When the English took possession of New York in 1664, they knew little about the geography of their new province. Initially, their knowledge was derived largely from Dutch maps. Even the boundaries of the colony were quite uncertain. Shortly after seizing New Netherland, the British carved out New Jersey as a separate province, although it was only in 1769 that the land boundary between New York and New Jersey was finally determined. The lands granted by Charles II to the Duke of York (the future King James II of England) also included, on paper, all of Connecticut up to the west bank of the Connecticut River, much of Maine, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and other islands. The boundaries of northern and western New York were completely indeterminate. Only after the American Revolution did the boundaries of New York take on something close to their modern form.
The English (officially British after the Act of Union in 1707) brought with them a new set of priorities and cartographic traditions. Like both the French and the Dutch, they were interested in profiting from the fur trade. They shared with the French an impulse towards empire building, but they went about it in a much less systematic fashion. There was no state-sponsored missionary activity on a scale similar to that of the Jesuits in New France, and military intervention and efforts at political control by the central government were more sporadic. On the other hand, the English were considerably more successful than their rivals in populating their new province. From the beginning, the growth of New York under English and British rule owed more to private enterprise than to state initiatives.
English mapping activities took place against the backdrop of a complex and, initially, unstable ethnic and political situation. The English hold on the colony was at first quite tenuous, and there was a brief restoration of Dutch rule in 1672-73. Prior to about 1690, the English in New York were too busy consolidating their rule, establishing a government, and dealing with Leisler’s “Rebellion” to engage in extensive mapping. The political and cartographic problems of the new rulers were complicated by the ethnic diversity of the province. Even under the Dutch, the colony had been very much an ethnic mix. In 1664, Dutch settlers predominated in the Hudson Valley, with the English occupying eastern Long Island, and Manhattan being a mix of nationalities. Native Americans and African Americans (both slave and free) could be found everywhere. As the colony moved into the eighteenth century, this mixture became even more varied. English speaking settlers moved in larger numbers into Westchester County and the Hudson Valley, and there were significant settlements of Germans in the Hudson and Mohawk River Valleys. French Protestants (Huguenots) settled in such places as New Rochelle and New Paltz. This complex mosaic created a unique set of problems for imperial administrators and for cartographers, especially those engaged in property mapping.
Defining New York English and American Manuscript Maps, 1664-1720
Initially after their seizure of New York, the English were almost completely dependent on Dutch maps. The Jansson-Visscher maps (described in the previous chapter) seem to have been the primary source for the English picture of their new province in the years after 1664. As previously mentioned, one of these maps was consulted when New York was divided from New Jersey, and an English version was printed by John speed in 1676. The famous early map of Manhattan known as “The Duke’s Plan” (1664) was also essentially an adaptation of Jacques Corteljou’s Castello Plan (described in chapter two). The Duke’s Plan is accurate and highly decorative, as befits a map that was probably prepared for the new master of the province James, Duke of York. It was not until the mid-1670s that the English started to publish their own maps showing New York in any detail, and not until the 1730s did British printed maps significantly improve over the Jansson-Visscher map.
However, during the seventeenth century Anglo-American mapmakers produced some remarkable manuscript maps of all or parts of New York. Through them we can see how the English struggled with the problem of conceptualizing their new province in maps, and gradually came to refine the detail and accuracy of their image. From the very beginning the English were aware of the strategic importance of maps. They not only had to be concerned about a possible restoration of Dutch rule, but after the French incursion of the Mohawk Valley in 1666, the possibility of French invasion was constantly on their minds. To defend their province, the English needed a working knowledge of its rivers, roads, fortifications, and topography. Although the English lagged behind the Dutch and the French in publishing their maps, some of the English surveyors did excellent work, and left behind a number of important manuscript maps.
The interesting English manuscript maps from the seventeenth were mostly filed away in British archives and forgotten. Shortly after taking control of New Netherland, the English produced an important manuscript survey of Manhattan and its vicinity. This is known as the Nicolls map, after Richard Nicolls, the first governor of New York, who may have ordered the map to be made. It appears to be the work of a military surveyor and was probably made for official purposes. It is less polished than the “Dukes Plan,” but it shows a larger area, and it provides a good overview of the region at the time of the English conquest. It shows significant details of the topography of Manhattan Island and surrounding areas that cannot be found on any Dutch maps.
Less well known is a fairly detailed map of western Long Island that was produced at about the same time. This map bears the title “A Plott off ye Situation of the towns & places on ye western end of Long Island to Hempstead,” and was drawn in 1666 by a Long Island surveyor named Sergeant James Hubbard. The appearance of this map is deceptively crude, and the overall picture of the landscape it presents is quite distorted. Nonetheless, parts of it appear to reflect careful surveying, and it provides a revealing picture of western Long Island as seen through the eyes of an early colonist. The map shows the layout of several towns, including Gravesend, Flatbush, Flushing, and Newtown. It also provides detailed information about roads, property boundaries, streams, and tidal estuaries. The glacial moraine running the length of Long Island is sketched in with the note “These hills run from one end of the Island to the other.” Other topographic features labeled include meadows and sand dunes. A field of the Canarsie Indians is identified, as are individual houses of European settlers. A close look at the map also reveals an interesting mixture of Dutch and English geographic terminology. Estuaries and creeks are labeled using the Dutch terms kill and fly. An area near Jamaica Bay that is broken up by tidal estuaries is labeled “broken lands”—a reminiscence of the Dutch term gebrokene land, which appears in this general area on some of the early Dutch maps showing Long Island.
Nothing is known for certain about why this map was made, but it has the appearance of being another overview map drawn to acquaint English officials with the overall lie of the land. Prior to its destruction by fire in the early twentieth century, it formed part of the Surveyor General’s records in Albany.
A few years later, sometime around 1668, another Long Islander, John Scott, drew an unsigned and untitled map of New York and New England, which is quite revealing. Scott himself is one of the most colorful and controversial s in the early history of New York. Although much about his career is in doubt, it appears that he was deported as a very young royalist from England to Massachusetts. After serving as an apprentice in Massachusetts, and following a stint as a pirate in the Caribbean, he made his way to Long Island in the 1650s, where he became involved in real estate speculation and politics. He also worked as a surveyor and an attorney for several towns. As a speculator in Long Island real estate he compiled a record unmatched by any of his talented successors. Through dubious purchases from the Natives, he actually succeeded in obtaining title to about one-third of Long Island (most of the area between the English and Dutch settlements). He also managed to find time to lead an unsuccessful coup attempt against Peter Stuyvesant.
After the English seized control of New York, Scott continued to engage in political intrigue, and eventually got himself in so much trouble with Governor Winthrop of Connecticut that he was forced to flee to England—leaving his wife behind. Fortunately for him, his royalist background gave him good connections with the royal court, and eventually he came to hold the unsalaried position of Royal Geographer to King Charles II of England. In this position he made a number of maps, including the one which concerns us here, which now resides in the British Library.
For its time and place, John Scott’s map is remarkably accurate. Scott’s depiction of Long Island is vastly better than that of any of his Dutch predecessors. He provides, for the first time, a reasonably accurate picture of the South Shore barrier beaches, the harbors and estuaries along the North Shore of Long Island, and the glacial moraine running the length of the island. The major rivers of Long Island can be identified on this map, as well as such features as the Hempstead Plains and Lake Ronkonkoma. His depiction of the area around Jamaica Bay confirms the impression—also given by the Hubbard map—that the shoreline was quite different from what it is today. Scott clearly shows Jamaica Bay as being open to the ocean, with only a sandbar partially closing its mouth.
Scott’s depiction of the Hudson Valley is not nearly so original and impressive, and appears to be largely copied from Dutch maps. It does show major features, such as the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, the Hudson Highlands, Esopus Creek, and the Catskill Mountains in approximately their correct locations, but his treatment of this area is rather uneven. He shows some features—such as tributaries to the Mohawk River—that do not appear on printed maps until much later. On the other hand, there is no indication of the Tappan See, or the narrowing of the Hudson River at the Hudson Highlands. The depiction of human features in this area is also rather perfunctory. He shows Albany and a settlement at Kingston, along with a few other place names. But, on balance, his depiction of the Hudson valley is less detailed and interesting than his delineation of Long Island, or even of the Connecticut River Valley, where he shows palisaded Indian villages and cleared fields. There is also no hint of Lake Champlain, Lake George, or Lake Otsego on this map, although it extends far enough to the north and west to include at least parts of these features. This map confirms that at this time the English still knew little about the Hudson Valley, where the European population was almost entirely Dutch, and almost nothing about features further to the north and west. Only after about 1690 did English maps start to reflect first-hand knowledge of the Hudson Valley and the regions beyond it.
The final manuscript map from the early period of English occupation of New York to be discussed here is Robert Ryder’s relatively well-known map of Long Island and its vicinity, which bears the title Long Island Sirvaide by Robartte Ryder (ca. 1675). This work ( 4.1) bears the distinction of being the first map of any sizable part of British North America that was based on an actual survey. Robert Ryder (16?? – 1681) was a professional surveyor, who lived in Gravesend on western Long Island, and served as New York’s deputy surveyor general in the 1670s. He also carried out surveys of individual parcels of land on Staten Island, Westchester County, and elsewhere in New York. Ryder was clearly highly respected professionally: he was recruited to take part in astronomical measurements to determine the longitude of New York, and may have been involved in surveying the boundary between New York and Connecticut.
4.1. Robert Ryder, Long Island Sirvaide by Robartte Ryder (ca. 1675). John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
We know something about the background of the Ryder map. In 1670 Ryder had made a preliminary version the map, which can still be seen at the New York Historical Society. The final version of this map of Long Island was apparently made for Governor Edmund Andros, who in 1675 asked his officials to aid Ryder “to Survey and make a Draught of the Coasts, Harbours, Creeks, and Townes of Long Island.” The resulting map is remarkably accurate for its time, and one would like to know more about how the survey on which it is based was made. Most likely Ryder measured distances by pacing or on horseback, although it is possible that he used chains. Certain features of the map, such as the way irregular promontories are delineated, suggest that he may also have used some triangulation, which would have been a very advanced surveying technique for his time (more will be said about triangulation when we get to late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century mapping). Although not widely used, triangulation had been known as a technique since the sixteenth century, and Ryder appears to have had the expertise to use it.
Here again we have a map that was designed to provide administrators with a useful overview of a major portion of their new colony. This is confirmed by its inclusion in an atlas that was assembled by William Blathwayt (1649-1717), who had a long association with the Board of Trade, and was later was Commissioner of Trade and Plantations under William and Mary. The Ryder map is carefully finished and handsomely decorated, as befits a map prepared for an aristocratic audience. It is likely that the polished appearance of this map owes something to another hand. According to Jeanette Black, the map in the Blathwayte Atlas was made in England by “an unidentified Thames School copyist.” 
The Ryder map shows, in addition to Long Island, the area around New York Harbor, and the north coast of Long Island Sound in Westchester County and Connecticut. A major focus of the map is on political boundaries. New York, New Jersey, Staten Island, and Connecticut are all colored differently. Although easily overlooked, there are even faint dotted lines on Long Island indicating town boundaries. This boundary information is supplemented by the names of towns and harbors. With the exception of the Hempstead Plains on Long Island, almost no information is included about inland features. However, the carefully delineated coastlines are supplemented by some additional information useful to navigators, including soundings and shoals near the entrance of New York Harbor.
It is difficult to assess the actual extent of English knowledge of northern and western New York in the first decades of their rule. Even the Dutch had a better knowledge of these areas than is reflected on Dutch maps. There was constant trade between Albany and Montreal from an early date, and the Dutch knew that it was possible to make most of the journey between the two cities by water. We also know that the Dutch agent Arent Van Curler was drowned in Lake Champlain in 1667 on a voyage to Canada undertaken at the behest of Governor Nicolls. It is probable that individual Dutch traders followed in the footsteps of Harmen Meyendertsz van den Bogaert’s expedition to the Oneidas in 1634, and made visits to trade in various Iroquois villages, but such trips were discouraged by the West India Company, and they were not documented. We also know that in the 1670s and 1680s English messengers paid visits to Iroquois villages, including those of the Seneca in western New York. These early travels culminated in a trading expedition led by Johannes Roseboom (or Rooseboom), which paddled through lakes Ontario and Erie to Mackinac, Michigan (much to the consternation of the French). However, none of these explorations are reflected on contemporary maps.
Only after 1690, did the English start to produce maps of the Hudson Valley and upstate New York. By this time, the English had a considerably firmer hold on the colony. Small garrisons were posted at Albany and Kingston, and there was a gradual increase in English influence and settlement throughout this region. The accession of William III to the British throne ushered in a period of warfare with France, which continued with some interruptions until the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. These wars had their counterparts in conflicts between the English and French colonies in North America (King William’s War and Queen Anne’s War), and the frontier regions of northern and western New York were involved in these wars. It is a general rule that military activity stimulates the production of maps, and such was the case in this instance.
A revealing set of maps of towns and fortresses was produced by one John Miller, the dyspeptic author of New York Considered and Improved (1695). Miller was a clergyman of the Church of England who served as chaplain for two companies of soldiers sent to New York in 1691. Miller, who remained in New York until 1695, was the only Episcopal clergyman in the province at the time. His book combines insightful observations alongside denunciations of the “wickedness & irreligion” of the inhabitants, and expressions of pious regret at the failings of the dissenting churches. The reverend served under a military commission, and took considerable interest in military affairs—going so far as to devote a section of his book to a scheme for the conquest of Canada. It seems likely that his drawings of towns and fortifications reflected both his own interests and the desires of his military superiors. Both his book and his remarkably detailed drawings were reconstructed from memory, for he was forced to throw all of his papers overboard when he was captured by a French privateer on his return to England in 1695.
Miller is best known for his plan of New York City, which others have analyzed at length. Miller’s map of New York was the first plan of the city produced since the Nicolls Map some thirty years earlier, and it provides accurate drawings of the fort and of the city itself, which had nearly doubled in size under English rule. Equally interesting are Miller’s drawings of upstate cities and fortifications. Except for a very crude sketch dating from around 1659, Miller’s drawing of Albany is our first map of that city, which had changed little since the final years of Dutch rule ( 4.2)). It is easy to see from Miller’s plan why the Dutch nicknamed Beverwyck/Albany de Fuyck (a funnel-shaped animal trap): its streets form the shape of a funnel running from a broad base at the river to a narrow “spout” at the fortress. Equally interesting is Miller’s drawing of Kingston (formerly Esopus, then Wildwyck), which appears like a fortress huddled defensively behind its palisades. The town had been moved to this location and fortified by the Dutch after the original Dutch settlement near the river had been largely destroyed by the Indians. This map, and to a lesser sense the map of Albany, give a strong sense of how isolated and threatened European settlements along the Hudson River still were: they appear as tiny footholds barricaded against the threatening wilderness and its “savages.”
4.2. John Miller, Plan of Albany (1695). University of Nebraska-Lincoln Digital Commons.
Those interested in Native Americans will want to take particular note of Miller’s drawing of “The Indian Fort at ye Flats,” which was located north of Albany near Watervliet. Miller’s plan of this fort shows five longhouses, along with a house for the use of British soldiers. Miller’s maps also include a drawing of the fort at Schenectady, which was rebuilt following the town’s destruction by the French and their Indian allies in 1690. His plan of the fort includes two longhouses, as well as accommodations for Europeans and “styes for hoggs.”
An even more important group of maps were produced around 1700 by a military engineer named Wolfgang William Römer (1640-1713). Colonel Römer was the first of a succession of British military engineers to survey the province of New York. A talented builder of fortifications and maker of maps, he was typical in one respect of British military engineers in America—he was not very English. The aristocrats who dominated the British army regarded the work of engineers as beneath their dignity, and hence the army frequently had to look to people with foreign antecedents to staff the Royal Engineers.
Römer was son of the ambassador to the Netherlands from the Elector of the Palatinate. He was born in The Hague, and received his military education in Holland. Eventually, he entered into the service of the Prince of Orange, whom he accompanied to England in 1688, when he became King William III. Among his many activities in English service, he had served, in 1693, under Lord Bellomont (Richard Coote) on an expedition to the Mediterranean. Bellomont formed a high opinion of Römer, and when Bellomont was appointed governor of New York in 1697, he made certain that Römer accompanied him across the Atlantic. In New York, Römer not only made maps (of which more below) but constructed fortifications and served as a member of Bellomont’s council and that of his successor, Lord Cornbury. Between 1701 and his return to England in 1706, Römer was involved in fortifying Boston Harbor. On his return voyage he suffered the same fate as Miller: he was captured by a French privateer and threw all of his maps and papers overboard. One wonders what maps may have been lost as a result of that incident.
Four maps of New York made by Römer are known to exist (originals of all are in the British Public Record Office). Two of the maps predictably focus on fortifications. One of these is a skillfully executed map of Albany bearing the title Plan de la Ville d’Albanie (1698). This map is a kind of bird’s-eye view, which shows only the bare outlines of the city, and focuses on its military situation. It shows very clearly the topography of the city and how the fort is dangerously overlooked by higher terrain—a feature that made it vulnerable to an enemy equipped with artillery. Römer was very concerned about the weakness of the fort, as well he should have been, for at this time the capture of Albany by the French was a real possibility. Römer’s map of Albany also shows with great precision the streams, roads and fields surrounding the city—features which also would be important for anyone contemplating military activities. At about the same time, Römer also drew a similar map of Schenectady, which bears the title Plan de Sconectidy frontiere dan le conté d’Albanie et province de la Nouvelle Yorck en Amerique. Unlike Miller’s plan of the fort at Schenectady, Römer’s map provides us with a detailed portrayal of the whole town. Both of Römer’s maps are more accurate than Miller’s, as one would expect, since Römer did not have to reconstruct his maps from memory, and he was trained as a surveyor.
In addition to these important town plans, Römer produced two masterpieces covering larger areas. The first is a map of lower New York Harbor and surrounding areas that bears in Römer’s shaky English the astonishing title: A new mappe of part of Hutson’s, or the North River, Rareton River, which have their aiet lett [outlet] in to the sea by Sandy Hoocke, where the comming in is from sea to go up to New Yorck, north throw the narrows betwin Staaten Island and Long Island, and west up towards Amboye; survoyed in the year 1700, by Col. W.W. Romer. This map covers much the same area as the Dutch Manhatus map (discussed in chapter two above), and it is worth comparing them to observe the changes that had taken place during the intervening period. Unlike the Manhatus map, the primary focus of Römer’s New York Harbor map is navigational. It includes many soundings and delineates shoal areas in considerable detail. It is accurate enough so that its depiction of such shoreline features as Sandy Hook and Coney Island (which was then still very much an island) should be of considerable interest to students of New York’s changing shoreline.
The most notable in this series of four remarkable maps covers western New York and bears the title, A mappe of Colonel Romers voyage to ye 5 Indian Nations. This map was produced to document an expedition to the Iroquois, which Römer undertook at the request of Lord Bellomont, the instructions for which have survived. This map covers the entire area south of Lake Ontario and east of Lake Erie as far as the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. Although no match for contemporary French maps of the area, Römer’s map captures the main features of western New York. Lake Erie is called here Cadragqua Lake, and Lake Champlain is called Corlars-Lack (after Arnt van Curler, who drowned in its waters). Also shown are Niagara Falls and two of the Finger Lakes. Great detail is devoted to the route along the Mohawk River to Lake Oneida and the Iroquois villages in central New York. Individual Indian villages are shown and named, and the route connecting them is indicated by a dotted line. The map also shows the French Fort Frontenac on the north shore of Lake Ontario. A peculiar feature is another fort shown at the mouth of the Oswego River on the south shore of the lake. No fort existed at this time, but clearly Römer was suggesting that it would be a good idea to construct one here! Römer was well ahead of his time. The British finally constructed Fort Oswego at this site in 1724, and it was instrumental in their efforts to compete with the French for control of the Great Lakes. It took even longer for the British to catch up with Römer’s cartography, and no better map of western New York was produced by the British until the 1750’s.
Another important map made around the same time shows in considerable detail the routes from Albany to Canada. This little-known map was presented to the Board of Trade by John (“Fitz-John”) Winthrop (1638-1707), a soldier and later governor of Connecticut. Winthrop led New York and Connecticut troops in an unsuccessful invasion of Canada in 1690, and he would have been in possession of the best available intelligence concerning routes to Canada. Given the time when this map was made, his information was remarkably good, and it gives a better rendition of some areas than Römer’s map of upstate New York. Winthrop’s map shows the route from Albany to Montreal and Quebec, including such features as the portage from the Hudson River to Lake Champlain, and the locations of French fortifications at the northern end of Lake Champlain and on the Richelieu River. It is surpassed by the best contemporary French maps of this area, but nonetheless presents a very serviceable guide to the roads and waterways needed to move troops through this corridor. Winthrop’s map also shows with equal accuracy the route to Lake Ontario via the Mohawk River and Lake Oneida. In addition, it depicts many settlements in New York and Canada, including the Iroquois villages south of Lake Ontario, and shows a number of roads and Indian paths. It even includes a scale of distances for the route between Albany and the French settlement of Chambly, south of Montreal on the Richelieu River.
Also indicative of British interests in what is now northern New York is a little-known map prepared by New York surveyor Samuel Clowes. Drawn in 1701, it roughly sketches out the territory in New York and Ontario claimed by the Five Nations of the Iroquois. This map, which probably is based on information provided by the Indians themselves, is historically important, since it accompanied a deed putting this territory under the protection of the English, although providing for continued Iroquois occupation of the land. We will see that this treaty is reflected in later British claims to this area.
The last of this group of manuscript maps was made by Augustin Graham in 1698. Graham was for many years Surveyor General of New York (starting at least in 1691 and continuing until his death in 1719). We will meet him again in the following chapter on property maps. Graham’s map of New York, which was prepared at the request of the Board of Trade, appears to be the earliest surviving English map of the entire province, although an earlier map of New York was sent to the board by Governor Dongen in 1687.
Graham’s map shows most of the features found in the more detailed regional maps described above, and thereby reveals how the Province of New York appeared at that time to any British or colonial official who cared to contemplate it. What is new on this map is its delineation of the boundaries of large landed estates in the Hudson Valley and elsewhere in upstate New York. This preoccupation with landed property is a characteristic feature of British mapping throughout the colonial period, and more will be said about its significance in the following chapter.
Considering these manuscript maps as a group, it is evident that by 1710 the British had constructed a reasonably good picture of New York, including its northern and western frontier areas. It is equally remarkable how little the British actually did with these maps. For the most part, they seem to have been filed away at the Board of Trade and forgotten. With a few partial exceptions, which will be discussed below, they had little influence on published maps. Probably because of the rapid turnover of colonial officials, copies of most of these maps do not appear to have been kept in New York. For most practical purposes, they might as well not have been drawn. Only after 1750 were maps of comparable accuracy published, and then they were constructed from entirely different sources. In partial exculpation of the British map publishing industry, it should be pointed out that map makers in London had no way of knowing which of these maps were particularly accurate: lacking first hand knowledge of the geography of New York, they had no basis for comparing maps and deciding which were best.
Cadwallader Colden Surveys New York, 1720-1750
Following the spate of activity around 1700, there was a slowdown in the British mapping of New York. Not much was done in the twenty years after the death of Lord Bellomont. His successor, Lord Cornbury, seems to have had little interest in maps, or perhaps he was too distracted by virulent political opposition to manifest any interest. The end of Queen Anne’s War, signalized by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, ushered in a thirty-year period of peace with the French, which relieved the pressure to undertake mapping for military purposes.
A significant turning point in British efforts to map New York occurred in1720, when a young Scottish physician named Cadwallader Colden (1689-1776) was appointed as New York’s surveyor general. Colden occupied this post until 1763, when he passed in on to his son Alexander (1716-74). After Alexander’s death, the dynasty was continued by Cadwallader’s younger son David (1738-84). After ceasing to be surveyor general, Colden was active in New York politics as Deputy Governor, and occasionally as Acting Governor until his retirement in 1775. During most of these years, he was heavily involved with the mapping of his adopted province.
4.3. Portrait of Cadwallader Colden. Wikipedia Commons.
Colden was no ordinary surveyor general. He was one of the leading intellectual lights of eighteenth-century colonial America. An early member of The American Philosophical Society, he was a friend and correspondent of such men as William Douglass, James Alexander, David Rittenhouse, John Bartram, and Benjamin Franklin. In addition to geography and maps, his wide-ranging interests included botany, physics, medicine, and education. He is best known as the author of The History of the Five Indian Nations Depending on the Province of New York (1727), a pioneering work on Iroquois ethnography. Politically, he was an outspoken Tory with a taste for confrontational politics. Early in his career, he took on most of New York’s large landowners for failing to pay reasonable taxes on their huge estates. In 1747, his activities so infuriated the Provincial Assembly that it passed a resolution declaring him “an Enemy to the Colony.” Later, as Acting Governor during the Stamp Act crisis, he was hanged in effigy by the Sons of Liberty, and his carriage was destroyed. His opposition to American independence helps explain why his intellectual accomplishments are not more widely celebrated in this country.
Colden’s interest in surveying and map making was not unusual for an early eighteenth-century physician. At that time, scientific specialization had not progressed very far, and physicians often took an interest in a wide range of scientific subjects. At least two other medical doctors in eighteenth-century North America also engaged in map making: William Douglass (Colden’s friend and counterpart in Massachusetts) and John Mitchell.
When Colden took office as surveyor general in 1720, the British had still made remarkably little progress in mapping New York. Important manuscript maps, such as Ryder’s map of Long Island and the maps of Wolfgang Römer, never made it into print, and seem to have been almost completely forgotten. The situation was no better in New York than in London. Colden himself complained that when be first became surveyor general, he could not find a single map in his office.
In 1723 and 1724, Colden, together with Governor Burnet and James Alexander, undertook to determine the longitude of New York City by making a series of observations of the eclipses of the first moon of Jupiter—a technically difficult procedure pioneered by Galileo. This procedure involved ascertaining the exact times when a moon was eclipsed by the planet, and then comparing the times with those in tables established for London. The time difference between the two locations was then used to calculate the longitude. The calculations made by Colden and his friends were almost a degree off from the modern . As reported in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, the longitude of the fort at the tip of Manhattan island was calculated to be 74, 57′ 30” seconds.
As surveyor general, Colden was much preoccupied with the interconnected problems of surveying the boundaries of New York’s land grants, and of establishing its borders with neighboring colonies. These subjects will be discussed in the next chapter. But Colden also wanted to create a detailed and accurate map of New York as a whole, and even hoped to construct a map of the northern British colonies in North America. His involvement in these more ambitious projects will be considered next.
Colden’s efforts to create an improved map of New York tell us a lot about the problems of mapping the British colonies in the eighteenth century. That he was starting off from a very low point is revealed by the title of his first published map, which appeared in 1724: A Map of the Country of the Five Nations Belonging to the Province of New York and of the Lakes Near Which the Nations of Far Indians Live, with part of Canada Taken from the Map of the Louisiana done by Mr. De Lisle in 1718 ( 4.4).
4.4. Detail from Cadwallader Colden, Map of the Country of the Five Nations Belonging to the Province of New York (1747). John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
It must have been mortifying for Colden to have to copy his depiction of upstate New York from De L’Isle’s map, which along his friend Governor Burnett he regarded as an unvarnished piece of French propaganda. In spite of its other merits, the De L’Isle map did not even provide a particularly good picture of northern and western New York. It was on such a small scale that the information it gave on upstate New York was sketchy, and it was none too accurate. Colden would have done better if he could have taken his information from the manuscript maps produced by the French in the seventeenth century, although he nonetheless used the best information available to him. As late as 1738, Colden wrote to the Board of Trade that the geographic situation of New York “cannot be sufficiently understood, without a Map of North America,” and lamented: “the best which I have seen is Mr. De L’Isle’s Map of Louisiana, published in French in the year 1718. For this reason I frequently use the French names of places, that I may be better understood.” As late as 1750 he wrote: “All the English Maps of the Inland parts of the Continent are either absolutely erroneous or servily taken from the French even as far as to set bounds to the English Colonies from the French maps.”
Colden managed to improve slightly on De L’Isle’s map by noting the location of the portages between the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, and between the Mohawk River and Wood Creek. It is thought that his Map of the Country of the Five Nations is the first map actually printed in colonial New York. In an effort to refute the cartographic claims of the French to vast areas of upstate New York, Colden pointedly referred in the title of his map to the territory of the Iroquois as “belonging to the Province of New York.” This claim was based on the 1701 deed and map discussed above, and was recognized by the French in the Treaty of Utrecht. The British persistently used this claim in their maps and documents to assert their sovereignty not only over western New York, but over all the Indian tribes and territories that the Iroquois had ever conquered or managed to intimidate into paying tribute. This is why Colden notes on his map over what is now southern Ontario: “The Countries conquer’d by the Five Nations.” Unsurprisingly, this claim made by British imperialists reflects a very partisan interpretation and extension of the British alliance with the Iroquois.
Colden’s admiration for De L’Isle provides an important clue about how he tried to construct his maps of the New York region. Both De L’Isle and Colden were exemplars of early Enlightenment cartography. They prized accuracy and “correctness” in their maps, and thought of their work as being in some sense “scientific.” Their unspoken ideal was a map that somehow replicated reality on paper, but on a smaller scale. However, their style of mapping was necessarily limited by the materials they had at hand, and by the conditions under which they worked. As was noted under the discussion of De L’Isle, the hallmark of “scientific” mapping for the nineteenth century was triangulation (which will be described in chapters six and ten). Although the basic principles of triangulation were known in the early eighteenth century, and were already being applied by the Cassinis in France, this type of labor-intensive cartography was out of the question in colonial North America. In their striving for accuracy, both De L’Isle and Colden had to resort to less exact methods. They both attempted to construct an overall framework for their maps by ascertaining accurate longitudes and latitudes of specific locations. This would enable them to establish the distances between important points on their maps. The details were then filled in with whatever information they had at hand. This might include travelers’ reports, route surveys made for military or navigational purposes, boundary surveys, and maps of large estates. The quality of these materials varied greatly, and a cartographer had to exercise judgment in selecting these materials, evaluating them, and fitting them together.
There is some evidence about how Colden tried to make use of these procedures. A letter survives from William Douglass to Colden, written in 1724, about their joint interest in producing better maps of the British North American colonies, especially New York and New England. Douglass was in many respects Colden’s intellectual counterpart in Massachusetts, and much later (in 1753) his estate was to publish an important map of New England that may have been pirated by Thomas Jefferys (see chapter six). In this letter, Douglass advised Colden to proceed along lines similar to those outlined above. In the words of Douglass: “I presume the most natural easy and exact method of beginning a draught or Map is by first laying down some certain fixed points accurately determined as to Lat. And Longitude, and the other principal parts laid down according to their exact distances and bearings from those invariable points will prevent any gross mistake.”
In practice, this “natural easy and exact method” was not as simple as it appeared to Douglass. In 1738 (some fourteen years after the letter quoted above), Colden sent to the Board of Trade quite a good written geographical description of New York, which included a table giving the latitude and longitude of a number of places in the province and in neighboring areas. Still, he was able to supply the Board with only a very limited number coordinates for places in New York. These were: New York City (40.42N x 74.37W, modern: 40.47N x 73.58W); Albany (42.48N x 74.24W, modern: 42.39N x 73.45W); Oswego (43.35N x 76.50W, modern 43.27N x 76.30W); and Crown Point, 44.10N x 74.00W, modern: 43.57N x 73.26W). As has been seen, it was relatively easy to measure latitudes in the early eighteenth using sextants or similar instruments, although many of these measurements were inaccurate by modern standards. In fact, the only longitude reading Colden had for anyplace in New York was his own estimate for New York City, which he still obtained “from the Immersions & Emersions of Jupiter’s first Satellite, and the Calculations made from Dr. Pound’s Tables of that Satellite.” This reading was about 20 minutes more accurate than the one Governor Burnet had reported using the same technique in 1724. In addition to New York City, Colden had available longitudes that others had calculated astronomically for Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, and Quebec. His estimates of the longitudes of the remaining places in New York were “computed from their distance & situation, with respect to some one or more of these that are determined by Observation.”
All things considered, Colden’s estimates of longitudes and latitudes were fairly good, considering the time and place in which they were made. Colden’s estimate of the latitude of New York City was within 5 minutes of the modern (it was off by about 5.75 miles); his estimate of the longitude was off by 39 minutes (approximately 34 miles). Interestingly, Colden’s estimate of the longitude of New York City, is appreciably less accurate than those made by others for Montreal, Boston, and Philadelphia. Probably as a result of chance, Colden’s estimate of the coordinates for Albany was slightly better than his estimate for those of New York City. In the case of remote Oswego, his estimate of latitude is off by 37 minutes, and his estimate of longitude by 20 minutes. The for the latitude of Oswego is unusually inaccurate even by early eighteenth-century standards. Oswego at that time was a trading post with a small military garrison, and it would have been visited by competent military surveyors. That they produced an error of this magnitude should serve as a reminder that, even at this period, the measurement of latitude, although easier than that of longitude, was by no means totally reliable.
In spite of their flaws, Colden’s measurements were adequate to serve as a framework for a serviceable map of much of New York, at least by eighteenth-century standards. Thus, Colden overestimated the north-south distance from New York City to Albany by 4.6 miles. Although this error would be unacceptable today, it would hardly have been noticed by anyone making the two-day trip up the Hudson by boat or horseback. It is remarkable that Colden’s distance estimates are as good as they are—especially for remote locations like Oswego and Crown Point, where no astronomically measured longitudes were available. It would be interesting to know more about how these distances were obtained, but no records appear to have survived indicating who made these distance estimates, or how they were made. We can be certain that the distances were not obtained by triangulation, but only by some form of direct measurement. Because of their relative accuracy, it is likely that most of these distances were measured along roads by chains, with a compass being used to record changes in direction. Otherwise, they would have been estimated by such primitive means as counting paces and using a compass. A major weakness of Colden’s table of latitudes and longitudes is the small number of places he records. Most conspicuously, no coordinates are recorded for eastern Long Island, which apparently meant that Colden could only guess at its length. And, of course, he had to rely on the French for the geography of most of New York north of Saratoga and west of Oswego.
Although Colden never published a map of New York other than The Country of the Five Nations, he made at least two pen-and-ink sketch maps, which went a considerable distance toward his goal of producing an improved map of the province. One of these, which at least until recently was preserved at the Huntington Library in California, covers the entire state from Long Island to the Saratoga area, and as far west as the German settlements on the Mohawk River. Significantly, it omits the eastern part of Long Island, and much of northern and western New York. A similar map was in the New York State Library prior to its destruction in the catastrophic fire of 1911, but fortunately much of it was reproduced by Justin Winsor in his Narrative and Critical History of America. These two maps are so similar that they can be treated as copies or variants of a single map, which has been dated to 1726. Although not polished, it is accurately plotted, and was certainly an improvement over Augustin Graham’s somewhat similar 1698 map of the province. Colden’s map provides carefully drafted outlines of coasts, rivers, and streams—including such details as islands and shoals in the Hudson River—along with the location of numerous towns and fortifications. It depicts the boundaries of major land grants, and is extensively annotated with information about land patents and quit rents. The focus on land patents and rents reflects the administrative concerns of Colden and his superiors—illustrating another way in which maps reflect the agendas of their makers.
Colden believed that he was never provided the resources to complete his project of producing a detailed map of New York. In 1756 he complained, with considerable bitterness, to a correspondent:
“What surveys we have are in parts of the country distant from each another in detached pieces which it was impossible for me to join or to lay doun [sic] in their proper places on one general map of the province without having those large tracts previously surveyed which I am not able to bear & I have not one farthing from the Croun for any services I do in my office. The charts which my son has of surveys in detached pieces are on such various scales and these generally so large that it will give a great deal of trouble to reduce them & place them in any general map.”
Colden had good reasons for his complaint: the extensive surveying he thought necessary to produce an accurate map of New York could not have been done without considerable government resources. Still, there is a somewhat self-serving note to his complaint, which was made to excuse himself for not being able to provide the British army with a better map at the time of the outbreak of the French and Indian War. If it were not for his numerous other interests and responsibilities, he probably could have created a map similar to the one that William Douglas made of New England. Colden himself also produced a number of manuscript maps of specific areas within the province, but the only map he actually published remained The Country of the Five Nations.
In spite of the frustration of Colden’s plans to map New York, the information he gathered eventually found its way onto several maps that did provide relatively good information about the province. In particular, Colden played an important role in the creation of two of the most important maps of colonial America published in the first half of the eighteenth century—Henry Popple’s Map of the British Empire in America (1733), and Lewis Evans’ A Map of Pensilvania, New Jersey, New-York, and the Three Delaware Counties (1749). Colden’s role in the making of these two maps will be considered in the next section of this chapter.
It was only in the years between 1755 and 1775 that Colden’s plans for producing a better map of New York were partially realized. At this time, as will be seen in chapter six, military needs finally motivated the British to commit money and people to surveying the province in greater detail. Although Colden remained active and conspicuous during these years, neither he nor his sons seem to have played much of a role in this final phase of the mapping of colonial New York.
Published Maps Showing New York, 1680-1750
British map publishing in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries lagged behind that of the Dutch or French. It was not until Henry Popple’s Map of the British Empire in America (1733) that the British published a map that included a significantly better depiction of New York than the Jansson-Visscher maps (described above in chapter 2). Even then, British cartographers continued to copy their depictions of northern and western New York from French sources, such as the maps of Delisle and Bellin.
The initial years of English rule saw the production of few printed maps—in part because the English map publishing trade was undeveloped in comparison to that of the Dutch, and the English monarchy did not have the financial resources that enabled Louis XIV to subsidize systematic surveying and map making. The maps published in England prior to 1730 were largely adaptations of Dutch maps, although there were some significant modifications. As with Dutch and French maps, the information contained in published maps lagged behind that in manuscript maps, and for this reason our review of the published maps will be relatively brief. It is also worth noting that only at the very end of the colonial period (after 1775) did any printed maps appear that depicted only the Province of New York by itself. Earlier maps showed New York as part of North America, or at best as part of the Middle Atlantic or New England regions.
The first English map to show the province of New York in any detail is a very rare chart by Joseph Moxon of the East Coast of North America entitled Americae Septentrionalis Pars (1664). There is only one known copy of this map, which appeared in the very year of the English takeover, and seems to have been rushed out to celebrate that event. It bears the distinction of being the first printed map to show New York by its present name. Moxon’s map is an adaptation of an earlier chart by Theunis Jacobsz, but it shows some notable improvements over Jacobsz’ work, and constitutes a very credible starting point for the English mapping of this area. Because of its small scale, it shows little detail, but it presents a fairly good outline of Long Island, which bears that name in English, as do “Westchester” and “Hudsons R.” The depiction of upstate New York is vague and sketchy. The Hudson River is poorly depicted, and both Fort Orange and the long-abandoned Fort Nassau are shown, as is Lake Champlain, which is called here “Lake of ye East Hyraquois.” It is probable that most copies of Moxon’s map were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. For a more detailed and accessible map of New York, English readers had to wait until after 1675. As late as 1676, John Speed published a reworking of the Jansson-Visscher map in his Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World.
The first English printed maps that depart notably from Dutch prototypes appeared in1675 or 1676 when John Seller published his Atlas Maritimus or the Sea Atlas. This atlas included two maps that contain rather similar information about New York. The first is A Mapp of New England ( 4.5); the other is A Chart of the Sea Coasts of New-England, New Jarsey, Virginia, Maryland and Carolina from C. Cod to C. Hatteras,which is on a somewhat smaller scale. Some of the information on these maps clearly comes from Dutch sources, but both maps contain information from other sources, including the John Scott map of New York and New England discussed earlier in this chapter. Seller bore the title “Hydrographer to the King,” which must have given him access to the map that Scott (the Royal Geographer) had recently drawn. The influence of Scott on Seller is particularly noticeable in the peculiar depiction of Long Island on both Seller maps. The Seller maps include a number of unusual Long Island place names, which are first found on the Scott map. Among the names on Seller’s Chart of the Sea Coasts is “Scot’s Hole,” which is a copyist’s error for “Scott’s Hall”—the name of a manor house that Scott built near Port Jefferson and proudly placed on his map. Sellers’ depiction of Long Island also includes several other features, such as oversized rivers and estuaries, which are characteristic features of the Scott map. Seller’s Mapp of New England shows other obvious signs of borrowing from Scott. In addition to many details being nearly identical, the Scott map and Sellers map of New England cover almost exactly the same geographic area as. Maps showing New England along with the settled parts of New York (mostly Long Island and the Hudson Valley) were to become very common in the colonial era. This particular shape was relatively easy to fit on a rectangular map, and it also reflects the indeterminacy of New York’s boundaries. In 1688-89, New York was even briefly incorporated within the Dominion of New England.
4.5. John Seller, A Mapp of New England (1676). John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
In 1675 or 1676, Seller’s rival, Robert Morden, broke new ground with his Map of New England, New Yorke, New Iersey, Mary-Land & Virginia ( 4.6). This appears to be the first printed English map that made a serious effort to depict what is now northern and western New York. The delineation of this area is undoubtedly derived primarily from French sources. It bears a considerable resemblance to Champlain’s 1632 map of New France, although some of the information on it is more recent, and appears to be derived from several Dutch and English sources. Morden’s map succeeds in placing Lake Champlain in approximately its correct location between the Hudson and Connecticut rivers, rather than to the east of the Connecticut River, as on earlier Dutch maps. The map also gives an easily recognizable picture of the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, and Lake Erie. It even provides crude representations of the Oswego River, some of the Finger Lakes, the Green Mountains, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks. On the other hand, its depiction of most of the lakes and rivers of upstate New York is hopelessly confused (note the entanglement of the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers), and the location of the various Iroquois tribes is thoroughly muddled. The depiction of Long Island on this map is also interesting: it attempts to combine features from the Seller maps and the Jansson-Visscher maps, and succeeds in making a fairly successful synthesis. The size of the rivers and waterways on Long Island, which are exaggerated by Seller, are reduced on this map. The barrier beach on the South Shore, which is not shown at all on the Jansson-Visscher maps, is depicted as a stippled shoal (as on Seller’s maps). All things considered, this map is a credible effort, and shows that the English were making considerable progress in defining the basic geography of their North American colonies.
4.6. Detail of Robert Morden, Map of New England, New Yorke, New Iersey, Mary-Land & Virginia (1675 or 1676). John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
Between about 1675 and 1730 there was relatively little innovation or improvement in English printed maps of New York. At this time, the British map publishing industry was still in its infancy, and map publishers merged, collaborated and copied from one another in bewildering patterns that are sometimes hard to trace. Maps like the Morden map, described above, were repeatedly reissued for over 50 years, with varying degrees of change. In addition to Seller and Morden, the most important English map publishers during this period were John Thornton, Philip Lea, and (towards the end of this period) Herman Moll. Many of the maps published during these years were basically inferior editions of the Morden map, some of which appeared in inexpensive books and atlases. It can be said in their favor that these maps mark the beginning of the diffusion of cartographic knowledge beyond such traditional elites as government officials, ship captains, and wealthy merchants. Such maps would have been available to just about anybody who could read, including many potential immigrants.
One of the most notable of these later productions is a map jointly issued by John Thornton, Robert Morden, and Philip Lea entitled A New Map of New England, New York, New Jersey, Pensilvania, Maryland, and Virginia. This map, which has been dated to between 1685 and 1690 covers a smaller area than Morden’s map of 1675-76, which has a similar name. The Thornton-Morden-Lea map is largely based on the earlier map, but omits its coverage of northern and western New York. On the other hand, it shows marked improvement in its depiction of Long Island and the area around New York Harbor. The depiction of Long Island is almost certainly influenced by Robert Ryder’s manuscript map of 1675 (discussed above). It also contains an inset chart of New York Harbor, which is carefully drawn with shoals and soundings, and is the first printed chart of the harbor. The iconography of the Thornton-Morden-Lea map is also notable, although it is mostly derived from yet another map in the same family attributed to Richard Daniel, which was published by Morden in 1679 ( 4.7). In addition to the usual array of animals and sailing ships, this map depicts one of the first scenes of whaling in British America. It shows several men in rowboats (most likely Native Americans employed by white settlers) pursuing a spouting whale off the South Shore of Long Island. Whaling at this time was already an important industry for Long Islanders.
4.7. Detail of Richard Daniel, A Map of ye English Empire in ye Continent of America (1679). John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
Both John Thornton and John Seller were important publishers of sea charts, and in 1689 the two John’s collaborated with William Fisher in the publication of an important sea atlas called The English Pilot: The Fourth Book. The “Fourth Book,” which covered the North Atlantic, was actually the first volume in a series, which eventually covered the entire world. Historian William P. Cumming comments: “For British trading in North America and for the colonists there, the publication of The English Pilot: The Fourth Book must have been a godsend…. To modern eyes the charts are crude and sparse of detail; but to the navigator of American waters in that period it was his Bible. Whatever its shortcomings, there was really no substitute, no real competitor, for over sixty years.”
Among the charts in The Fourth Book, the one covering coastal New York has long been regarded as one of the best, and Stokes and others have speculated about its origins. This chart, which was probably made by John Thornton, bears the title Part of New England, New York, East New Iarsey and Long Island ( 4.8). There is nothing mysterious about the origins of this chart, for (as I have pointed out elsewhere) it is a fairly close copy of the Ryder map of Long Island and vicinity. Although many place names and some details on the two maps are different, the overall similarity is overwhelming. They cover the same geographic area, and the outlines of the coasts are virtually identical. Some of the distinctive peculiarities of the Ryder map, such as its schematic treatment of the South Shore and the odd “crook” in the South Fork around Canoe Place, are reproduced almost exactly by Thornton. Where the two maps diverge, the Thornton map is almost invariably the less accurate—again, diagnostic of a copy of a map made by a cartographer working far from the area depicted. Many of the details on the coastline are also slightly simplified or distorted by Thornton, as one would also expect on a copy. The involvement of Thornton in the publication of this map provides confirming evidence that the depiction of Long Island on the roughly contemporary Thornton-Morden-Lea map (discussed directly above) is also derived from Ryder.
4.8. Detail of [John Thornton?], Part of New England, New York, East New Iarsey and Long Island (1689). John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
The English Pilot: The Fourth Book went through no less than 37 editions between 1689 and 1794. New charts were added to the later editions, and two of them are important for the cartographic history of New York. One of these is an improved chart of New York Harbor made by Mark Tiddeman around 1731, which is much larger and more detailed than the chart published as an inset in Thornton-Morden-Lea map. Later editions of The English Pilot also included versions of a chart of the New England coast by Cyprian Southack ( 1662-1745), which was originally created in 1718 ( 4.9). Southack was a colorful Massachusetts sea captain, but an unreliable map maker, as is seen treatment of the New York area on his charts. His maps and charts are valuable mainly for their interesting descriptive notes and place names. His depiction of Long Island omits the barrier beach, and his outline of the island resembles an eel more than a whale (which Long Island is often said to resemble). Southack’s failure to produce an accurate outline of the island reflects the difficulty of measuring distances from on board a ship. In the early eighteenth century a navigator almost always calculated distances based on the speed of his ship. That speed was, at best, measured by throwing overboard a piece of wood (known as the “chip log” or simply “log”), and then estimating the ship’s progress by the speed with which the log receded. The result was entered, logically enough, into the log book. Such a method of measuring speed and distance could easily be thrown off by offshore currents, of which there are many around Long Island. This method of “dead reckoning” worked fairly well on a straight reach, such as along either the north or the south shores of Long Island. Hence, distances on early maps between landmarks on such stretches are usually approximately correct. But the offshore currents could wreck havoc with the charting activities of anyone circumnavigating the island. Consequently, the overall shape of the island and the alignment of opposing coasts were subject to major distortions, as seen on most maps of the area made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
4.9. Detail of Cyprian Southack, The New England Coasting Pilot from Sandy Point of New York, unto Cape Canso (1734). Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
In spite of their flaws, Southack’s charts enjoyed a good reputation, which lasted through much of the eighteenth century. Not only was his chart of the Northeast reprinted several times in The English Pilot, but in some editions it even replaced the more accurate Ryder-Thornton chart. Many other maps published in the eighteenth century show an elongated Long Island, which appears to be derived from Southack’s representation. These include John Mitchell’s important Map of the British and French Dominions in North America (1755), and numerous French maps by Bellin and others that appeared throughout the eighteenth century. The reputation of Southack’s charting was only slightly dented in the middle of the eighteenth century by Braddock Mead (alias John Green), an important mapmaker who worked with Thomas Jefferys, and who will be encountered again in Chapter Six. According to Mead:
It does not appear…that in making this chart he employed any instruments excepting the Log and Compass. On which occasion I must observe, this is he first time perhaps that ever a person bred to the sea undertook to make a chart of so great an extent of coast, without ever taking a single latitude; and for the honour of navigators, as well as safety of navigation, I hope it may be the last.
Mead to the contrary, Southack was neither the first nor the last navigator to make charts without measuring latitudes. But, if nothing else, the relative accuracy of the Ryder-Thornton maps shows the importance of land-based surveying for accurately measuring the proportions of large areas prior to the nineteenth century. It was only when extensive surveys were once again undertaken on Long Island after the middle of the eighteenth century that the Ryder map or the Thornton Chart were equaled or surpassed.
Between 1700 and 1730, British knowledge of New York’s geography as a whole, as expressed in published maps, showed little or no overall improvement. Thus, in 1717 Southack published a map known as A New Chart of the English Empire in North America, which was not primarily a nautical chart, but rather a crude map of what is now the eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada. It is thought to be the oldest extant copper engraving published in America, and is notable for its peculiar distortion of the Great Lakes, which was apparently done deliberately to exaggerate the threat posed by the French to the British colonies. Another map, also crude and inaccurate, is Herman Moll’s popular New England, New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania, which was first published in 1729 ( 4.10). Moll was a respected English map publisher, but his depiction of New York as a whole on this map is less accurate than it is on Dutch maps produced 75 years earlier. Moll’s greatest claim to fame, at least as far as New York is concerned, is a charming illustration, which shows brigades of industrious beavers building a dam with Niagara Falls in the background ( 4.11). This inset appears on a map of the British Colonies of North America, which Moll seems to have first published in 1715.
Only one British map published prior to 1730 shows much improvement over the likes of Morden and Moll in its depiction of New York. This is Daniel Neal’s A Map of New England According to the Latest Observation (1720), which appeared in his History of New-England. Neal was an English Puritan clergyman who had direct access to American sources. He used this locally derived information to produce an updated and improved delineation of western New England, including a more accurate depiction of the area around upper Hudson River and Lake Champlain. Otherwise, Neal’s map was based on the Morden-Lea series of maps of New England and New York described above.
4.10. Large detail from 1732 edition of Herman Moll, Moll’s New England, New York, New Jersey and Pensilvania. David Rumsey Collection.
4.11. Industrious Beavers at Niagara Falls, as shown on a 1731 edition Moll’s map of the British Colonies in North America. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
This parade of maps published between 1675 and 1730 does not show any consistent pattern of improvement or progress, although some individual maps are quite impressive. This lack of systematic improvement suggests that maps played a relatively unimportant role in British and colonial life at this time. Neither the state nor private enterprise was willing to make the long-term commitments of time and money required to produce more detailed and accurate maps of the British colonies in North America. Although individual officials, like Colden and some members of the Board of Trade, railed about the need for better maps, their pleas went unheeded. The British government, content with its policy of “salutary neglect,” did not see fit to finance such efforts. Apparently, maps giving a rather vague general impression of the colonies were regarded as adequate for most purposes. This situation began to change after about 1730.
The first sign of an increasing demand for improved maps of North America is the publication in 1733 of Henry Popple’s wall-sized Map of the British Empire in America ( 4.12). This map, which appeared with “the approbation of” the Board of Trade, is essentially a work of compilation. Popple relied largely on French sources for information about North America west of the English settlements. His depiction of western New York seems to be based primarily on De L’Isle’s 1718 map, but he gives Lake Ontario a peculiar north-south orientation, which resembles that on some of the later maps of Bellin.
4.12. Detail showing New York area from Henry Popple’s wall-sized Map of the British Empire in America (1733). Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
For the parts of modern New York controlled by the British, Popple derived his information almost entirely from Colden. Popple was briefly a member of the Board of Trade, and he was the brother of the Secretary of the Board, Allured Popple, who corresponded directly with Colden. Henry Popple certainly used Colden’s Map of the Country of the Five Nations, and he probably used the manuscript map of the New York, which Colden had sent to the Board of Trade. Although Popple’s map is not impressive in comparison with several maps that appeared in the years between 1755 and the outbreak of the American Revolution, its depiction of New York greatly improved on any map published before it, and it remained the best map of the province available until the appearance of a groundbreaking map by Lewis Evans in 1749.
Lewis Evans’ Map of Pensilvania, New Jersey, New-York, and the Three Delaware Counties (1749) was the first of an important series of new maps delineating large parts of British North America ( 4.13). The maps of Lewis Evans (1700?-1756) have received a good deal of attention—both because of their accuracy and originality, and because of their American origin. Evans was a Welshman whose activities are completely unknown prior to 1736 when, at the age of thirty-six, he was recorded as purchasing a book on arithmetic from Benjamin Franklin’s shop in Philadelphia. In the years prior to publishing his 1749 map, he taught himself surveying and worked as a surveyor, mostly in the back country of Pennsylvania. His maps drew upon his own surveys and explorations, as well as on manuscript maps produced by other American surveyors. The 1749 Evans map and its successors (which will be discussed in Chapter 6) were the first British or colonial American maps to provide extensive original information about the region beyond the Appalachians.
4.13. Detail showing southern New York from Lewis Evans, Map of Pensilvania, New Jersey, New-York, and the Three Delaware Counties (1749). Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
Given the map’s justified reputation for accuracy and originality, Evans’ treatment of New York is somewhat disappointing. Although Evans did a fair amount of traveling in New York, the colony was not at the center of his activities. Most of the information about the province on his 1749 map is actually derived from the ubiquitous Cadwallader Colden. Evans was quite open about his debt to Colden, and acknowledged on his map that “the greatest part of New York Province is owing to the honourable Cadwallader Colden, Esq.” On one of his trips to New York, Evans is recorded as paying a visit to Colden at “Coldenham,” the surveyor general’s Ulster County estate. (Coldenham can also be found on Evans’ map.) On this occasion, Evans gathered a large amount of information about the province. Prior to publishing his map, Evans also sent Colden a draft copy along with a request for corrections. In spite of Colden’s participation, the longitudes and latitudes used for locations in New York were often no better, and sometimes even worse, than those on the Popple Map.
Thus, in some respects, as far as New York is concerned, the Evans map is only a modest improvement over Henry Popple’s map of 1733, which also benefited from information from Colden. The relatively small scale of the Evans map (1:960,000) limited the amount of information he could put on it. But within the limitations imposed by its scale, Evans’ treatment of topography and his location of places in the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys is greatly superior to that of Popple or his other predecessors. Evans’ map has a cramped appearance because of the large amount of detail he included on it. He successfully portrayed such features as the Hudson Highlands and the Taconic Mountains, and even squeezed in the New Jersey palisades along the Hudson River (which is quite unusual on a map of such a small scale). The Evans map also provides a credible picture of the major roads existing at that time. An interesting feature of the New York portion of the map is its depiction of the western half of Long Island, which is much more accurately drawn than on other contemporary published maps, and is clearly based on Colden’s unpublished manuscript map of 1726. Thus, in spite of its weaknesses, Evans’ map of 1749 constitutes a significant advance towards meeting the need for a “correct” map of New York.
Evans published a second edition of this map with some improvements in 1752. It was reprinted numerous times throughout the eighteenth century, and it was widely used and influential. Evans himself published another important regional map showing New York in 1755, which will be discussed in chapter six of this book. Other important maps of New York State, some more detailed and accurate than those made by Evans, were to appear after 1755, but (as we will see) Evans 1749 map influenced the depiction of New York on most of them.