Fun With Maps

June 28, 2013

I’m someone who loves a good historical map, so one of my favorite websites is memory.loc.gov, the digital collections of the Library of Congress.  You can spend hours zooming in on neat vintage maps.  This post has snippets from eleven of them, stretching from 1674 to 1843.  They are full of cool old inaccuracies, but they also highlight important historical trends and eras in our history.  This should not be considered an exhaustive survey of the best maps out there, nor is it representative of all the LOC maps.  Really, it’s just 11 semi-random maps with my observations on what I found interesting.  Click on any map to go to the Library of Congress site where you can browse more of it.  Enjoy:

French 1674

Nouvelle decouverte de plusieurs nations dans la Nouvelle France en l’année 1673 et 1674 by Louis Joliet.  Joliet famously traveled from the Great Lakes down the Mississippi with the Jesuit Jacques Marquette in 1673.

  • Cool trees.
  • Baye des Puans: The French called the Ho-Chunk Puans, “Stinky People.”  That was a translation of the Ojibwe word Wiinibiigoo (Winnebago), which means “stinky water people.”  Green Bay is “green” in summer because of the stinky green algae that covers it.  It’s not surprising that the Ho-Chunk no longer wish to be called the Winnebago or Puans.
  • 8tagami:  The French used 8 in Indian words for the English sound “W.”  8tagami (Odagami) is the Ojibwe/Odawa/Potawatomi word for the Meskwaki (Fox) People.
  • Nations du Nord:  To the French, the country between Lake Superior and Hudson Bay was the home of “an infinity of nations,” (check out this book by that title) small bands speaking dialects of Ojibwe, Cree, and Assiniboine Sioux.
  • The Keweenaw is pretty small, but Lake Superior has generally the right shape.

French 1688

Carte de l’Amerique Septentrionnale by Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin:  Franquelin created dozens of maps as the royal cartographer and hydrographer of New France.

  • Lake Superior is remarkably accurate for this time period.
  • Nations sous le nom d’Outouacs:  “Nations under the name of Ottawas”–the French had a tendency to lump all Anishinaabe peoples in the west (Ojibwe, Ottawa, Potawatomi, etc.) under the name Outouais or Outouacs.
  • River names, some are the same and some have changed.  Bois Brule (Brule River) in French is “burnt wood” a translation of the Ojibwe wiisakode.  I see ouatsicoto inside the name of the Brule on this map (Neouatsicoton), but I’m not 100% sure that’s wiisakode. Piouabic (biwaabik is Ojibwe word for Iron) for the Iron River is still around.  Mosquesisipi (Mashkiziibi) or Swampy River is the Ojibwe for the Bad River.
  • Madeline Island is Ile. St. Michel, showing that it was known at “Michael’s Island” a century before Michel Cadotte established his fur post.
  • Ance Chagoüamigon:  Point Chequamegon

French 1703

Carte de la riviere Longue : et de quelques autres, qui se dechargent dans le grand fleuve de Missisipi [sic] … by Louis Armand the Baron de Lahontan.  Baron Lahontan was a military officer of New France who explored the Mississippi and Missouri River valleys.

  • Lake Superior looks quite strange.
  • “Sauteurs” and Jesuits at Sault Ste. Marie:  the French called the Anishinaabe people at Sault Ste. Marie (mostly Crane Clan) the Sauteurs or Saulteaux, meaning “people of the falls.”  This term came to encompass most of the people who would now be called Ojibwe.
  • Fort Dulhut:  This is not Duluth, Minnesota, but rather Kaministiquia (modern-day Thunder Bay).  It is named for the same person–Daniel Greysolon, the Sieur du Lhut (Duluth).
  • Riviere Du Tombeau:  “The River of Tombs” at the west end of the Lake is the St. Croix River, which does not actually flow into Lake Superior but connects it to the Mississippi over a short portage from the Brule River.
  • Chagouamigon (Chequamegon) is placed much too far to the east.
  • The Fox River is gigantic flowing due east rather than north into Green Bay.  We see the “Savage friends of the French:” Outagamis (Meskwaki/Fox), Malumins (Menominee), and Kikapous (Kickapoo).

French 1742

Carte des lacs du Canada by Jacques N. Bellin 1742.  Bellin was a famous European mapmaker who compiled various maps together.  The top map is a detail from the Carte de Lacs.  The bottom one is from a slightly later map.

  • Of the maps shown so far, this has the best depiction of Chequamegon, but Lake Superior as a whole is much less accurate than on Franquelin’s map from fifty years earlier.
  • The mysterious “Isle Phillipeaux,” a second large island southeast of Isle Royale shows prominently on this map.  Isle Phillipeaux is one of those cartographic oddities that pops up on maps for decades after it first appears even though it doesn’t exist.
  • Cool river names not shown on Franquelin’s map:  Atokas (Cranberry River) and Fond Plat “Flat-bottom” (Sand River)
  • The region west of today’s Herbster, Wisconsin is lablled “Papoishika.”  I did an extensive post about an area called Ka-puk-wi-e-kah in that same location.
  • Ici etoit une Bourgade Considerable:  “Here there was a large village.”  This in reference to when Chequamegon was a center for the Huron, Ottawa (Odawa) and other refugee nations of the Iroquois Wars in the mid-1600s.
  • “La Petite Fille”:  Little Girl’s Point.
  • Chequamegon Bay is Baye St. Charles
  • Catagane: Kakagon, Maxisipi: Mashkizibi
  • The islands are “The 12 Apostles.”

British 1778

A new map of North America, from the latest discoveries 1778. Engrav’d for Carver’s Travels.  In 1766 Jonathan Carver became one of the first Englishmen to pass through this region.  His narrative is a key source for the time period directly following the conquest of New France, when the British claimed dominion over the Great Lakes.

  • Lake Superior still has two giant islands in the middle of it.
  • The Chipeway (Ojibwe), Ottaway (Odawa), and Ottagamie (Meskwaki/Fox) seem to have neatly delineated nations. The reality was much more complex.  By 1778, the Ojibwe had moved inland from Lake Superior and were firmly in control of areas like Lac du Flambeau and Lac Courte Oreilles, which had formerly been contested by the Meskwaki.

Dutch 1805

Charte von den Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-America nebst Louisiana by F.L. Gussefeld:  Published in Europe.

  • The Dutch never had a claim to this region.  In fact, this is a copy of a German map.  However, it was too cool-looking to pass up.
  • Over 100 years after Franquelin’s fairly-accurate outline of Lake Superior, much of Europe was still looking at this junk.
  • “Ober See” and Tschippeweer” are funny to me.
  • Isle Phillipeau is hanging on strong into the nineteenth century.

American 1805

A map of Lewis and Clark’s track across the western portion of North America, from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean : by order of the executive of the United States in 1804, 5 & 6 / copied by Samuel Lewis from the original drawing of Wm. Clark.   This map was compiled from the manuscript maps of Lewis and Clark.

  • The Chequamegon Region supposedly became American territory with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  The reality on the ground, however, was that the Ojibwe held sovereignty over their lands. The fur companies operating in the area were British-Canadian, and they employed mostly French-Ojibwe mix-bloods in the industry.
  • This is a lovely-looking map, but it shows just how little the Americans knew about this area.  Ironically, British Canada is very well-detailed, as is the route of Lewis and Clark and parts of the Mississippi that had just been visited by the American, Lt. Zebulon Pike.
  • “Point Cheganega” is a crude islandless depiction of what we would call Point Detour.
  • The Montreal River is huge and sprawling, but the Brule, Bad, and Ontonagon Rivers do not exist.
  • To this map’s credit, there is only one Isle Royale.  Goodbye Isle Phillipeaux.  It was fun knowing you.
  • It is striking how the American’s had access to decent maps of the British-Canadian areas of Lake Superior, but not of what was supposedly their own territory.

English 1811

A new map of North America from the latest authorities By John Cary of London.  This map was published just before the outbreak of war between Britain and the United States.

  • These maps are starting to look modern.  The rivers are getting more accurate and the shape of Lake Superior is much better–though the shoreline isn’t done very well.
  • Burntwood=Brule, Donagan=Ontonagon
  • The big red line across Lake Superior is the US-British border.  This map shows Isle Royale in Canada.  The line stops at Rainy Lake because the fate of the parts of Minnesota and North Dakota in the Hudson Bay Watershed (claimed by the Hudson Bay Company) was not yet settled.
  • “About this place a settlement of the North West Company”:  This is Michel Cadotte’s trading post at La Pointe on Madeline Island.  Cadotte was the son of a French trader and an Anishinaabe woman, and he traded for the British North West Company.
  • It is striking that a London-made map created for mass consumption would so blatantly show a British company operating on the American side of the line.  This was one of the issues that sparked the War of 1812.  The Indian nations of the Great Lakes weren’t party to the Treaty of Paris and certainly did not recognize American sovereignty over their lands.  They maintained the right to have British traders. America didn’t see it that way.

American 1820

Map of the United States of America : with the contiguous British and Spanish possessions / compiled from the latest & best authorities by John Melish

  • Lake Superior shape and shoreline are looking much better.
  • Bad River is “Red River.”  I’ve never seen that as an alternate name for the Bad.  I’m wondering if it’s a typo from a misreading of “bad”
  • Copper mines are shown on the Donagon (Ontonagon) River.  Serious copper mining in that region was still over a decade away.  This probably references the ancient Indian copper-mining culture of Lake Superior or the handful of exploratory attempts by the French and British.
  • The Brule-St. Croix portage is marked “Carrying Place.”
  • No mention of Chequamegon or any of the Apostle Islands–just Sand Point.
  • Isle Phillipeaux lives!  All the way into the 1820s!  But, it’s starting to settle into being what it probably was all along–the end of the Keweenaw mistakenly viewed from Isle Royale as an island rather than a peninsula.

American 1839 

From the Map of Michigan and part of Wisconsin Territory, part of the American Atlas produced under the direction of U.S. Postmaster General David H. Burr.

  • Three years before the Ojibwe cede the Lake Superior shoreline of Wisconsin, we see how rapidly American knowledge of this area is growing in the 1830s.
  • The shoreline is looking much better, but the islands are odd.  Stockton (Presque Isle) and Outer Island have merged into a huge dinosaur foot while Madeline Island has lost its north end.
  • Weird river names:  Flagg River is Spencer’s, Siskiwit River is Heron, and Sand River is Santeaux. Fish Creek is the gigantic Talking Fish River, and “Raspberry” appears to be labeling the Sioux River rather than the farther-north Raspberry River.
  • Points:  Bark Point is Birch Bark, Detour is Detour, and Houghton is Cold Point. Chequamegon Point is Chegoimegon Point, but the bay is just “The Bay.”
  • The “Factory” at Madeline Island and the other on Long Island refers to a fur post.  This usage is common in Canada:  Moose Factory, York Factory, etc.  At this time period, the only Factory would have been on Madeline.
  • The Indian Village is shown at Odanah six years before Protestant missionaries supposedly founded Odanah. A commonly-heard misconception is that the La Pointe Band split into Island and Bad River factions in the 1840s. In reality, the Ojibwe didn’t have fixed villages.  They moved throughout the region based on the seasonal availability of food.  The traders were on the island, and it provided access to good fishing, but the gardens, wild rice, and other food sources were more abundant near the Kakagon sloughs.  Yes, those Ojibwe married into the trading families clustered more often on the Island, and those who got sick of the missionaries stayed more often at Bad River (at least until the missionaries followed them there), but there was no hard and fast split of the La Pointe Band until long after Bad River and Red Cliff were established as separate reservations.

American 1843

Hydrographical basin of the upper Mississippi River from astronomical and barometrical observations, surveys, and information by Joseph Nicollet.  Nicollet is considered the first to accurately map the basin of the Upper Mississippi.  His Chequamegon Region is pretty good also.

  • You may notice this map decorating the sides of the Chequamegon History website.
  • This post mentions this map and the usage of Apakwa for the Bark River.
  • As with the 1839 map, this map’s Raspberry River appears to be the Sioux rather than the Miskomin (Raspberry) River.
  • Madeline Island has a little tail, but the Islands have their familiar shapes.
  • Shagwamigon, another variant spelling
  • Mashkeg River:  in Ojibwe the Bad River is Mashkizibi (Swamp River).  Mashkiig is the Ojibwe word for swamp.  In the boreal forests of North America, this word had migrated into English as muskeg.  It’s interesting how Nicollet labels the forks, with the White River fork being the most prominent.

That’s all for now folks.  Thanks for covering 200 years of history with me through these maps.  If you have any questions, or have any cool observations of your own, go ahead and post them in the comments.

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