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A New Map of the Western parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina…

Hutchins, Thomas __Cartographer ||Cheevers, John __Engraver
Place Made:
London Great Britain
Date Made:
ink on paper
HOA: 36 1/4″; WOA: 44″
Accession Number:
Hutchins’ map is seminal for the history of Colonial America. From 1758 to 1777 Hutchins was involved in exploring and surveying the Ohio Valley, and became one of the most knowledgeable observers of the region. The result was this great wall map, published during the American Revolution, the first meaningful large-scale depiction of the Transapalachian country. Thomas Streeter calls it “by far the best map of the west printed to that time”, and William Cumming proclaimed it “The best [colonial] map of the region south of the Great Lakes.”

Hutchins began his career as a topographical engineer for the British Army during the French and Indian War. He designed the fortification at Fort Pitt in 1763, and in following years, accompanied Bouquet on his expedition against the western Indians. A member of the exploring party sent down the Ohio Valley in 1766 to investigate the territory recently acquired from France, Hutchins conducted “the first accurate map, or more properly, hydrographic survey” of the Ohio River (Brown.) He was stationed at Fort Charles on the Illinois bank of the Mississippi from 1768 to 1770. Hutchins subsequently went to England, where he compiled this great map from exhaustive personal surveys, and information gathered from many sources. The depiction of the Ohio immediately below Fort Pitt, for example, seems to be based on a manuscript by John Montresor. Brown notes that its publication in 1778 represented “the culmination of a long career as an engineer and mapmaker in the wilderness of North America.”

Hutchins retuned to America in 1781, and was appointed by Congress “Geographer to the United States.” From 1783-85 he re-surveyed the Mason-Dixon Line, and the New York-Massachusetts boundary. Under the Ordinance of 1785, he was placed in charge of the surveying of the public lands in the Northwest Territory. He died in 1789, shortly after completing the survey of the “seven Ranges” in Ohio. Hutchins is frequently credited with establishing the excellent system under which all of the public lands of the United States were subsequently surveyed and divided into townships, ranges and sections.

Hutchins’s 1778 map was the foundation document for the subsequent mapping of the Ohio Valley. The depiction of the Transapalachian region on Thomas Jefferson’s famous map in Notes on Virginia (1787), for example, were taken directly from Hutchins. The map shows the western claims of Virginia and North Carolina based upon their 17th century royal charters. It is filled with exhaustive data throughout, and includes a fascinating series of notes or “legends”. An “Illinois Country” is shown between the Illinois and Wabash rivers. Among its other important details, Hutchins’s map is one of the only printed maps of the period to show the proposed new colony of Vandalia (here “Indiana”), which was projected to occupy a large portion of the present state of West Virginia.

REFEREMNCES: Pritchard & Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude, 49
Stephenson & Mckee, Virginia in Maps, pp. 97-101
Streeter Sale, 3, 1300
Cumming, British Maps of Colonial America, p.36
Lloyd Arnold Brown, Early Maps of the Ohio Valley, plate 51

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund