A rare and intriguing little map of the United States issued by Boston publisher William Norman some time after the Louisiana Purchase.
The map depicts the United States, including much of the Louisiana Territory just a few years following its acquisition from France. Heavy dashed lines delineate state and territorial boundaries, including Mississippi Territory (established 1798), Indiana Territory (1800), the state of Ohio (1803), and Michigan Territory (1805). Areas of elevation are sketched in haphazardly at best, but much attention is given to major river systems. Following Jonathan Carver, the Upper Mississippi is rather badly displaced to the northwest, with its source at Bear Lake. Also of interest is massive “Georgia Company” tract, a relic of the explosive Yazoo Land Fraud, in which the State of Georgia sold millions of acres of western-lying land—to which lacked clear title—to political insiders at laughably-low prices.
The map’s cartographic sources are unclear. The most plausible source would have been one or another of Osgood Carleton’s three wall maps of the United States. The first of these was engraved by William Norman’s father John and published in 1791, with revised editions in 1799 and 1803, and Carleton issued entirely new maps in 1806 and again in 1808. However, a close comparison of these maps with the small map offered here reveals far more differences than similarities. Nor is there a match with either the 1796 or 1804 edition of Abraham Bradley’s Map of the United States, with which Norman surely would have been familiar.
Offered here is the second of two known states of the map, as it includes numerous place names not present on the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center copy. These include but are not limited to “Hampton” and “Williamstown” in Massachusetts, “Richmond” in Virginia, and “St. Augustine” in Florida. Both states of the map show numerous signs of erasure, particularly in Louisiana to the west of St. Louis and New Madrid, so it is possible that there exists a still-earlier state of the map.
Dating the map
The map is undated but bears the imprint of Boston publisher William Norman, who died in 1807. Internal evidence suggests however a slightly-earlier date of mid-late 1805: On the one hand, the map includes Michigan Territory, established in June of that year. On the other hand, it omits the Orleans Territory, which was carved out of Louisiana in 1804, and it depicts the Mississippi Territory in its pre-1804 configuration, before the Yazoo Lands in western Georgia were annexed to it. The simplest explanation of the lacunae is that Norman issued the map soon after the creation of the Michigan Territory, before he had had an opportunity to digest these other developments.
That said, I have found zero external documentary evidence backing up this inference of an 1805 date of issue. What I do find is that in 1807 William Norman published Richard Phillips’ An Easy Grammar of Geography / For the Use of Schools / With Maps… / First Improved Edition, Carefully Revised, with Considerable Additions, and A Map of the United States. However, of the copies checked, including one at the American Antiquarian Society, another at Harvard, and no fewer than four at the Newberry, none contains even a single map. Indeed, an advertisement in the Boston Gazette for Nov. 13, 1809 suggests that the maps originally intended for binding in the Easy Grammar were in fact issued both as a small atlas and individually. There, John Norman, who resumed control of the publishing business following William’s death, advertises among other things a “Small Map of the United States — 0:75” as well as “Goldsmith’s Easy Grammar of Geography, for the use of Schools, an improved edition, with an Atlas, 12mo — 1:0” and “The atlas separate — 0:62 ½.”
Consistent with this, Yales’ Beinecke Library holds a small atlas attributed to William Norman bearing a world map, maps of Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, and a “pasted in” map of the United States identical to ours.
The map is extraordinarily rare on the antiquarian market. One was offered by Bickerstaffs in or around 2005, while I find no sales records for either the 1807 Boston edition of Phillips’ Easy Grammar of Geography or the separate atlas attributed to William Norman.
In all, a rare and interesting map of the United States, inviting further research.