J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Frequent Map Displays

Map-lovers will enjoy poring over Martin Brückner’s Common-place article on The Material Map: Lewis Evans and cartographic consumer culture, 1750-1775.” In the mid-1700s, British colonists came to see maps as symbols of genteel taste and learning—in other words, prestige items. Brückner explains:

Existing inventories show that only a couple of colonial assembly halls—those in Boston and Philadelphia—displayed large maps. In short, though “map galleries” were familiar in Europe’s cultural capitals, there were none in the colonies.

However, the story of colonial map displays changes significantly when we look at interior spaces of public and private buildings reserved for the rites of conviviality and sociability. Patrons of taverns and coffee houses would have seen frequent map displays; in one instance, a dozen maps were hanging on the walls of a York County tavern in Virginia. But these numbers pale when compared to those in colonial homes. In 1743, the house of the Salem merchant Samuel Browne displayed twenty-nine maps in the “lower entry room” and another sixteen in the “Chamber entry.”
For online maps from the eighteenth century, there’s no better place to start than the Library of Congress’s “The American Revolution and Its Era: Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789.”

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