New Online Exhibition: American Map Making 1782-1800

Boston Rare Maps, one of the country’s premier specialist dealers in rare and unusual antique maps, presents, a virtual online exhibition of antique American maps from the late 18th Century.  Originally hosted at the Harvard Map Collection, Toward a National Cartography: American Mapmaking, 1782-1800 traces the evolution of mapmaking during the formative years after the American Revolution, revealing the ways in which Americans sought to transform the landscape to suit their newly established economic and political goals.  Included in the exhibition are works by renowned mapmakers such as Osgood Carleton, Andrew Ellicott, John Fitch and many others. 

Highlighting this unique exhibition is a 1792 plan for “The city of Washington in the Territory of Columbia”, now Washington D.C., by surveyor Andrew Ellicott:

The plan depicts a grand capital on the European model, with broad avenues, large public squares and dramatic sightlines.  Its unstated intent was to convey the grandeur and permanence of the national government – which at the time was only three years old, boasted a bureaucracy of fewer than 200 employees and rested on a Constitution that was feared as much as it was venerated.

The exhibition also tracks urban development in the Northeast with Osgood Carleton’s “Accurate Plan of the Town of Boston”, published in May of 1797: 

Carleton’s plan of Boston was the largest and most accurate map of the town published to date.  It was based primarily on a survey he conducted “by order of the General Court,” as part of a state mapping project begun in 1794. This was one of the last significant maps of Boston before the great land-making projects of the 19th century, which created the Back Bay.  Noteworthy landmarks include the new State House on Beacon Hill (on land that once belonged to John Hancock), as well as the Charles River and West Boston Bridges.
Additional featured works include maps of New England, Massachusetts, New York, Baltimore, North Carolina and beyond by prominent mapmakers like Dennis Griffith, Jonathan Price, Phinehas Merrill, Matthew Clark, John Norman and many others.  In addition to city plans and maps, the exhibition also includes antique postal and road maps, navigational charts, and numerous additional cartographical specimens from post-Revolution America.

For additional information or to view the virtual exhibition online, simply visit: