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A Map of the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia

Purcell, Joseph __Cartographer ||Taylor, John McKinley __Engraver ||Jones, John __Publisher
Place Made:
Dublin Ireland
Date Made:
ink –paper
__12 1/4″ __ __14 1/8″
Accession Number:
Joseph Purcell was a South Carolina surveyor whose life is well documented in MESDA’s Craftsmen Database. At fifteen he came to the Colonies to apprentice under the surveyor and cartographer William Gerard De Brahm (1718-1799), completing several manuscript surveys of Georgia and Florida. Following his apprenticeship he worked with John Stuart (1718-1779) of Charleston in the southern district of the British Indian Department where he completed a multi-sheet manuscript map denoting the locations of early southern Indian tribes. In October of 1787 the South Carolina Treasury recorded paying “Jos. Purcell… for making the sketch of a Map of the State & Georgia, exhibiting the matter in dispute between the said States respecting their Boundaries…” He may have met Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) during this work. Morse was born in Woodstock, Connecticut and educated at Yale. He was ordained in 1786 and was serving a pulpit in Midway, Georgia, at the time of Purcell’s border survey. By early 1788 Jedidiah Morse had returned to Connecticut to pursue geographical work in New Haven.

Surveying was a lucrative profession for Purcell. His 1807 probate inventory totaled $4557.50. An advertisement for an auction of his estate included “one sextant, one level, and a complete set of surveyor’s instruments…” As might be expected, the vast majority of Purcell’s work consisted of legal surveys with little decoration. This map is the only published map to bear Purcell’s name. In fact, it is one of the only depictions of the young United States by a Southern cartographer. It is also geographically significant for several reasons: It shows southern land claims to the Mississippi River; the locations of Native American tribes such as the Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminoles, and Creeks; and the briefly proposed State of Franklin in East Tennessee.

RELATED OBJECTS: The MESDA Collection contains a decorative plat drawn in 1788 for John Ball (1760-1817) (MESDA Acc. 4490.1)

REFERENCES: Wooldridge, Mapping of Virginia, 145.

Purcell’s map was first published for Morse’s The American Universal Geography by Amos Doolittle in New Haven, Connecticut in 1788; in 1792 it was published by John Stockdale in London and John Jones in Ireland.
Credit Line:
Cartographic Arts Fund