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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Friday, January 11, 2013

The Maps of Christopher Colles

The John Carter Brown Library’s website is highlighting the efforts of Christopher Colles to publish a map of the young U.S. of A.’s roads:
As early as 1789, Christopher Colles had published his Survey of the Roads of the United States. His Survey consisted of 83 strip maps of roads covering the area from Albany to Annapolis. Each section covered twelve miles of road at a scale of 1 to 4/7 inch of a mile. Precise notation of distance was made possible by Colles’s use of a perambulator that measured mileage by revolutions of a wheel attached to the back of a carriage. Each section looked remarkably like a page from AAA’s master idea [the Triptik].

Christopher Colles was an Irish-born engineer and surveyor and man of constant ideas, one of which was the idea of mapping roads in the early United States in great detail. Unfortunately he was forced to bring his strip map road map project to an end in 1792 after he failed to find enough subscriptions to carry on the work. He did manage to map about 1000 miles, however, and those maps are very interesting for understanding the developing road systems in the developing nation of the United States.
The library also shares a wonderful quote from Colles on the failure of his business: “Had I been brought up a hatter, people would have come into the world without heads.” An edition of his cartography is still on sale, though.

1 comment:

John L Smith Jr said...

Colles' funny sour grapes quote reminds me of something John Adams would've said!