Revolutionary War Philadelphia for a German audience

[Nicolas Scull & George Heap /] Matthaüs Albrecht Lotter, A PLAN of the City and Environs of PHILADELPHIA ... [Augsburg:] Matthaüs Albrecht Lotter, 1777.
Engraving on laid paper, 18”h x 23 ½”w plus good margins, original color. Two diagonal printer’s creases and a short, mended tear at lower edge. Better than very good.

An uncommon and most attractive German map of Revolutionary-era Philadelphia and its immediate environs, published the year the city was captured by the British Army under General Howe.

The Continental Congress had first met at Philadelphia in 1774 and continued to meet there during the early years of the American Revolution, until the city was occupied by the British in September 1777. As the capital of the newly-independent United States and by far the largest city in North America, it was a natural subject for mapmakers. Thus in March 1777 William Faden in London published A Plan of the City and Environs of Philadelphia, which leaned heavily on Scull and Heap’s seminal A Map of Philadelphia, and Parts Adjacent, issued in Philadelphia in 1752.

Already in 1777, Faden’s map was borrowed and reissued with mostly-minor changes by Matthaüs Albrecht Lotter in Augsburg. While a long way from the seat of war, there was great interest in the war in Germany, as so many Germans had settled in the British Colonies there, and both sides depended heavily on German soldiers, at all ranks. Despite his largely German-speaking market, Lotter did not trouble to translate the text on the map into that language.

Lotter’s map extends from the house of the magistrate William Allen, north of Germantown, southward to the Delaware River, and, from west to east, from Derby to the Delaware River and the facing shoreline of New Jersey. In addition to the unmistakable grid plan of the city itself, the most prominent feature is the architectural profile of the State House, based on that included by Scull and Heap on their 1752 map. Interesting additions relating to the ongoing conflict are the “Battery demolished” at the southern extent of Philadelphia, the “New Fort” shown on Mud Island, and the notation to the left of the State House spire, “Chevaux de Frise which the Americans have laid across to obstruct the Navigation”.

The Lotter and Seutter families
Matthaüs Albrecht Lotter (1741-1810) was born into a map-publishing firm founded by Matthaüs Seutter (1678-1757), who had trained with Johann Baptist Homann. Seutter was succeeded by his son Albrecht Karl (1722-1762) and son-in-law Tobias Conrad Lotter (1717-1777), the latter the father of Matthaüs Albrecht and Georg Friedrich (1744-1801), who were to succeed him. The Homann firm and the Seutter/Lotter firms were the two great cartographic powerhouses of Germany in the eighteenth century.

On August 25, 1777 General Howe landed his army at the head of Chesapeake Bay and after much bloody fighting occupied Philadelphia on September 25, though it is highly unlikely the news had reached Augsburg when the map was published.

Nebenzahl, Printed Battle Plans of the American Revolution, 131. Snyder, City of Independence, 46.