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The 1753 Fry-Jefferson Map and Its Predecessors and Derivatives

Guide to the Fry-Jefferson Map of Virginia and related maps in the Library of Virginia's collection

Maps and Mapmakers Influenced by Fry-Jefferson

Lewis Evans (d. 1756)
James Turner, engraver
Philadelphia, 1755
Call number: G3710 1755 .E8 Voorhees Collection

An excellent geographer and gifted scientist, Lewis Evans had completed several maps of Pennsylvania before embarking on the task of mapping the middle British colonies. Gaining a more accurate understanding of the Ohio Valley area became imperative with the increasing French interest in an area the British also hoped to settle. Evans was one of the first mapmakers to visit the area, securing permission to travel with Conrad Weiser, a diplomat to the Iroquois Confederacy, and botanist John Bartram. For the Virginia portion of the map, Evans used the recently published Fry-Jefferson map and William Mayo’s Map of the Northern Neck of Virginia. Benjamin Franklin and David Hall published the Analysis, a separate document that cites Evans’s sources. Evans’s map went through eighteen editions (most pirated) between 1755 and 1814.

The earliest documentation for Welsh-born Lewis Evans is a 1736 entry in Benjamin Franklin’s account book noting that Evans had purchased an arithmetic book. Evans maintained a friendship with Franklin and his common-law wife, Deborah Rogers, who were godparents to his daughter. Evans held strong political opinions on British activities in the colonies and made accusations against Governor Robert Hunter Morris, of Pennsylvania. Morris, in turn, accused Evans of slander, which resulted in Evans’s eventual imprisonment. Lewis Evans died in prison in 1756.

A MAP of the British and French Dominions in North America WITH THE Roads, Distances, Limits and Extent of the SETTLEMENTS, Humbly Inscribed to the Right Honourable The Earl of Halifax, And the other Right Honourable The Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations
John Mitchell (1711–1768)
Thomas Kitchin (1718–1784), engraver
London, 1755
2d Edition, 1755–1757
Engraving with outline color
Call number: G3300 1755 .M52 Voorhees Collection

This large-scale map by Dr. John Mitchell depicts British and French land claims in North America prior to the outcome of the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Continuing French encroachment led to British interest in producing a map of English holdings in North America that would update the Henry Popple map and more accurately counter French claims. Five years in the making, Mitchell’s map used information from the new map of Virginia created by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson and from Lewis Evans’s manuscript map of Pennsylvania and its adjoining backcountry. Mitchell also used resources provided by the Board of Trade and Plantations that included geographical reports, maps, charts, and journals. On the map, the western boundary of Virginia and other southern colonies extends to the Pacific Ocean and includes territory claimed by the French. Printed on eight sheets, the map measures more than four by five feet when assembled.

Mitchell’s map was an immediate success when Andrew Millar published it in 1755. The Board of Trade issued copies to each colonial governor in America. Rich in detail, Mitchell’s creation had its greatest impact as a political map. The most important political treaty map in American history, it was used to determine the boundaries of the new United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. It also served as evidence in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the Quebec boundary definition of 1871, the Canada Labrador boundary case of 1926, the Wisconsin-Michigan boundary case of 1926, and the Delaware–New Jersey dispute of 1932.

A New and Accurate Map of Virginia Wherein most of the Counties are laid down from Actual Surveys
John Henry (ca. 1704–1773)
Thomas Jefferys (ca. 1719–1771), engraver
London, 1770
Engraving with outline color
Call number: G3880 1770 H4 Voorhees

The map of Virginia by John Henry was the first to outline Virginia’s county boundary lines. Henry intended to include features not found on the 1754 Fry-Jefferson map, such as soundings and distances between places, to encourage settlement in the area as well as to turn a profit. Despite proposals to the House of Burgesses in 1766, 1768, and 1769, Henry had difficulty obtaining financial support. He finally gathered sufficient funds through subscriptions and in 1770 had the map engraved in London by Thomas Jefferys, who had also engraved and marketed the Fry-Jefferson map and John Mitchell’s map of North America.

Henry’s map never became as popular as the well-regarded Fry-Jefferson map, however, and the lack of financial backing kept him from including several ideas to make his map more useful. Thomas Pownall, who preferred Lewis Evans’s competing map of the middle British colonies, complained that Henry’s map was “a very inaccurate Compilation; defective in Topography: and not very attentive even to Geography.” As a result, few copies were printed, although the map did outline the county boundaries, list plantations and owners along the rivers, and provide a useful text on Virginia’s economic and social status in 1770.

A Map of the country between Albemarle Sound, and Lake Erie, comprehending the whole of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pensylvania
Published in Notes on the State of Virginia, by Thomas Jefferson
London: Printed for John Stockdale, 1787
Bound volume
Special Collections
Call number: F230 .J45 1786

When François Barbé-Marbois circulated a series of questions about the new states in 1780, Thomas Jefferson, son of Peter Jefferson, answered for Virginia. His reply became the basis for Notes on the State of Virginia, first published in Paris in 1784. When Jefferson arranged for Abbé Morellet to produce a French translation, Morellet encouraged him to prepare a detailed map of Virginia and neighboring states to accompany the text.

Thomas Jefferson’s was the first general map of Virginia to be published since Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson’s in 1754, and it was the first to provide general cartographic improvements to the earlier map. It captured eastern Virginia’s growing population and the development of western counties as more people moved farther west. Using a variety of published sources, including his father’s map and Lewis Evans’s highly regarded map of the middle British colonies, Jefferson included the location of courthouses, forts, private dwellings, and numerous place-names. It was the first map to delineate state boundaries.

Samuel Neele (1758–1824) engraved the map in London, and Guillaume Delahaye (1727–1802) made extensive corrections to the plate in Paris. By 24 March 1787, several impressions had been pulled. John Stockdale (ca. 1749–1814) produced an English edition of Notes on the State of Virginia and printed more impressions from the plate, adding his imprint to the bottom. The plate was then returned to France.

Thomas Jefferson completed his father’s work, in a sense, by extending his father’s map of “the most inhabited parts of Virginia” to “the whole of Virginia.” The map’s caption credits the Fry-Jefferson map and the William Scull map for geography east of the Allegheny Mountains, and for the west, “Hutchins who went over the principal water courses, with a compass and log line, correcting his work by observations of latitude: additions have been made where they could be made on sure ground.”

William Scull (fl. 1770–1778)
Published in American Atlas, compiled by Thomas Jefferys
London: Robert Sayer and John Bennett, 1775
Special Collections
Call number: G1100 .J44 1776

Sayer and Bennett’s derivative of William Scull’s rare and noteworthy map of Pennsylvania is a revised and improved edition. There are clearer topographical delineations, and longitude and latitude markers are included. Scull’s map is considered to be one of the most accurate and most comprehensive maps of Pennsylvania published before the American Revolution. For the first time Pennsylvania’s western frontier beyond the Appalachian Mountains is shown, and the map includes not only western roads, paths, and forts, but also the newly executed Mason-Dixon Line. When drawing his map, Scull relied on his grandfather Nicholas Scull’s 1759 map of the colony and new surveys. Thomas Jefferson relied on William Scull’s map of Pennsylvania when drawing that portion of his map.

The grandson of Nicholas Scull (1687–1762), a well-known Pennsylvania surveyor, William Scull also worked as a surveyor. He joined the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment during the American Revolution, and in 1778 General George Washington asked him to survey parts of Berks, Chester, and Lancaster Counties. Scull soon resigned from the regiment to join Washington’s geographer’s department. He returned to Reading and served as town burgess (or mayor). Scull died in 1783, ending the Scull family’s involvement in cartography.