Tag Archives: Maps

New York’s Historic Military Maps Event


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On Friday, May 6, 2011, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY, opens for the spring season with a special exhibit of New York’s Historic Military Maps from 1750 to 1820. At 6:30 pm that evening living history re-enactor Randy Patten will share his collection of historic maps, accouterments and artifacts from the French and Indian War.

Patten says, “These maps provide a fascinating look into America’s history as it occurred in New York State. Several show the local Northern New York area as well as all of New York state and parts of Canada and Pennsylvania, plus the waterways that people traveled to establish settlements and forts in such places as Oswego and Youngstown.”


Over the past 30 years, Patten has traveled to the Library of Congress and as far as Great Britain to obtain color copies of original maps, including some from the collection of King George III. Patten describes the hand-drawn maps as “works of art.”

The presentation by the retired New York State Trooper will include a look at French and Indian War artifacts, a British broadsword from a man-of-war used in the War of 1812, and a lesson on historic musket safety.

The exhibit of more than 50 historic maps will be on display Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5 pm at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center through June 26, 2011. The Center is located at 401 W. Main Street. Day admission is $4. Evening program admission is $5.

For more information on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call 315-646-1000.

Historic Civil War Coastal Survey Documents Online


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In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has assembled a special historical collection of maps, charts, and documents prepared by the U.S. Coast Survey during the war years. The collection, “Charting a More Perfect Union,” contains over 400 documents, available free from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey website.

Coast Survey’s collection includes 394 Civil War-era maps, including nautical charts used for naval campaigns, and maps of troop movements and battlefields. Rarely seen publications include Notes on the Coast, prepared by Coast Survey to help Union forces plan naval blockades against the Confederacy, and the annual report summaries by Superintendent Bache as he detailed the trials and tribulations of producing the maps and charts needed to meet growing military demands.

In the nation’s early years, the United States lost more ships to accidents than to war. In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast to produce the nautical charts necessary for maritime safety, defense and the establishment of national boundaries. By 1861, Coast Survey was the government’s leading scientific agency, charting coastlines and determining land elevations for the nation. Today, the Office of Coast Survey still meets its maritime responsibilities as a part of NOAA, surveying America’s coasts and producing the nation’s nautical charts.

In his annual report on Dec. 15, 1861, Coast Survey Superintendent Alexander Bache wrote, “it has been judged expedient during the past year to suspend usual foreign distribution” of reports on the progress of maps and charts. Distribution of maps, charts, and sketches almost tripled in the 1861 “due to the demands of the War and Navy Departments.” However, because the Coast Survey could not easily ascertain the loyalties of private citizens, private distribution of maps was severely restricted among “applicants who were not well known having been referred to the representative of the congressional district from which the application had been mailed.”

The Civil War special collection is accessible through a searchable online database.

Illustration: Map of the Battlefield of Chickamauga. U.S. Coast Survey cartographers traveled with Union forces to produce battlefield maps during the Civil War. Courtesy NOAA.

Wild, Wild East: NY’s Westward Expansion Lecture


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New York’s early frontier was America’s first “Wild West” with Westward Expansion, blocked by two “obstacles”: Native Americans and Nature. Combining dramatic images and fresh research, Robert Spiegelman details this forgotten New York, where settler dreams encounter native lifeways during a free lecture on Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 7 pm at the Fort Montgomery Historic Site.

Spiegelman will explore a “magical crossroads” where immigrants change into nomad farmers, neighbors into rivals, colonists into fighters, soldiers into settlers, land speculators into “second creators,” Indian Country into military tracts named for Roman conquerors, and untamed forests into real estate grids.

Participants will revisit Syracuse and Buffalo’s emergence from the ashes of attempted Indian removal and controversial land treaties that have shaped today’s Empire State. Then grasp Manhattan’s rise to prominence via the Erie Canal, which in turn, inflames a religious upheaval across Central New York that America calls “The Burnt Over District.” The lecture will end with an appreciation of how – against all odds – indigenous New Yorkers retain a toehold in their deforested ancestral homelands.

The Fort Montgomery Visitor Center is located at 690 Route 9W,1/4 mile north of the Bear Mountain Traffic Circle in Fort Montgomery, Orange County, NY 10922. For more information call (845) 446-2134.

Mapping New York: Illustrated Urban, Social History Survey


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I love maps, so when I heard about Mapping New York, the follow-up of Mapping London from Black Dog Publishing, I had to get a copy to review – I was not disappointed. Mapping New York is a richly illustrated survey of the urban and social history of New York City. From early woodblock engravings to the latest satellite images available of Manhattan, these maps show the intricate story of the development of one of the world’s most populous cities. One of my favorites is an early topographical map from the Report on the Social Statistics of Cities, compiled by George E. Waring Jr., in 1886.

The distinctive maps in this volume date back to the 16th Century, when New York was a commercial trading post scattered with farms, right up to the present day. This book shows the complexity of early land transfers (like Henry Tyler’s 1897 map of the original grants of village lots from the Dutch West India Company) up to its current role as one of the most built up urban areas in the world.

Although there are plenty of early maps here, Mapping New York does not neglect maps from the 20th and 21st century. These are arranged thematically and featuring maps on population, military, water, transport, commerce, crime as well as planning and developing maps and boundaries of the five boroughs. Well known maps such as the New York City subway map are tracked through their history and in artist representations. Additional map as art pieces include Claes Oldenburg’s Soft Manhattan #1: Postal Codes from 1966 and the poem, Manhattan, in the shape of the city by Howard Horowitz. This book is an amazing look at typography and design in the history of mapping as told through one location.

The latest satellite images are included along with a fantastic projection on the growth of the city “Manhattan 2409″ by Heidi Neilson showing her vision of what the city will look like in the future based on current satellite imagery (greener than you might expect).

Illustration: Sanitary and Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York, 1865 from Mapping New York.

SepiaTown: A New Historical Image Mapping Site


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There is a new historical image website (mobile version coming soon) that lets people experience the past through a large and growing collection of user-submitted, mapped historical images. SepiaTown is just getting started with a collection of over 400 mapped New York City images, plus a growing collection from a host of cities around the world.

In the coming months they’ll be adding a number of new features to the site: a mobile version, filtering by date and media type, film and audio upload, plus individualized pages for registered users. Users can upload, map and share their own images; if you like, each image can feature a link to your own site.

Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009


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A New York Public Library exhibit will look at the history of New York City’s shoreline. The exhibit, entitled Mapping New York’s Shoreline, 1609-2009, will run until June 26, 2010 at the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall (First Floor) of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.

September 2009 marks 400 years since Henry Hudson sailed into New York Harbor and up the Hudson River, almost to what is now Albany, performing detailed reconnaissance of the Hudson Valley region. Other explorers passed by the outwardly hidden harbor, but did not linger long enough to fully realize the commercial, nautical, strategic, or colonial value of the region.

Once the explorers returned to Europe, their strategic information was passed on to authorities. Some data was kept secret, but much was handed over to map makers, engraved on copper, printed on handmade paper, distributed to individuals and coffee-houses (the news centers of the day), and pored over by dreamers, investors, and potential settlers in the “new land.”

Mapping New York’s Shoreline celebrates the Dutch accomplishments in the New York City region, especially along the waterways forming its urban watershed, from the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound to the North (or Hudson) River and the South (or Delaware) River. Inspired by The New York Public Library’s collection of Dutch, English, and early American mapping of the Atlantic Coastal regions, this exhibition exemplifies the best early and growing knowledge of the unknown shores along our neighboring rivers, bays, sounds, and harbors.

From the earliest mapping reflecting Verazzano’s brief visit to gloriously decorative Dutch charting of the Atlantic and New Netherland, illustrating their knowledge of the trading opportunity Hudson’s exploration revealed, the antiquarian maps tell the story from a centuries-old perspective. We are brought up to date with maps and text exploring growing environmental concern for this harbor, and the river that continuously enriches it. From paper maps to vapor maps, those created with computer technology, the story of New York Harbor in its 400th year is told.

Mapping New York’s Shoreline features maps, atlases, books, journals, broadsides, manuscripts, prints, and photographs, drawn primarily from the Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, augmented by items from other New York Public Library collections.

‘Mapping the Adirondacks’ at The Adirondack Museum


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Adirondack Museum Librarian Jerry Pepper will present an illustrated presentation entitled “When Men and Mountain Meet: Mapping the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake on Monday, August 10, 2009. Part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series, the presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for museum members. Admission is $5.00 for non-members.

A contested terrain amid warring nations, a frontier rich in timber and minerals, a recreational and artistic paradise and a pioneering wilderness preserve, the Adirondack Mountains are an intensively mapped region. Using rare and rarely seen maps, drawn from the over 1400 historical maps and atlases in the Adirondack Museum’s collection, “When Men and Mountains Meet: Mapping the Adirondacks” will chart the currents of Adirondack history, as reflected through the region’s maps.

The Adirondack Museum introduced a new exhibit in 2009, “A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks,” that showcases paintings, maps, prints, and photographs illustrating the untamed Adirondack wilderness discovered by early cartographers, artists, and photographers. The exhibition will be on display through mid-October, 2010.

Jerry Pepper has been Director of the Library at the Adirondack Museum since 1982, he holds Master degrees in both American History and Library Science.

Photo: “A New and Accurate Map of the Present War in North America,” Universal Magazine, 1757. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.

‘Wild, Unsettled Country’ At The Adirondack Museum


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The Adirondack Museum has announced a new exhibit, A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’: Early Reflections of the Adirondacks, that will look at the early efforts to convey the Adirondacks visually to the wider world. The exhibit will open on May 22, 2009 – meaning that year-round Adirondack Park residents should be able to catch the exhibit for free the last week of May.

The first Europeans to see the Adirondack landscape of northern New York State came to explore, to document important military operations and fortifications, or to create maps and scientifically accurate images of the terrain, flora, and fauna.
These early illustrations filled practical needs rather than aesthetic ones.

The exhibition will showcase approximately forty paintings from the museum’s exceptional art collection, including works by Thomas Cole, John Frederick Kensett, William Havell, John Henry Dolph and James David Smillie.

Also featured are fifty of the engravings and lithographs of Adirondack landscape paintings that brought these images to a wider audience and provided many Americans with their first glimpse of the “howling wilds” that were the Adirondack Mountains.

While tourists were flocking to Saratoga Springs, N.Y. in the 1830s, few ventured north into the “lofty chain of granite” visible from Lake George. One guidebook described the mysterious forms as “a wild repulsive aspect.” Little was known of these yet-unnamed mountains.

In 1836, the New York State legislature authorized a survey of the state’s natural resources. Artist Charles Cromwell Ingham was asked to join geologists Ebenezer Emmons and William C. Redfield during one of the first exploratory surveys. During the trip, he painted The Great Adirondack Pass, “on the spot.” The original painting will be shown in the exhibition.

The exhibit will also include photographs-stereo views and albumen prints-sold as tourist souvenirs and to armchair travelers. William James Stillman took the earliest photos in the exhibition in 1859. These rare images are the first photographic landscape studies taken in the Adirondacks. Photos by Seneca Ray Stoddard will also be displayed.

Significant historic maps will illustrate the growth of knowledge about the Adirondack region. In 1818, it was still a mysterious “wild, barren tract…covered with almost impenetrable Bogs, Marshes & Ponds, and the uplands with Rocks and evergreens.” By 1870, the Adirondacks had become a tourist destination with clearly defined travel routes, hotels, beaches, and camps.

“A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’” will be on exhibit in the Lynn H. Boillot Art Galleries. The space includes the Adirondack Museum Gallery Study Center – a resource for learning more about American art. In addition to a library of reference books, a touch screen computer allows visitors to access images from the museum’s extensive fine art collection.

The Gallery Study Center will include a media space as part of the special exhibit. The documentary film “Champlain: The Lake Between” will be shown continuously. The film, part of the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project, has aired on Vermont Public Television in recent months.

“A ‘Wild, Unsettled Country’” is not just for adults. Family-friendly elements include Looking at Art With Children – a guide for parents as they investigate the arts with youngsters; the Grand Tour Guide – a colorful and engaging map that encourages exploration of the Adirondack sites shown in the paintings; and ten different Wild About! guidebooks that urge kids to be “wild” about maps, prints, history, and more.

Photo caption: View of Caldwell, Lake George, by William Tolman Carlton, 1844. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.

NYPL Updates Google Earth-Maps Division Collection


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Matt Knutzen is reporting on the NYPL’s blog that they have updated the Map Division’s Google Earth index to the digitized New York City map collections. The index now includes “more than 2000 maps from 32 titles, organized chronologically and geographically by borough, all published between 1852 and 1923.”

Here are Knutzen’s recommended ways to search for maps using the index.

1. Select a borough and vintage using the folders from the list on the left sidebar.

2. Double click the map to fly to your chosen location, then use the time slider at the top left of the map frame to narrow the chronological search scope.

3. Enter a street address in the “fly to” search box, then use the time slider.

Once you’ve located a historical map coverage, scroll your mouse over the area and click. A popup window will allow you to access bibliographic information and a digital copy of the historical map.

Stolen 1612 Map of Canada to be Auctioned?


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Thanks to The Map Room we learn that a rare copy of Samuel de Champlain’s 1612 map of Canada set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s next month, may be the same map discovered missing from Harvard University in 2005.

The Calgary Herald has the whole story:

The Harvard map was found missing in 2005 during an FBI investigation into a string of thefts from major libraries in the U.S. and Britain that saw about 100 cartographic treasures – worth an estimated $3 million US in total – sliced from centuries-old atlases and exploration journals.

Massachusetts antiquarian E. Forbes Smiley, a well-known collector and dealer of rare maps, eventually admitted to the thefts and is serving three years in a U.S. prison for the crime.

He helped authorities recover many of the stolen maps as part of a plea bargain, but the 1612 Champlain map removed from Harvard’s Houghton Library was not among those he admitted taking.

The Champlain map is one of top-priced items at Sotheby’s Nov. 13 Natural History, Travel, Atlases and Maps sale. According to the Calgary Herald the map was the first to be published to show Montreal, Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes as a chain of connected waterways.

Strange Maps to Strange Ideas


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One of the blogs we follow here at the New York History Blog, is Strange Maps, a blog of some of the weirdest, wackiest, and thought provoking maps in the world. Here is are some samples of some recent posts you may not have seen, they are not all New York History related, but they do point to unique uses of mapping that NY historians can appreciate:

Federal Lands in the US
The United States government has direct ownership of almost 650 million acres of land (2.63 million square kilometers) – nearly30% of its total territory. These federal lands, which are mainly used as military bases or testing grounds, nature parks and reserves and indian reservations, are managed by different administrations, such as the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority. [New York is tied with Iowa for 2nd from last at .8%; Connecticut and Rhode Island are tied for last with just .4% - of course they don't count New York's state lands (Adirondack, Catskills, and more), so the map is not really reflective of actual government ownership.]

Where News Breaks

Researchers extracted the dateline from about 72,000 wire-service news stories from 1994 to 1998 and modified a standard map of the Lower 48 US states (above) to show the size of the states in proportion to the frequency of their appearance in those datelines. New York is the largest news provider of the country, of course nearly all originating in New York City (pop. 8.2 million; metro area 18.8 million). Compare this to Illinois, home of the the nation’s third largest city, Chicago (pop. 2.8 million; metro area 9.5 million). Especially when considering metropolitan areas, Chicago/Illinois should be half the ‘news size’ of New York City/New York, while in fact it seems to be less than one fifth. Could this underrepresentation be down to another ‘capital effect’ (i.e. New York being the ‘cultural capital’ of the US)?

Area Codes in Which Ludacris Claims to Have Hoes
“In [the song "Area Codes"] Ludacris brags about the area codes where he knows women, whom he refers to as ‘hoes’,” says Stefanie Gray, who plotted out all the area codes mentioned in this song on a map of the United States. She arrived at some interesting conclusions as to the locations of this rapper’s preferred female companionship:

Ludacris heavily favors the East Coast to the West, save for Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Las Vegas.

Ludacris travels frequently along the Boswash corridor.

There is a ‘ho belt‘ phenomenon nearly synonymous with the ‘Bible Belt’.

Ludacris’s ideal ‘ho-highway’ would be I-95.

Ludacris has hoes in the entire state of Maryland.

Ludacris has a disproportionate ho-zone in rural Nebraska. He might favor white women as much as he does black women, or perhaps, girls who farm.

A World Map of Manhattan
This map celebrates that diversity by assembling Manhattan out of the contours of many of the world’s countries. Danielle Hartman created the map based on data from the 2000 US Census. In all, 80 different countries of origin were listed in the census. The map-maker placed the country contours near the census area where most of the citizens of each country resided.

The Comancheria, Lost Homeland of a Warrior Tribe
Under the presidency of Sam Houston (1836-’38, 1841-’44) the then independent Republic of Texas almost came to a peace agreement with the tribal collective known as the Comanche. The Texas legislature rejected this deal, because it did not want to establish a definitive border with the Comanche; for by that time, white settlers were pushing into the Comancheria, the homeland of one of the most fearsome Native American peoples the Euro-Americans ever had to deal with.

Thomas Jefferson’s Plan for the division of the Northwest Territory into 10 new states.

Regionalism and Religiosity

A Map of the Internet’s Black Holes

A Diagram of the Eisenhower Interstate System

Birthplaces of Mississippi Blues Artists

Ancient Mississippi River Courses

NY Public Library Puts State Map Collection Online


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The New York Public Library has made available a number of New York State maps at their website. The collection includes David H. Burr’s atlases of 1829, 1838, 1841, along with Asher & Adams’ 1871 New Topographical Atlas and Gazetteer. There are also some 30 county level atlases, and city atlas for Albany (1876), Auburn (1882), Babylon, Islip, and Brookhaven (1888), Buffalo (1872), Elmira (1876, 1896), Oswego (1880), Saratoga and Ballston (1876), Troy, West Troy (now Watervliet) and Green Island (1869), Troy (1881), and Utica (1883). Many of these maps include individual homeowners names.

The interface leaves a lot to be desired. You should make sure that you have downloaded the proprietary viewer – the only indication it’s necessary is found here.

A Western New York Online Historical Resource


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Forwarded from Tim Stowell who posted it to the NYDUTCHE (Dutchess County NY) genealogical mailing list, is notice of this massive online archive from the Western New York Library Resources Council. It includes a tremendous collection of maps of the Holland Patent area which are held by the State University of New York at Fredonia.

According to Stowell, “These maps are mainly about New York state and western New York at that – from Herkimer west, but also contain early maps from Pennsylvania to Maine to Georgia and points in between.”