The first American map covering all Pennsylvania, and the first to incorporate the Mason-Dixon boundary survey

William Scull / Henry Dawkins Sculp.t / Printed by James Nevil, To the Honorable Thomas Penn and Richard Penn Esquires True and Absolute Proprietaries and Governors of the Province of Pennsylvania and the Territories thereunto belonging and to the Honorable John Penn Esquire Lieutenant-Governor of the same, THIS MAP of the Province of PENNSYLVANIA. Is humbly dedicated, by their Most Obedient humble servt. Philadelphia: William Scull, April 1, 1770.
Engraving on laid paper, 21 ¾”h x 31 7/8”w at neat line plus margins. Early outline color. Surface cleaned, with some residual soiling and toning, more noticeable in margins. Minor edge wear, and a patch to small (1/3”) loss to lower-right margin. Reverse with traces of adhesive from old linen backing.

A rare and important map of Pennsylvania published in Philadelphia in 1770, by far the best map of the province to date. The map extends the coverage to include essentially all of Pennsylvania, for the first time incorporating new surveys of the western counties, many by its author, William Scull, as well as the Mason-Dixon surveys. With superlative provenance to an important North Carolina religious community, where it has resided since publication.

William Scull (1739-?), son of surveyor Edward Scull and grandson of the late Pennsylvania Surveyor General Nicholas Scull, issued this map to improve on a mammoth six-sheet map of the province published by the latter in 1759. Whatever its merits, the elder Scull’s map had focused only on the “improved” (i.e., settled) portion of the province east of the Alleghanies, and was viewed as both over-large and thus expensive and “erroneous in many parts”. Further, since its publication at the height of the French and Indian War, the arrival of peace had enabled settlement to push further west, and Mason and Dixon had completed their epochal surveys of the boundaries with Delaware and Maryland.

The map depicts the province from its eastern boundary at the Delaware River to just past Fort Pitt at the junction of the Allegany, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. As Scull wrote in an advert, it “comprehend[s] the whole extent of the province; describing the situation of all the towns, villages, and remarkable places, [and] the courses of the roads, rivers, creeks and mountains, with great precision”. In fact, by Scull’s own admission it does not quite depict the entire province, as Mason & Dixon’s party were turned back by native American threats before they could survey an area south of the 39th parallel and west of Maryland, then claimed by Pennsylvania. As for “great precision”, the map no doubt outshone its predecessors, but the lack of a graticule indicating latitude and longitude is a surprising omission.

Nevertheless, it is an impressive map, conveying a great amount of information about a vast area, synthesized from a wide variety of sources. In a lengthy note of acknowledgements engraved at upper right, Scull credits numerous individuals, some quite prominent,

“for the several Draughts and Observations they furnish’d me with; which have enabled me to present the Publick with an Accurate Map, not only of the improved Parts of the Province of Pennsylvania, but also of its extensive Frontiers, never before laid down with any Certainty, or Resemblance to Truth the Western Line dividing the Province of Pennsylvania and Maryland run by Messrs. Mason and Dixon, and the County Lines run by Messrs. Maclay, Biddle and myself, have been of Great Use to me, on this Occasion” 

The map is also interesting for highlighting a number of features that gained prominence during the French and Indian War. Not least of these is Fort Pitt, with “Gen. Braddocks Field” marked nearby, and the road hacked out of the wilderness by Braddock’s men during their march from Fort Cumberland, Maryland. Running from Carlisle to the Ohio, though not so named, is the “Forbes Road”, previously an Indian path but widened by a force under General Forbes during the successful campaign against Fort Pitt in 1758. Finally, the line of forts running south from Lake Erie—Presqu’ Isle, Le Boeuf, and Venango—were constructed by the French in the first half of the 1750s and were powerful provocations that helped set off the war.

Scull’s map was for some time the map of record for Pennsylvania, and a reasonably close copy—albeit with finer engraving and with the northern section eliminated–was included in Robert Sayer and John Bennett’s 1775 American Atlas.

William Scull
Scull’s biographical details are elusive. Most cartographic resources give his life dates as “1739-1784”, but, while the birth date is documented, no evidence has been found to establish conclusively his date of death.

Little is known about his early life, though as the son and grandson of surveyors it seems plausible that he received training in the family business. But from 1760-1769 Philadelphian William Scull–presumably our man–advertised in the Philadelphia press as a “chaise maker” and mender. Then in January 1769 he advertised his premises and stock for sale, “as the owner proposes removing to the country” (Pennsylvania Gazette, no. 2089 (Jan. 5, 1769), p. 3).

This 1769 date coincides with the emergence of William Scull as a surveyor. In that year he was employed by Pennsylvania Proprietors Thomas and Richard Penn—to whom this map is dedicated–to survey the huge tract of land ceded by the Iroquois at the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix.[1] This work led into Scull’s more extensive survey work of the western parts of Pennsylvania, which had not been surveyed by his grandfather, culminating in his publication of this 1770 map of the province.

Scull continued his surveying career after publication.[2] After the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, in 1776 he joined the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment, with the rank of Captain (Pennsylvania Packet, Nov. 26, 1776, p. 3). Scull came to the notice of George Washington, and he was tasked with carrying out surveys for the American army. A letter from Richard Peters to Washington, dated May 6, 1778, refers to Scull as “an ingenious Surveyor”, who “has been employed by your Excellency to survey the Country from Derby to Lancaster which he informs he has nearly completed.” Congress had ordered French surveyors to survey the Susquehanna, but “the Board have thought it best to employ him to survey the Creeks submitting their Order nevertheless to your Consideration that if it interferes with your Views as to Mr Scull you may contradict it”.

Then on June 5 of that year Washington summoned Scull to “Head Quarters Valley Forge” to meet with Robert Erskine,

“who is appointed Military Surveyor and Geographer is now here, endeavouring to arrange that department — fix upon the proper number of Deputies — and settle their Pay, appointments &ca. To do this, he would wish to see and consult you. I therefore desire you to come down immediately upon the receipt of this”.

Scull was subsequently appointed as an assistant surveyor to Erskine, then serving as “Geographer to the Continental Army”.

Scull’s later life is shrouded in mystery. He may indeed have died in 1784, though I’ve not seen evidence for this. For what it’s worth, a colleague has suggested that he is one and the same as the man who died at Alexandria, Virginia, February 6, 1813, the death notice recording,

“Departed this life on the 6th inst. Mr. WILLIAM SCULL, in his 76th year. Mr. Scull was an old and respectable inhabitant of this town. He lived and died in the belief of God …” (Alexandria Gazette, February 9, 1813, page 3).

The age (seventy-five) roughly matches the 1739 birthdate of our William Scull, and the 1800 federal census return for Alexandria has this man as a carriagemaker… similar enough to the William Scull, “chaise maker” and mender who advertised in the Philadelphia press in the 1760s.

Publication of the map
Scull announced his plan to publish a new map of Pennsylvania in February 1769 and solicited advance subscriptions. The lengthy advert is informative enough to quote a length:

“The map of the province of Pennsylvania, published by the late Mr. Nicholas Scull, notwithstanding great care and pain were taken to render it compleat, yet being an extensive work, hath been found not only imperfect, but erroneous in many parts, which were laid down from the best information he could then obtain. The subscriber, who was employed in that useful work, has had great opportunities of correcting its errors, and supplying its defects, and spent a great deal of time for that purpose. Having communicated his intentions to several ingenious gentlemen, who kindly assisted him with materials, he is induced by their advice, and the encouragement of many others, who have seen his improved map (now nearly finished) to publish the same by subscription, according to the following proposals.


“First, It being objected that the large scale on which the former map was laid down, made it expensive, at the same time that it only extended a little beyond the improved parts of the province, this map is laid down on a scale of ten miles to an inch, and will comprehend the whole extent of the province; describing the situation of all the towns, villages, and remarkable places, the courses of the roads, rivers, creeks and mountains, with great precision, on one sheet of paper, of about thirty inches in length, and about twenty inches in breadth.


“Second, The map to be printed on good paper, and delivered to the subscribers at the price of Seven shillings and Six-pence, on or before the first day of October next. The expectation he has of being soon enabled from actual surveys, and accurate observations, to lay down the back country, now lately purchased of the Indians, with great exactness (for which he is determined to exert his utmost industry) occasions the postponing his intended publication to so late a day.” (Pennsylvania Gazette, issue 2093 (Feb. 2, 1769), p. 4.

Publication was announced in April 1770,

“THE NEW MAP of the Province of PENNSYLVANIA; is now ready to be delivered to the subscribers who are desired to call or send for the same … N.B. There are a few more struck off than will be necessary to supply the subscribers, which are to be sold, at a Dollar a piece plain, or 8/6 coloured.” (Pennsylvania Journal, no. 1427 (Apr. 12, 1770), p. 2).

Rarity and provenance
Although the map was advertised for sale as late as 1781, the map is comparatively rare, particularly in trade. I know of 12 examples in institutional collections, of which 10 are here in the United States, including American Philosophical Society. Berks History Center, Free Library of Philadelphia, Harvard, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, John Carter Brown Library, Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Penn State University, and the William L. Clements Library. Additional examples are recorded at the British Library and Bibliothèque nationale de France.  An example was sold in the 1967 Streeter Sale (lot 975), and I am aware of two others having appeared on the market since then.

This example of Scull’s map has been recently and properly de-accessioned by the Archives, Moravian Church in America, Southern Province in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Moravian community was likely the original purchaser of the map, but at a minimum it has been in the possession of the Church since the 18th century.

Evans, American Bibliography, #975. Fite & Freeman, A Book of Old Maps, pp. 224-227 (illus.) Phillips, List of Maps of America, p. 647. Wheat & Brun, Maps and Charts published in America before 1800, #425. Smith, Murphy, Realms of Gold, #903. Streeter, #975.

[1] Scull’s bond for the surveying work (dated February 9, 1769) and Thomas Penn’s instructions to Scull in the conduct of the survey (dated February 10, 1769), both documents held by the American Philosophical Society, to which Scull belonged.

[2] His invoices for surveys conducted in 1772 are also in the APS.