris Peace Treaty.

In addition to the original 13 states, three new ones appear: Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

As Euro-American settlers moved across the Appalachian Mountains, they encountered Native and French communities, including the Tsalagi (Cherokee), Chikasha (Chickasaw), Chahta (Choctaw), and Mvskoke (Creek) who inhabited expansive ancestral lands in the southern portion of this trans-Appalachian region.

An image of Niagara Falls, which became part of the nation’s popular iconography, adorns the cartouche.

Nicholas King (1771-1812), after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Map of Part of the Continent of North America . . . from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean …
Washington, D.C., 1806? Manuscript map, 26.5 x 38 inches. Courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.

Following the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery to explore and map the new territory, develop trade and diplomatic relations with tribal nations, and establish a claim to the Pacific Northwest. Commanded by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the Corps kept a daily record of geographic observations and prepared numerous manuscript maps incorporating information provided by Native people. Particularly noteworthy are the names of tribal communities, annotated in red ink. This was the federal government’s first attempt to accurately map the presence of Native peoples (and number of warriors) west of the Mississippi River. These lands were claimed by the United States but firmly controlled by Native peoples.

James Hamilton Young
Map of the United States
Philadelphia, 1831. Printed map, 42.5 x 33.5 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

By 1831, the land east of the Mississippi had been divided into 24 states and the Michigan territory.

In addition, American settlement and Native dispossession started to expand west of the Mississippi with the addition of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.

The mapmakers also labeled the lands occupied by the Tsalagi (Cherokee),Mvskoke (Creek), Chikasha (Chickasaw), and Chahta (Choctaw) in large capital letters, although just a year earlier, the federal government had enacted the Indian Removal Act, which forced many tribes from their ancestral homelands.

The law paved the way for the Trail of Tears, the name given to a series of forced relocations of these Native nations.

Joseph Hutchins Colton (1800-1893)
Colton's Map of the United States of America … from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean
New York, 1854. Printed map, 47 x 55 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

During the 1840s and early 1850s, the political geography of the West changed dramatically. The nation annexed Texas, established the 49th parallel as its northwestern boundary, claimed the Oregon Territory, and won land from Mexico following the Mexican-American War.

By the time this map was published in 1854, the United States included 31 states and seven territories.

Commercially published maps like this one celebrated the nation’s expansion with small vignettes dispersed throughout these newly acquired territories depicting Native people, wildlife, and a wagon train.

It also suggests a unified nation, but a statistical table enumerating free and enslaved population alludes to conflicts over whether to extend slavery into the western territories and foreshadows the pending Civil War.

William C. Bloss (1795-1863)
Map of the United States Showing the Possessions and Aggressions of the Slave Power
New York and Rochester, NY, 1856? Printed broadside, 41.5 x 27.5 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center

While Colton’s map suggests a unified nation extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, this broadside published about the same time boldly addresses the slavery issue.

It identifies free states in white, slave states in black, and contested territories in gray.

Issued during the 1856 presidential election, this stark graphic implicitly supports the candidacy of Republican John C. Frémont, who opposed slavery’s expansion.

It also forcefully challenges the so-called Three-Fifths Compromise which counted three out of five slaves toward calculating southern political representation, while denying those enslaved peoples any voting privileges or freedom.

Robert H. Fletcher
Map of the Nez Perce Indian Campaign, Brig. Gen. O. O, Howard, Commanding
Washington, DC; 1877. Printed map, 24 x 47.25 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

This military map records the Nez Perce War in 1877, one of the final campaigns of the U.S. Army against the tribal nations of the Pacific Northwest.

Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, a Union Civil War leader, Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and a founder of Howard University, led U.S. troops. They pursued several bands of Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) who refused to surrender their ancestral lands and move to a smaller reservation in Idaho.

Threatened with forced removal, they embarked on a northward trek to find sanctuary in Canada.

After a fighting retreat of 1,170 miles and 18 skirmishes and battles, they surrendered just south of the Canadian border.

William Dall
Map of W. Dall's Lots in Athens County, Washington County, and Gallia County, Ohio
1800. Manuscript map, 8 x 10 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

This small manuscript map served as a personal record of one individual’s land holdings.

It highlights the grid pattern that was characteristic of public land surveys initiated by the Land Ordinance of 1785.

These townships were part of the Ohio Company’s purchases in southeastern Ohio.

This private land company, composed of Boston investors, established Marietta as the first Euro-American settlement in the Northwest Territory.

The map notes that William Dall owned five parcels of land in four townships, totaling over 900 acres.

John Melish (1771-1822) and Burr Bradley
Map of Indiana
Philadelphia, 1817. Printed map, 18 x 13.5 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Similarly, Indiana Territory (meaning “Land of Indians”) was established from the Northwest Territory in 1800.

Published in 1817, a year after Indiana’s statehood, this map indicates that officials had divided the southern third of the state into counties and townships.

Numerous tribal nations, including the Myaamiaki (Miami), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Lenape (Delaware), Shawnee, and Neshnabé (Potawatomi) inhabited the region. The map identifies land cessions before 1817 with dashed lines.

From the 1820s through the 1840s these tribal communities were forcibly relocated, most often to reservations in the Great Plains or to Canada.

William Faden (1749-1836)
Map of North America from 20 to 80 Degrees North Latitude: Exhibiting the Recent Discoveries…
London, 1820. Printed map, 66 x 59 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

This wall map displays topographic and hydrographic detail for interior and western North America four decades after the Revolutionary War.

It includes data from expeditions led by Alexander von Humboldt (northern Mexico), Alexander MacKenzie (Canadian Great Plains), and George Vancouver (Pacific northwest coast), as well as Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Zebulon Pike, all of whom were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.

This accumulated knowledge demonstrated that the western part of the continent was not dominated by a single mountain range as was previously hypothesized, but by a complex series of ranges that came to be known as the Rocky Mountains.

John C. Frémont (1813-1890)
Map of an Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains … and to Oregon & North California …
Washington, DC, 1845. Printed map, 66 x 59 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

The U.S. Army did not sponsor any further expeditions of the West until the 1840s, when Americans became interested in the Far West as they began to settle the Oregon Territory and entered the Mexican-American War.

One American explorer who made major contributions during this period was John C. Frémont, who led five scientific expeditions.

Charles Preuss, a German immigrant and the expedition’s cartographer, prepared this map depicting only the geographic information collected.

Frémont’s official reports, written with the assistance of his wife Jessie (the daughter of expansionist-minded Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton), gave “manifest destiny” a popular text.

Advocates of “manifest destiny” believed in the virtue of American institutions, the mission to spread those institutions and the pre-ordained right to do so which, at times, became the nation's policy of territorial expansion.

John Disturnell (1801–1877)
“Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Méjico”
New York, 1846. Printed map, 30 x 37 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Published a year after the annexation of Texas, at the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, this map depicts the northern region of Mexico (today part of the United States).

It reveals a cultural landscape with both Spanish and Native settlements.

Besides the Spanish settlements in southeastern Texas, there were three other clusters in this northern region -- the upper Rio Grande (New Mexico), southern Arizona, and the California coast.

While some Spanish settlements had been established more than a century earlier, Spanish culture was imposed on numerous Native groups already living in the area including the Pueblo, Numunu (Comanche), N’Dee (Apache), Hopitushínumu (Hopi), and Diné (Navajo).


This map offers a great example of the fluidity of geography, as we can see how its meaning had shifted and would shift again. Lost in the designs of nation-states are the numerous indigenous geographies (still visible in maps like this) that remain in place and persist to this day.

-Natchee Blu Barnd
Oregon State University

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903)
“A Map of the Cotton Kingdom and its Dependencies in America,” in “The Cotton Kingdom”
New York, 1861. Printed map, 11 x 17 inches. Courtesy of Boston Public Library, Rare Books Department.

This statistical map addresses the importance of cotton agriculture in the economy before the American Civil War.

It represents agricultural productivity rather than distribution and density of cotton cultivation by mapping two variables: productivity of cotton per enslaved laborer (blue, yellow, or red) and ratio of enslaved people to freemen (solid versus dashed horizontal lines).

The map accompanied landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted’s published account of his travels through the South during the 1850s.

Hired by the “New York Times” as a journalist to report his observations about the region’s economy, he argued that chattel slavery was inefficient for cotton production.


The pastel colors on this map are a reminder that many southerners tried to justified slavery by portraying slaves as happy and contented in their role of unpaid laborers. And while the colors on this map are beautiful, what they are used to signify is repulsive, as Olmstead suggested.

Light blue indicates where an individual enslaved person was able to pick two bales of cotton or more--at five hundred pounds per bale. It is astounding to think about the amount of work it would take one person to harvest almost one thousand pounds of cotton.

-Debra Newman Ham
Morgan State University

U.S. General Land Office
“Map of the Public Land States and Territories …”
Washington, DC, 1864. Printed map, 30 x 44 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

This map, one of the first thematic maps of the United States published by the General Land Office, provided an inventory of the nation’s land and mineral resources.

Besides showing the extent of township surveys, it locates local land offices and completed, uncompleted, and projected railroads.

In addition, it uses color coding to identify the locations of six mineral resources – gold (yellow), silver (red), copper (green), quicksilver (blue), tin (purple) and coal (gray) – primarily covering extensive areas of the western states and territories. Ignoring the presence of Native peoples in this region, the map suggests that the minerals are readily available for exploitation.

Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898)
“Map of Pickaway County, Ohio, from Surveys and County Records”
Philadelphia, 1858. Printed map, 38 x 53 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Pickaway County, located in central Ohio about 25 miles south of Columbus, provides a good example of a rural Midwestern county where the economy was based on diversified agriculture during the first half of 19th century.

The statistical tables along the bottom margin of this land ownership map indicate that the county had a population of 21,000 and farms were valued at $6 million.

Agricultural production included a variety of livestock (horses, cows, oxen, sheep, and swine) and crops (corn, wheat, rye, oats, hay, and potatoes). The map also displays the boundaries of individual landholdings, indicating that most were small farms containing several hundred acres.

James D. Scott (fl. 1854–1889)
“Map of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania”
Philadelphia, 1864. Printed map, 45 x 50 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

The economy of Schuylkill County, located in northeastern Pennsylvania, focused on anthracite coal mining during the 19th century.

This county map documents how that activity dominated the landscape. Of the 37 marginal vignettes, 20 illustrate collieries – coal mines and connected buildings.

An additional ten depict local iron manufacturers, fueled by the region’s coal. Also evident is the network of railroads and canals that shipped these resources to New York City and Philadelphia.

The map identifies landowners’ names including many coal companies, and also displays street plans and directories for 23 towns, detailing retail activities and service industries within each.

W.T. Steiger (fl. 1854)
“Diagram of the United States of America … Showing Proposed Routes of the Pacific Rail Road ...”
Washington, DC, 1854. Printed map, 29 x 37 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

By mid-19th century, with increased oceanic traffic between the East and West Coasts based on the China trade and discovery of gold in California, many Americans wanted to extend the nation’s rail network west of the Mississippi River by constructing a transcontinental route.

In 1853, Congress authorized the War Department to conduct reconnaissance surveys in order to determine the best route for a transcontinental railroad.

Because of growing sectional rivalries between the North and South in extending chattel slavery into the western territories, there were four east-west Pacific Railroad Surveys, as indicated on this schematic map.

Commissioner of Indian Affairs
Map Showing Indian Reservations within the Limits of the United States
Washington, DC, 1892. Printed map, 38 x 55 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Caldwell.

By the 1890s, many Native tribes were displaced and forced to live on reservations, comprising a fraction of their homeland, on territory designated as the most undesirable for settlers or in totally different environments than originally inhabited.

This map depicts the locations, sizes, and boundaries of reservations, which were usually established by treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate.

In many cases Congress did not ratify treaties signed in good faith by Native peoples, and the agreed upon reservation boundaries were re-negotiated to the benefit of the government and the states.

In 1887, the Dawes Act (General Allotment Act) further reduced the size of reservations by permitting the federal government to assign land to individual Native families, rather than tribes. The law fragmented reservations and opened more land to non-Native settlers.

James Bowden (b. 1811)
“A Map of North America Denoting … the Locations of the Various Indian Tribes,” from “Some Accounts of the Conduct … towards the Indian Tribes”
London, 1844. Printed map, 18 x 21 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

From the earliest European settlements in North America through the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries took part in evangelizing missionary expeditions to Native communities.

One particularly active religious group was the Society of Friends, or Quakers. Besides detailing the missionary activities of the various regional Yearly Meetings, their 1844 annual report included this map which shows the extent of each Yearly Meeting as well as the lands in the Great Plains allotted to eastern tribes.

It also depicts the distribution of Indigenous communities in the western half of the country.

Washington Hood (1808–1840)
“Map of the Western Territory” from U.S. Committee on Indian Affairs, “Regulating the Indian Department”
Washington, DC, [1834]. Printed map, 17 x 18 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

The geography of tribal nations living east of the Mississippi River changed drastically by the 1830s, as depicted on this map accompanying a report concerning the establishment of a new Western Territory reserved for Native people.

As American settlers moved into the Ohio River Valley, numerous tribes were forced to cede their lands and relocate west of the Mississippi River.

In addition, the 1830 Indian Removal Act mandated the mass removal of the Tsalagi (Cherokee), Mvskoke (Creek), Chahta (Choctaw), Chickasha (Chickasaw), and Semvnole (Seminole) living in southeastern United States.

Although this new territory was promised as theirs in perpetuity, it was eventually opened for settlement and statehood for Oklahoma.

William Woodruff (fl. 1817–1833), after Alexander Bourne (1786-1849) and Benjamin Hough
“A Map of the State of Ohio from Actual Survey”
Cincinnati, 1831. Printed map, 51 x 48 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Caldwell.

Ohio, the 17th state, was the first carved out of the Northwest Territory. Survey grid patterns based on 5- and 6-mile square townships were first implemented here, in addition to traditional irregular metes and bounds surveys in the Virginia Military District.

To administer surveying and sales, over a dozen private land companies, military land districts, and congressionally-authorized districts were created.

By 1832 when this large wall map was updated, surveying had been completed. County boundaries and township perimeters are marked.

The cartouche promotes agriculture and river transportation with a scene of a farm overlooking the Ohio River.

William A. Jackson (fl. 1850)
“Map of the Mining District of California”
New York, 1850. Printed map, 17 x 17 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Immediately prior to the discovery of gold in 1848, central California was home to Native communities; Mexican missions, ranchos, and pueblos; the small presidio—fortified military settlement—of San Francisco; and a few white American residents.

Published two years later, this map testifies to the frantic pace of settlement during the California Gold Rush.

By 1855, over 300,000 immigrants from the eastern United States, Europe, Latin America, Australia, and China established mining camps, towns, and roads. San Francisco grew rapidly.

By the 1870s, California’s Native population plummeted from an estimated 150,000 to 30,000. Thousands were forcibly removed from their homelands, enslaved, or killed. Early legislation in California made it lucrative to enslave Native peoples, or to be paid for exterminating them.

Ithamar A. Beard and J. Hoar
“Map of the City of Lowell Surveyed in 1841 …”
Boston, 1842. Printed map, 30.5 x 34 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Caldwell.

By the early 1840s, when this map was prepared, Lowell had grown to a population of more than 20,000, making it the state’s second largest city.

The map details the footprint and function of individual buildings and demonstrates how dominant the textile industry was in the community.

The map notes ten named textile mills as well as an additional 19 mills and factories.

Mills were located near the river and canals, which provided waterpower for the factories.

This directory also lists company boarding houses, agents and superintendent houses, as well as numerous churches, schools, and other public buildings.

W.C. Moore (fl. 1848)
“Map of the Hudson River Rail Road from New York to Albany”
New York, 1848. Printed map, 17 x 151 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Caldwell.

For 18th century French, British, and American colonists, the Hudson River was strategically important as part of the corridor linking New York City and Montreal. With the completion of the Erie Canal, it became part of the route connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.

This topographic strip map, published in 1848, emphasizes the navigable portion of the river and marks the route of the new Hudson River Railroad, chartered in 1846.

The map identified major towns and villages, some of which were becoming industrial centers that manufactured goods for markets in New York City or for export.

New York Canal Commissioners
“Map and Profile of the Proposed Canal from Lake Erie to Hudson River …”
New York, 1821. Printed map, 16 x 68 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Caldwell.

The Appalachian Mountains presented an obstacle for traffic flow from the Atlantic seaboard to the Midwest. After considering various projects to cross this barrier, the New York state government built the Erie Canal.

Constructed from 1817 to 1825, the canal extended 363 miles connecting Albany (on the Hudson River) with Buffalo (on Lake Erie).

Taking advantage of a natural break in the mountain chain, the route climbed an elevation of 568 feet, using 83 locks and 18 aqueducts, as depicted on this 1821 plan.

Its successful completion and profitable operation ushered in an era of canal building in the United States.

Abraham Bradley (1767–1838)
“Map of the United States Exhibiting Post Roads and Distances”
Washington, DC, 1796. Printed map 35 x 38 inches. Courtesy of Barry MacLean Collection.

In the 1790s, transportation within the new nation was slow and cumbersome.

This early postal route map depicts navigable rivers and existing roads.

National postal service had existed since the Revolutionary War, but Congress did not institute a formal Post Office Department to designate post offices and postal roads until 1792.

Abraham Bradley, an assistant postmaster general for 30 years, prepared the first post route map in 1796.

He revised it numerous times, though the earliest versions included an innovative schedule chart that listed the estimated time for postal delivery from Maine to Georgia. At that time, it took 46 days to travel the entire route.

Charles Magnus (1826–1900)
“Complete Map of the Rail Roads and Water Courses in the United States & Canada”
New York, [1859]. Printed map, 14.25 x 18.5 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

This map displays the nation's growing transportation and communication network on the eve of the Civil War.

The legend identifies rail lines that were in operation, in progress, and proposed, along with telegraph and coastal steamship lines.

Railroads were densest in the North, extending from New England through the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states.

In the South, the network was less dense, with shorter lines running from interior locations to coastal ports.

This map was overprinted around 1861 to show the first southern states to secede from the Union with an early version of the Confederate flag flying over Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the Confederacy.

Eugene Hardy (fl. 1856)
“A Topographic Map of the Etowah Property, Cass County, Georgia”
Etowah, GA, 1856. Printed map, 5.5 x 8 inches. Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.

Georgia’s gold rush ended by the early 1840s, but the discovery of other mineral resources, including iron, furthered the extensive exploitation of the landscape.

During the first half of the 19th century, iron furnaces, which relied on charcoal, tended to be small rural operations located near iron deposits.

One example is the Etowah Manufacturing and Mining Company located in northwestern Georgia.

The accompanying topographic map shows that the small village encompassed the furnace, rolling mill, and workers’ housing and stores, while the company owned at least 10,000 acres of surrounding forest.

This landscape was altered by cutting down massive amounts of timber to produce charcoal.

Edwin Hergesheimer (fl. 1853–1885)
“Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern States of the United States … “
Washington, DC, 1861. Printed map, 31 x 40 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Enslaved people were introduced into the economy of the 13 British North American colonies in the 17th century.

By 1860, when this map was published, the enslaved population, primarily of African descent, numbered almost four million people, comprising about 12 percent of the nation's population.

This early thematic map uses shades of gray and black to plot the percentage of enslaved people by county for the southern states at the beginning of the American Civil War.

In many places enslaved African people greatly outnumbered Whites. Such places often used a variety of laws and practices intended to limit communication, enact terror, and discourage revolts.

Rather than a uniform distribution throughout the entire region, chattel slavery was concentrated in several regions where commercial plantation agriculture was most profitable.


After the Civil War roughly 1,500 African American men were elected to local, state and national offices and this map clarifies why.

This map shows that in 1860 the African American population in two southern states, South Carolina and Mississippi, outnumbered the white population.

When the fifteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution empowered all Black males to become voters in 1879 many were elected to office.

This led to fierce white retaliation against former slaves by white supremacist groups after the government removed Union troops from the South.

-Debra Newman Ham
Morgan State University

James S. Wright (fl. 1834)
New York, 1834. Printed map, 26 x 21 inches. Courtesy of Lawrence Caldwell.

The founding of Chicago as a transportation, commercial, and industrial hub started in the 1830s, although the area was home to earlier Native, French and U.S. Army activities.

The town was surveyed in 1830 and incorporated in 1833, with a population of 350. By 1834 when this map was published, the town site covered approximately 2.5 square miles.

It consisted of two entire sections and two partial sections in Township 39 North, Range 14 East, of the Third Principal Meridian.

The map is color-coded to indicate the dates that various portions of the town were surveyed.

W.L. Flower and James Van Vechten (fl. 1860–1882)
“Chicago: Drawn from Davie's Atlas with the Latest Recorded Subdivisions”
Chicago, 1863. Printed map, 75 x 44.5 inches. Leventhal Map and Education Center.

Situated on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago commanded a short land portage between the Great Lakes and Illinois River, giving it access to the Mississippi River valley.

By 1860, Chicago’s population grew to 110,000, making it the nation’s ninth largest city.

This rapid growth is demonstrated with an 1863 map highlighting the real estate subdivisions added to the city.

Its geographical footprint had expanded dramatically from the original town plat of 2.5 square miles, extending 4-6 miles to the north, south, and west.

Throughout this expansion, the street pattern continued to follow the grid pattern guided by General Land Office’s township surveys.

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