Map & Podcast Index

1581 – 1696       1703 – 1778       1810 – 1884       1907 – 2003

Digital Image


Written Transcription

Chronological listing of maps displayed in the Minnesota Historical Society’s (MHS) exhibit, ‘Minnesota on the Map:’ Four Centuries of Maps from the MHS Collection.

The descriptions listed below are as they appear on the exhibit placards.

Note: The symbols indicate additional website features for each map.


Abraham Ortelius

Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descrpto

Abraham Ortelius had the encouragement of his mentor, the more famous Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator. It was Mercator who used his mathematical training to invent the parallel lines of longitude which became known as the Mercator projection. Borrowing information from Mercator’s important world map of 1569, Ortelius created this map of the New World. It was published first in his atlas of 1570. Note that the St. Lawrence River ends at “Chilaga,” near present-day Montreal. Note, too, that this map STET one of the earliest images of the Mississippi River—called here “R. de S. Spirito.”

1595 and 1598

Abraham Ortelius

Theatrvm Orbis Terrarvm: Opus Nuc Denuo ab Ipso Auctore Recognitium

Oh, to be a mapmaker alive shortly after Columbus found the New World and Magellan circumnavigated the globe! These new discoveries inspired Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius to modernize and produce uniform maps of the known world. Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum —literally “theater of the world,”–was the first modern atlas. It was first printed in 1570, and the Minnesota Historical Society is extremely lucky to own two different editions of the atlas. The 1595 edition came from a donor in Anoka in the mid-1980s and was rebound by renowned craftsman Don Etherington.


Cornelis van Wytfliet

Conibas Regio Cum Vicinis Gentibus

This third state of the first map of Canada’s interior is at least as much fiction as fact. You might first ask, “Is that Hudson Bay?” It is–but what is that island in the bay with a city named “Conibas” on it? And where did all those other cities come from? Near the bottom, just left of center, are the words “Septem civitates” (“seven cities”) indicating, perhaps, the seven cities of gold that inspired much Spanish exploration. The most accurate aspect of the map is the location of Hochelaga, an Iroquoian village, at present-day Montréal. Although that village had disappeared before this map was printed and before the time of explorer Samuel de Champlain (who founded Quebec City in 1608), it still shows up on maps for a very long time.


Cornelis van Wytflilet

Nova Francia et Canada

The information on Wytfliet’s map is almost entirely borrowed from the Mercator map, which is eight years older. This map is one of the first to use the name “Canada.”You can tell this is the first printing of the map because on the second state of the plate – the changed plate – the date was removed from the cartouche. Both Wytfliet maps are from his atlas, which is noteworthy as the first atlas exclusively devoted to the new world.


William J. Blaeu

Americae Nova Tabula

This map is a stunningly beautiful example from the “Golden Age of Cartography.” The Dutch cartographer blends art and geography, showing ten images of indigenous peoples in their native clothing and nine panoramic views of cities in the new world. Notice that rumors of the Great Lakes find their way onto this printed map, and an east-west mountain range stops the Mississippi (or “Rio de Espiritu Santo”) in mid-continent.


Jodocus Hondius


Dutch cartographer Hondius used the plates of his predecessor Mercator to reissue Mercator’s Atlas beginning in 1606. Editions of the Atlas were also printed long after Hondius died in 1612. This map is most likely from a French edition published in 1630. Hondius notes the landing of Sir Francis Drake in present-day California and corrects the large eastern bulge on the South American continent. The vignette in the lower left corner depicts Brazilian natives making an alcoholic beverage, and a variety of native watercraft are shown larger than life on the oceans.


John Ogilby

America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World; Containing the Original of the Inhabitants, and the Remarkable Voyages Thither. . . .

John Ogilby was the “cosmographer and geographic printer” for Charles II of England. His encyclopedia, America, was an almost completely plagiarized translation of the Dutch work by Montanus, Die nieuwe en onbekende Weereld (Amsterdam, 1671). Ogilby did add material in his edition from other sources on the English colonies in America and added maps of Maryland, Jamaica, and Barbados. The book is especially notable because it is the first encyclopedia of the Americas in the English language. The map of Virginia in this volume motivated Thomas Jefferson to try—repeatedly and without success–to acquire the book. Ogilby’s book is particularly enjoyable because of its depictions of several monsters that were supposed to inhabit the Americas.


Pieter van der Aa

Land en Volk-Ontdekking in’t Noorder Gedeelte van America: Door P. Marquette en Joliet, Gedaan in’t Gaar 1673

Marquette wrote that he had a “joy that I cannot express” when he came upon the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Wisconsin River. He and Joliet are credited with the European discovery of the Father of Waters. They continued down the Mississippi until it intersected the Arkansas River by which time they were certain that it continued all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Van der Aa’s map is based on the explorer’s narrative. There is an artist’s image of Marquette and Joliet in the lower right hand corner.


Estienne Michallete

Carte de la Decouverte Faite l’an 1663 dans l’Amerique Septentrionale

This represents the first map of the Mississippi incorporating the recent accounts by explorers Joliet and Marquette. It shows the approximate course of the river with north oriented to the right. It is also the first map to use the names “Mitchisipi” and “Lake Michigan.” [From Tevenot’s Recueil de Voyages de Mr. Thevenot. Paris: Chez T. Moette, 1687.]


Pierre Du Val

Le Canada faict par le Sr de Champlain, ou sont La Nouvelle France

High on the Minnesota Historical Society’s cartographic “want list” are original maps by Samuel de Champlain, the “father” of New France. For now we must be content to have what is sometimes called the “lost map” of Champlain. It is the fourth state of his 1616 map printed by Pierre Du Val, who was the son-in-law of Nicholas Sanson. The cartouches have been embellished, place names Boston, Manhattan and Hudson’s Bay have been added, but the cartographic information remains largely identical.



Father Louis Hennepin

Carte de la Nouvelle France: et de la Louisiane Nououellement Decouverte Dediee au Roy L’an 1683 par le Reuerend Pere Louis Hennepin, Missionaire Recollect et Notaire Apostolique

[Map image]  [Audio]  [Podcast Transcript]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 2F G3300 1683 .H4

The earliest European explorer in this region to both create a map and publish his narrative account was Father Louis Hennepin. In spite of his embellished accounts, map makers used information from his writings for years. Hennepin’s own map contained many important additions to the geographic knowledge of the Upper Mississippi Valley.

Note, for example, the inclusion of the “Saut des St. Antoine de Paudoii,” or the “Falls of St. Anthony,” which Hennepin named because he was the first white person to see the falls. Note, too, the course of the “Colbert” or Mississippi River, with a dotted line projecting its southern route, as well as “Lac des Pleurs,” the “Lake of Tears” better known as Lake Pepin.


Vincenzo Coronelli

Partie Occidentale du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France: ou sont les Nations des Ilinois, de Tracy, les Iroquois, et Plusieurs Autres Peuples; Avec la Louisiane. . .

[Map image] [Audio]  [Podcast Transcript]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 4F G3310 1688 .C6

This exquisite map incorporates all the latest information from the 17 th -century explorers Marquette and Joliet, Father Hennepin, La Salle, and others. It depicts the Great Lakes with a high degree of accuracy and shows the canoe routes the Jesuits used to reach the Mississippi River (which extends much further north than it should). Note the vignettes of Native Americans burning out a canoe, smoking fish, and hunting. Notice, too, what we presume to be a missionary being roasted on a spit in the cartouche.


Vincenzo Maria Coronelli

Half Globe Gore of the Middle of North America

A Franciscan monk, Coronelli was the most important of the many illustrious Italian cartographers. From his monastery in Venice he printed more than 400 maps and founded the scholarly Accademia Cosmografo degli Argonauti. Coronelli had a special interest in globes and was invited by the court of Louis XIV to create a pair of them for the monarch. The resulting globes were 15 feet in diameter and, according to eyewitness reports, they were so mechanically sophisticated that after entering one of the globes through a door, a person could turn it with just one finger.

In 1688, on a smaller but no less important scale, Coronelli engraved an elegant, 110-centimeter globe. This is one half of one gore of that globe (think of a gore as one of the diamond shapes that would be created by removing an orange skin and flattening it out).] Because globes were not accessible to everyone, the gores were also published in book form–the likely source of this gore. Conveniently, almost everything we at the Minnesota Historical Society are interested in can be found on this particular section.

The Mississippi, or Colbert, River is rendered according to Sieur de la Salle’s account of his 1687 expedition. It has been suggested that the placement of the mouth of the Mississippi too far to the west may have been an attempt to expand French territory. Note, as evidence that the expansion of French territory was an important concern, Coronelli’s labeling of the entire southeast as “Canada.” The Great Lakes and Hudson Bay are remarkably correct for the period.


Alexis-Hubert Jaillot

Le Canada ou Partie de la Nouvelle France: Dans l’Amerique Septentrionale, Contenant la Terre de Labrador, la Nouvelle France, les Isles de Terre Neuve de Nostre Dame

This is a significant step in the mapping of Canada and our region in that it is the first to attempt to describe the area that we now know is north and west of Lake Superior. Hudson Bay is quite accurately depicted and the location of Port Nelson is correct and the Hayes River system is hinted at. Note the two large lakes west of Port Nelson on the Nelson River. It is assumed that these are a representation of Lake Winnipeg. If you look closely at maps of this area you will see the influence of Jaillot for the next 50 years.



Louis Armand de Lom d’Arce, Baron de Lahontan

Nouveaux Voyages de Mr. Le Baron delahontan, dans l’Amerigue Septentrinale

One of the longest and proudest traditions in early travel writing is fabrication. Among writers on North America, nobody told a bigger lie than Baron de Lahontan. He served in the French military, commanding a post near present-day Port Huron, Michigan, and was intimately acquainted with the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi territories. Eventually he deserted the French army and was thus deprived of his inheritance, which may have prompted his need to publish a popular account of his time in the New World in 1703. His biggest invention was the “Longue River” which extended straight west from the Mississippi to a range of mountains. From there another river conveniently continued west, completing the long-wished-for passage to the Pacific. Lahontan also made up non-existent tribes and villages. For 100 years respectable map makers were suckered into incorporating Lahontan falsehoods into their cartography, which you will note on many of the maps in this exhibit.

1703 and 1745

Guillaume de L’Isle

Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France et des Decouvertes qui y ont ete Faites

This is an unusually important map in that the plate from which it was printed, first used here in 1703, went through nine different states or updates and was still being used to print in 1833. The words “Du Roi” were removed after the French Revolution. As a scientific cartographer with tremendous integrity, de L’Isle incorporates Lahontan’s “Long River” but adds a disclaimer that only Lahontan has seen it. Also shown here is the sixth state of the map, 1745, with the imprint of Buache who was brought into the map business by de L’Isle’s wife after her husband’s death.


Henri Abraham Chatelain

Carte Particuliere du Fleuve Saint Louis: Dressee sur les Lieux avec les Nomes des Sauvages du pais

Like texts, maps are rich in information. But since they’re non-linear, you can start looking wherever you wish. Occasionally, mapmakers like Chatelain attempt to be encyclopedic, and offer text in a book-like format. Here lists of tribes, resources, and values of trade goods surround the map that is most likely from the cartographer’s Atlas Historique .



Guillaume de L’ Isle

Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississippi

[Map image]     [Audio]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 2F G3700 1718 .L5 1850

This is sometimes referred to as a “mother” map, since it has spawned so many offspring. It is the most important map of the Mississippi River in the 18 th century. A meticulous cartographer, de L’Isle incorporated all of the latest information from explorers Tonty and Denis about the Mississippi River valley into his maps. He made sure French claims in the new world were promoted, as well. This included claiming the present-day Carolinas, which angered the English and set off a cartographic war.


John Senex

A Map of Louisiana and of the River Mississippi

This map was published one year after de L’Isle’s Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississippi, and it’s a clear case of plagiarism.. Senex copied de L’Isle’s work in every way, except that all but the most obvious of the French claims in the new world have been eliminated.


Herman Moll

A New Map of the North Parts of America Claimed by France Under ye Names of Louisiana, Mississippi, Canada and New France

In the political map war of the early 18th century, the most formidable response to de L’Isle’s 1718 Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississippi was Moll’s New Map. . . . Moll doesn’t pull any punches in calling attention to French “Incroachments.” He marks the limits of the French property near the present-day Carolinas. Moll’s map is a landmark: among its many distinctive features, it is the first map to name Texas (“Mission de los Teyas Sett”). It also contains a wealth of information on natural resources.


Johann Baptist Homann

Amplissimae Regions Mississippi seu Provinciae Ludoviciana

This is yet another map largely based on de L’Isle’s of 1718. But here the German cartographer Homann focuses much of his attention on Father Hennepin’s 17 th -century explorations. He shows Hennepin’s route, has an image of the friar in the cartouche, and following Hennepin’s books includes an image of a buffalo, an opossum, a pelican, and Niagara Falls.


Guillaume d L’Isle

Atlas Nouveau, Contenant Toutes les Parties du Monde


Jacques Nicolas Bellin

Carte de l’Amerique Septentrionale pour Servir a l’Histoire de la Nouvelle France.

Bellin was the chief engineer for the Ministere de la Marine , the French government’s library for journals and maps coming in from New France. By the mid-18thcentury the French knew Canada and the Great Lakes intimately, and Belin used all the information available in the Ministere to depict the area. This map taken from Charlevois Histoire et Description Generale de la Nouvelle France, shows a much distorted Lake Superior with a fanciful direct water way to the west.


Jacques Nicolas Bellin

Partie Occidental de la Nouvelle France ou du Canada

Bellin’s map of the Great Lakes, first printed in 1745, was a cartographic standard for decades. It was a huge improvement over his 1743 map of North America. Especially useful to Bellin in creating this map was the information from the La Verendrye family’s explorations and the maps they used from their Cree friend, Auchagah. The only unfortunate thing about Bellin’s map is his fabrication of several islands in Lake Superior. His otherwise wonderful map was copied for decades, complete with the islands that never were. The nonexistent “Ile Phillippeaux,” for example, is a striking irregularity in the lake that we now know. Note one of Bellin’s unintentional mistakes–Lake Pepin is placed on the St. Croix River instead of on the Mississippi.


Guillaume de L’Isle

Globe Terrestre: Revu et Corrige sur les Dernieres Observations et les Meilleurs Carties

As beautiful and as informational as maps can be, globes literally add a third dimension. They are fabulous artifacts that allow a user to interact with maps in a way that a two dimensional map cannot. Mid 18 th -century French globes are considered to be among the finest examples of the art of globe making. This globe, based on the cartographic work of Guillaume de l’Isle, is interesting in the extreme.

To begin with, de l’Isle was a cartographic “rock star”. He was born in Paris in 1675, the son of Claude de l’Isle, a famous geographer and historian. Trained in mathematics and astronomy, Guillaume was perfectly suited to make scientific corrections on earlier Dutch cartography. De l’Isle made giant leaps forward in mapmaking. For his work he was appointed “Premier Geographe du Roi” in 1718.

This globe is not representative of de l’Isle’s most accurate cartography. There are many inaccuracies on the North American continent alone. Notice the two North West passages, which are clearly based on wishful thinking, and the Mer de l’Ouest, (Sea of the West), is shockingly incorrect. Since de l’Isle had been dead for 40 years when this globe was made, and since de l’Isle was know for excluding hearsay on his maps, it seems safe to conclude that his successors- his younger brother, Joseph-Nicholas de l’Isle and his nephew Philippe Buache – were responsible for the “Mer de l’Ouest,” based on the supposed voyage of an Admiral de Fonte who claimed to have found a river that flowed through North America. Ten years later Cook’s voyage would disprove the existence of both these inaccuracies. California is still attached to the mainland on this globe, but the shape of the Great Lakes are poorly rendered for the time period and the Missouri and Rio Grande (Rio del Norte) have nearly identical headwaters. The Mississippi River takes a strange eastward bend but the location of the head of the river is a fairly accurate guess. All of these strange features add to the fascination of the globe.

There are two cartouches (think of cartouches as the title pages and copyright pages of a book) and an advertisement printed on the globe. The main cartouche promises that the globe is “revised and corrected on the latest observations and the best maps” and, of course, is dedicated to the king of France. The other main cartouche mentions “de l’Isle, the astronomer…” as the cartographer behind this terrestrial globe that was “Monte par l’Auteur” or “mounted” by Desnos the publisher. The globe also shows the routes of the explorers via dotted lines suggesting the inclusion of information gathered from those excursions. Globes dating from the 18 th century are extremely rare, which might lead one to assume that they were not widely used in their day. This is not the case at all. Globes were common educational tools used in classrooms, libraries, and even as navigational instruments on ships. It is their inherent fragility that has led to their scarcity.


Thomas Jefferys

The American Atlas: or, A Geographical Description of the Whole Continent of America

Jefferys was geographer to King George III of England. This atlas is the work for which he is most famous, but unfortunately it was not published until after his death in 1775. With its comprehensive maps of America, The American Atlas became a source of great pride for the newly formed United States. The Revolutionary War had begun and in times of war geographical information is crucial to the prosecution of the conflict. George Washington made a special effort to obtain the latest cartographic information, so Jefferys’ maps were much in demand.


Lieutenant Ross and Robert Sayer

Course of the River Mississippi, From the Balise to Fort Chartres

After the French and Indian War, the British moved into the Illinois area. As a result they officially surveyed the lower Mississippi for the first time, and then produced this map. The second state of the map shown here was published in Jeffery’s Atlas . It is comprehensive in listing towns, Indian villages, mineral resources, and much more


Antonio Zatta

Il Paese de Selvaggi Outauacesi, e Kilistinesi Intorno al Lago Superiore

As stated before, Bellin’s map was copied for years. This is an Italian cartographer’s version of the Bellin map and its fictitious islands.

Mapmakers have license to play around with their subjects. In this case, for reasons not understood, Zatta chose to place an inset of Florida on the map of Lake Superior, leading one to speculate that “snowbirds” have been around for at least 230 years.


John Cary

A New Map of Upper and Lower Canada from the Latest Authorities

This map from Cary’s New Universal Atlas clearly shows the division between what was referred to as Upper and Lower Canada. Accurate in so many ways, Carry’s map is one of the last to show Bellin’s fictitious Lake Superior island of Philippeaux. Almost every map has wonderful quirks. Here, for example, Cary identifies “Buffalo Plains” in present-day Wisconsin and makes such comments as “Immense Forests” above Lake Ontario.



Nicholas King

Map of the Mississippi River: from its Source to the Mouth of the Missouri Laid Down from the Notes of Lieut. Z. M. Pike

[Map image] [Audio] [Podcast Transcript]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 4F G 4042 .M5 1807 .K5 1895

At the same time Lewis and Clark were exploring the newly purchased Louisiana territory, Zebulon Pike was sent out to discover the source of the Mississippi River. While he was not, perhaps, the best person for the job, his notes were put to good use by cartographer Antoine Nau. Nicholas King scaled down Nau’s manuscript map and printed the detailed information, creating another landmark in the knowledge of the upper Mississippi. Pike identified present-day Leech Lake as the head of the Mississippi River and confusingly states that Red Cedar Lake is the River’s “upper source.” Pike’s expedition and map proved that the British traders in the river valley still had a strong presence. This is an 1895 reprint of the 1810 Philadelphia original, which the Minnesota Historical Society would love to add to its collection some day.


Richard Brookes

The Northwestern Territories of the United States 

The “Northwest Territory” was created by passage of the Northwest Ordinance by the Continental Congress in 1787. It ceased to exist as a political entity when Ohio became a state in 1803. Fundamentally, Minnesota’s governmental principals come from the Northwest Ordinance. The Brookes map shows the remnants of the Old Northwest Territory after Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan territories were carved out of it. Therefore he refers to the area generically as the “Northwestern Territories.” This map was published in Brookes’s gazetteer just as the War of 1812 began. That war settled the issue of the remaining British presence in the area with the 1814 Treaty of Ghent. Note this map’s obsessive concern with the various “Height[s] of Land.”


Meriweather Lewis and William Clark

A Map of Lewis and Clark’s Track Across the Western Portion of North America from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean

[Map image]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 4F G4126.S12 1814 .L4

This map is from the first official, published account of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Their expedition is one of the most successful and best-known adventures in American history. The map accompanying the official report of the discoveries was an important landmark for western mapping and is notable for the clearly shown and formidable depiction of the Rocky Mountains. With this map the fiction of Baron de Lahontan’s “Longue River” was laid to rest.

Since you probably know of the long and arduous travels of Lewis and Clark and their “Corps of Discovery,” this is a good place to stop and contemplate the expense, hard work, suffering, and sacrifice behind the creation of many of the maps surrounding you.


Narrative journal of travels through the northwestern regions of the United States; extending from Detroit through the great chain of American lakes, to the sources of the Mississippi River.


Henry Rowe Schoolcraft

Narrative of an Expedition Through the Upper Mississippi to Itasca Lake, the Actual Source of this River; Embracing an Exploratory Trip Through the St. Croix and Burntwood (or Broule) Rivers

Schoolcraft’s 1821 A Narrative Journal of Travels… to the Source of the Mississippi River documented his earlier expedition with Lewis Cass, on which Schoolcraft was the geologist. That trip incorrectly identified Cass Lake as the river’s head. When Schoolcraft went back in 1832 to settle conflicts between the Ojibwe and Dakota, he took the opportunity do further explorations and create an accurate map of the region west of Lake Superior. At long last he correctly identified the “ver ITAS Ca put” (”true head”) of the Mississippi. Although Schoolcraft deserves great credit for his work, an Ojibwe? Indian named Oza Windib, or Yellow Head, led him directly to Lake Itasca.


Joseph E. Heckle

Topographical Sketch of Fort St. Anthony at the Confluence of the Rivers Mississippi and St. Peters

This hand-drawn map by the quartermaster posted at Fort St. Anthony (later called Fort Snelling) shows that Heckle was an accomplished draftsman. Along with the margin notes by Major Josiah Howe Vose, the map gives researchers insight into the construction of the fort and the thinking of the military personnel stationed there in 1823. For example, Building #1, the Officers’ quarters, is described as being made of “hewn stone highly finished–it is two stories high in rear & one in front. . . .” Vose goes on to describe the interior, “. . .the upper story contains 2 large parlors & two small rooms with a very spacious entry throughout the building.” Note, too, the ferry on the St. Peter’s (Minnesota) River.


John Farmer

Improved Map of Territories of Michigan and Ouisconsin on a Scale of 30 Geographical miles to an Inch

[Map image]   [Audio]   [Podcast Transcript]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 4F G4060 1836 .F2

Farmer’s map includes all of pre-territorial Minnesota. It includes the up-to-date information from both Schoolcraft expeditions and that of Stephen H. Long, who traveled up the Minnesota (St. Peter’s) River and down the Red River for the U.S. Department of War in 1825. The map seems especially odd since north is oriented to the upper left corner.


J. Andriveau-Goujon

Carte des Etats-Unis d’Amerique Comprenant une Partie des Districts de l’Ouest et de la Nouvelle Bretagne

[Map image]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 4F G3700 1837 .A53

Andriveau-Goujon’s map is known for the amount of detail it provides. All of the settlements and political boundaries are marked as well as railroad and canal transportation routes. In the upper Midwest areas are divided into “Districts” by tribes. A version of this map printed one year later shows Texas as a republic, making it highly collectable.


T.G. Bradford

Iowa and Wisconsin

This map focuses on Wisconsin with an inset of both Iowa and Wisconsin Territories. The inset gives the quirky impression that the Ojibwe and Dakota divided along the Territorial boundary. Bradford’s map clearly shows one of the popular water routes between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River along the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers.


Map of Old St. Anthony and St. Paul Road

[Map image]

About 1838-1846

Wisconsin and Iowa 

We don’t know the exact date of this map, but it was clearly made when most of present-day Minnesota was “Iowa Territory.”

One significant aspect of this map is the area identified as “Carvers Tract.” This phenomenon was included on maps for about 50 years. The story is unbelievably complicated, but here it is in a nutshell: Jonathan Carver claimed to have a 200,000-acre grant of land that the “Sioux” bestowed on him when the British explorer was at present-day St. Paul. Although he sold his interest in the land, his heirs kept the issue alive. The unscrupulous may have used themap of the tract, which had never been recognized by a government, to sell land to the unwary.Congress eventually weighed in on the issue and decided there was no merit to the claim. One more curiosity: while great effort has been made to identify the Indian tribes, the Dakota or “Sioux” are nowhere to be found on this map


J.N. Nicollet

Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River: From Astronomical and Barometrical Observations, Surveys, and Information

[Map image]   [Audio]   [Podcast Transcript]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 6F G4042.M5 1843 .N5

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this map, which was the first scientific measurement of this area, Nicollet’s attention to detail corrected the distortions of his predecessors. One of the enduringly significant aspects of the map is that, by using Indians as informants, Nicollet captured the original names of geographical features. In addition, the cartographer personally, and with much difficulty, travelled across the area of his map. This meant that he meticulously noted the features important to the 19 th -century sojourner. Look closely and you can see marked trails and canoe portages, notably between the Mississippi and the water routes to the Great Lakes.


J.N. Nicollet

Report Intended to Illustrate a Map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi River 

Unlike most government reports, the narrative accompanying Nicollet’s map is a joy to read. Since he died before the report could be revised it was published just as he wrote it, showing his interests in Native American language and customs and exposing his personality to all readers. The U.S. House published the map and report two years after his death.


Benjamin W. Brunson

St. Anthony City, Minnesota Territory

[Map image]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map G 4144 .M5:2U6 1848 .B798 6F

W. A. Cheever was the proprietor of the 182 acres on the east side of the Mississippi below the Falls of St. Anthony. The west side of the river was still unopened to white settlement. Cheever had Brunson, the brother of Ira Brunson (who surveyed the original plat for St. Paul), survey the new town, making note of the numerous springs on the site. There was a ferry stationed? immediately below the falls and the map designates ample space for steamboats to land. As stated in the map’s “Remarks,” the town was “. . .destined to become the landing and reshipping point for all the Mississippi valley above.”



Ira B. Brunson

Original Town Plat of Saint Paul

[Audio] [Podcast Transcription]

The Territorial Legislature of Minnesota approved a bill on November 1, 1849, incorporating St. Paul. But even before St. Paul became an official town Ira Brunson, brother of Benjamin, had surveyed the site. This was in preparation for transfer of title into private hands once the Public Land Survey was completed. The plat was signed by the original land owners whose names are still recognizable to many St. Paulites: Sibley, Larpenteur, Guerin, etc. C. K. Smith, Secretary of the Minnesota Territory, had already certified the plat and the signatures in August of 1849. One handwritten note in the margin correctly states the reason for the sighting of the new town; it is “. . .at the head of good steamboat navigation. . . .” This map set the stage, too, for 150 years of criticism and jokes about the layout of the St. Paul’s streets.

The original plat was rediscovered in 1992 in an “unsecured” area and presented to the Historical Society by the Ramsey County Surveyor in 2006



Map of the Organized Counties of Minnesota

[Map image]  [Audio]  [Podcast Transcription]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 4F G4140 1850 .T493

Perhaps our favorite is this wonderful territorial Minnesota map that has an inset showing four Minnesota counties reaching westward from the current eastern boundary, all the way to the Missouri River. The main map of Washington, Ramsey, and Benton Counties contained almost all of the population of white settlers in 1850, which. If you look close, is noted. For example, St. Paul, we are told has “1500 inhabitants”. The very rich detail on the map includes ferry crossings, fort location, and the ox cart “Route of the Red River Traders”.


J.H. Young

Map of Minnesota Territory

[Map image]   [Audio]

MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 2F G 4130 1852 .Y66

Taken from Samuel A. Mitchell’s New Universal Atlas, this map begins a short lived tradition of printing a “Reference to the Late Indian Treaties” near the bottom left of the map. This note mentions the Chippewa treaty of 1851 which was to have been outlined in blue while a red line was supposed to point out a Dakota treaty but those lines have been left off this edition of the map. The Young map is interested in history and points out the wintering fort of Lewis and Clark on the Missouri River.


J.H. Young

Map of Minnesota Territory

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map G 4130 1853 .Y66 2F

Note the printed red outlines, especially the rectangle along the Minnesota River, and the text at the bottom right of the map, titled, “Lands of the Dacota or Sioux Indians.” This map was most likely also removed from Mitchell’s A New Universal Atlas. The inclusion of information about the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux may have been meant to reassure potential settlers that the area was resolving its Indian issues and safely making land available. The county boundaries are show as they were in 1853. The most notable change is that Dakota County shrinks from covering the south eastern quadrant of the state to nearly its present size and Blue Earth County takes its former place.


Charles W. Christmas

Plat of That Portion of Minneapolis

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map Reserve 6F G 4144 .M5 1854 .C48

Charles Christmas was the first surveyor of Hennepin County. He created this original townsite map of Minneapolis for John H. Stevens and Franklin Steele, two prominent developers of waterpower at St. Anthony Falls, in preparation for the upcoming sale of land west of the river in 1855. Christmas’s decision to lay the streets out running roughly parallel to the river with cross streets at right angles–until they could change to the normal right angle block system–became the base the city has worked with ever since.


Ensign, Bridgman and Fanning

Map of Minnesota and Part of Wisconsin

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map G 4060 1853 .E57 4F

This beautiful map of territorial Minnesota points out one problem of mapmaking in this period: keeping up with the changes in the boundaries of governmental units. The date on this map is 1855, but the county outlines date from much earlier. By the end of 1855 there were 34 counties–not the 19 shown here. Note Mahkahto and Wahnahta counties in the northwestern corner of Minnesota. Both of those counties were eliminated in September of 1851 rendering this made quite out of date redeemed only by the lovely border and corner vignettes.


William P. Payte

St. Paul Gardens

Imagine referring to the area bounded by Snelling, Hamline, St. Clair, and Summit Avenues as “a mile and a half from St. Paul.” Then imagine lots within that area being sold as garden plots! Selling these five-acre parcels was the plan of D. A. Robertson, who founded the State Horticultural Society. Robertson also published one of Minnesota’s earliest magazines, “Minnesota Monthly.”


J.H. Young

Map of Minnesota

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map G 4130 1856 .Y661 2F

Dated before statehood, this map still shows the outline of the state with the “Proposed Dakota Terr tory.” [sic] Most importantly, the map outlines in red the Dakota lands ceded to the United States by the treaties of Traverse des Sioux which can be seen as a long rectangle covering either side of the Minnesota River. Once again text in the lower right gives details of the land cession. County boundaries are updated to 1857.


John G. Wells

Well’s New Sectional Map of Minnesota: From the Latest Government Surveys

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map G 4140 1857 .W46 4F

Even before Minnesota became a state on May 11, 1858, maps began showing the state’s boundary with the “Proposed Territory of Dacota.” County boundaries in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota were especially volatile. For example, Doty County was created from Itasca County in February, 1855, had its name changed to Newton County in March, 1855, and was eliminated in March, 1856, when it became St. Louis County. Obviously, it was hard for mapmakers to keep up with the changes.


Orlando Talcott

Building Map of Minneapolis

Most town plat maps were strictly utilitarian. The inclusion of images of seven significant Minneapolis buildings and a location inset makes this map especially useful and interesting to researchers.


David Dale Owen

Geological Section on the Mississippi River from the Mouth of Lake St. Croix to 1 Mile Above the Falls of St. Anthony

Geological maps have their own beauty, showing us what is not visible on other maps–specifically, what is underground. Here St. Anthony Falls are shown in the upper left corner, having cut their way upstream through the limestone (shown in blue) and sandstone (shown in yellow and green.)Benjamin Franklin Shumard worked with Owen to make these observations.


Richard Owen

Geological Map: Coast View and Section of Pigeon Point

This lovely map, engraved by William H. Dougal, gives the viewer three different ways to look at the northeasternmost corner of Minnesota. The traditional flat map has information about vegetation as well as the promised geology. There is a cross-section clearly showing the silhouette one would see from Lake Superior. And at the top of the map is a panoramic view with some cutaway views of the bedrock.


Coloney and Fairchild

Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters

This is one of the more unusual maps in the collection. The Mississippi River has been straightened a bit to fit on the ribbon of paper that rolled into a brass case. We don’t know why it was made or how it was used but presumably it was for casual use while travelling down the Father of Waters since more detailed navigational charts would have been available for riverboat pilots. Keep in mind that the Mississippi River played a significant role in the Civil War, as Lincoln wanted the river to run “unvexed” to the sea, and that this map came out just one year after the war ended. If you look closely, the map shows battlefields such as the one near Belmont, Missouri where General Grant gained considerable experience.


Power and Thornton’s Civil and Congressional Township Map

You could write a PhD thesis on this map alone. It has so many features it is hard to direct your attention to any one thing. The illustrations and advertisements are lavish but perhaps the most noticeable thing about this map is the checkerboard pattern in southern Minnesota. This shows sections of land that were granted to the railroads that they were offering for sale to help pay the cost of building the lines. See the advertisements at the bottom of the map were, for example, the Winona and St. Peter Rail Road Company promotes parcels “with in 20 miles on each side of their line”. The changing political boundaries of the state are especially noticeable on this map when you see “Andy Johnson” county on the western border and “Monongalia” county in the center of the state. Neither county exists today. There are a number of statements printed on the map like the one in northern Minnesota which reads, “This region is reported by the Canadians to be occupied by lagoons and marsches impassable by horses”, accurately describing the “big bog” region of the state.

1869 and 1870

Rice and Reed’s Township Map of the State of Minnesota

These maps, drafted by Bernhard Dassel, were largely intended to aid immigrants. They were bound into state promotional material, such as Minnesota: Its Resources and Progress, and were widely distributed. As you can see from the text block, “Explanation of Land Surveys,” one map is in Norwegian. They also show the location of U.S. land offices and the railroads.


Saint Paul Board of Trade

St. Paul in the Year 1900

Maps, thank God, can have a sense of humor. In this case someone apparently had enough of the city fathers’ boosterism, and took it to an absurd level. St. Paul becomes the center of the world (much like Jerusalem is the “navel of the world” in the earliest manuscript maps) with one train travelling from St. Paul, via suspension bridge, to London and another leaving St. Paul via tunnel, “. . .excavated by gophers”, to Peking.


Hawkins Brothers

Map of Minneapols and St. Anthony

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This may was published by a company that seems to have been engaged in all aspects of real estate sales. We assume it was published about 1872. The cartography is not outstanding but the map portrays the city as it was about to enter a period of great growth. The 1870 Census counted more people in St Paul than Minneapolis but that would be reversed in 1880. The marsh land in the valley of Basset’s Creek had not yet been developed. This map makes the importance of that land for the future growth of the city. The creek would be put underground in a sewer and the land filled and developed for a variety of commercial and residential uses.  We can also see how the city was beginning to grow toward the south. At this time Franklyn Avenue was the southern boundary of the city. The State Fair Grounds were located just outside of the city. The Fair would soon move to St Paul much to the chagrin of Minneapolis booster. At this time the older community of St Anthony is almost the same size as Minneapolis. The two communities would soon be combined into one.  Notice that the University of Minnesota consisted of only one building at this time.  The map was produced by Northwestern Lithograph. This company was a large scale commercial printing company that also published county atlases.


Alfred T. Andreas

An Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota 

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Atlas G1425 .A5 1874b

In 1873 salesmen covered Minnesota like locusts, hawking a landmark publication: the first illustrated atlas of any state. These salesmen were not only looking for subscriptions to the forthcoming book but also appealing to their clients’ vanity. They pushed subscribers to immortalize themselves by paying extra to have everything included in the book, from their portraits and biographies (at 2-1/2 cents per word), to images of their cows, to prosperous farms and businesses. While the salesmen were doing their work, a crew of surveyors were scouring the U.S. Land Offices, consulting the work done out in the field and drawing their own maps. Andreas had chosen Minnesota for his bold experiment and departure from other map publications because we were prosperous, in spite of our youth, and because Minnesota was cartographic virgin territory.

The result of these efforts was a beautiful volume of maps showing all the counties and significant towns, along with one map of the northern third of Minnesota that is virtually empty. About 10,000 subscribers pledged $15 for the atlas, but because of the panic of 1873 many reneged on their promises. The text, which includes W. W. Clayton’s “History of the State of Minnesota,” was not especially new or interesting, but that wasn’t why people looked at the book. Some “deluxe” copies were sold with three panoramic or “bird’s-eye” maps of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Winona. (Collectors note: don’t settle for a copy without these stunning panoramas.) We know from early letters that many people who had come early to this state were unsure they had made a good decision. The Andreas Atlas must have at least temporarily eased their minds. There could be no doubt that we were on the map to stay.


H.A. Strong

The Business Heart of Minneapolis, Minn., Washington Avenue

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Reserve OVERSIZE F613.M67 B87 1882

While panoramic maps of towns were common in the 19th century, panoramic street scenes like this were not. Both the north and south sides of the street are accurately depicted, not to mention the bridges and buildings in the background [look especially near the milling district] giving the modern viewer a glimpse of the commerce and architecture of the time. Unlike most panoramas this is nearly a street level perspective instead of one from hundreds of feet in the air. This is an early example of the neighborhood commercial maps produced today where businesses pay to highlight or advertise their buildings.


A.C. Bausman

Fifth Division, Remington Park: Surveyed and Rearranged, July 1884

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 4F G 4144 .M5:2S6 1884 .B388

Like many Minnesota maps, this one’s purpose is to describe land so one person can sell it to another. This map shows the ultimate division of land, where a developer is marketing home site lots for the wealthy in the Lake Harriet neighborhood between 46th and 50th Streets and Knox and Dupont Avenues.


Rand, McNally & Co.

Official Railroad Map of Minnesota

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 6F G 4141 .P3 1886 .R35

This is the very first “official” railroad map of Minnesota. The state had the proven map publisher Rand, McNally do the heavy lifting required to publish this complicated map so that was easily readable. The 13 color coded railroad lines work beautifully to accomplish that difficult task. Minnesota’s rail lines look like a web connecting all the major population centers, occasionally in pairs. Note, too, the industrial line of the Duluth and Iron Range R. R. between Tower and Two Harbors on the north shore of Lake Superior.



The Twin Cities: Their Famous Lakes, River, Parks and Resorts

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 4F G4144.T89A3 1907 .T85

It is especially interesting to view this map from the first decade of the 20th century with the hopes and dreams for light rail in the first decade of the 21st century in mind. 100 years ago you could hop on a streetcar south of Stillwater or in Inver Grove and take it all the way to the western shore of Lake Minnetonka.


Albert Henderson

Map of Red Lake Indian Reservation, Minnesota

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 2F G 4142 .R435 1911 .U5

It is not unusual for printed maps to have manuscript additions or annotations. In this case the official government map has hand coloring to indicate types of vegetation. A legend and note in the lower left corner of the map indicates that the added information was supplied by another government agency, the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.


St. Paul: Minnesota Highway Department

State Highway Department Map of Minnesota: Showing the Status of Improvement of State Roads

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As the first in an annual series of “Official” state highway maps this is an important map by any measure. The fact that it includes roads that are under development and how the highway system could be, helped to sell the public on supporting the investment necessary for road improvements. Take a look at the area north of Red Lake; what is going on with the grid system and all of the dead ends depicted?


The Yellowstone Trail Touring Service: Map No. 9, Minnesota

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 2F G 4144 .T89 1920 .Y4

In the 1920s, automobile travel was becoming popular but still seemed like an extreme sport. As this map clearly states, the highway system was still developing and “. . .in wet times [some roads] are extremely difficult to handle. . . .” Organizations grew up to take advantage of tourism and the money it would bring by giving free advice to automobilers about road conditions and by creating a series of maps like this one. The Association apologetically says its map is “made for use and is not a work of art.”


The Northland Bus Routes: The Road to Pleasure . . .

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MHS Location:

Transportation and tourism drove the production of countless maps. The two come together in this map that promotes the beauty and recreational opportunities of summertime Minnesota. By combining photographs with drawings, potential tourists get a blend of romance and realism.


Francis J. Marschner

The Original Vegetation of Minnesota 

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 8F G 4141 .D2 1930 .M3

Minnesotans in general and paleoecologists in particular owe deep gratitude to an Austrian cartographer who had never set foot in this state. 33 year old Francis J. Marschner immigrated to the United States in 1915 after studying at the Cartographic Institute in Berlin. He began working for the Department of Agriculture in Washington as an expert in land use mapping. No one knows what possessed him to read through the 200 volumes of handwritten notes from the original surveyors of Minnesota but he clearly realized that by interpreting those notes he could make an important contribution to the environmental history of Minnesota. When the map was completed in 1930 Marschner sent it to St. Paul. Over the years it was lost [one apocryphal story has the map being recycled in a paper drive] but fortunately someone had made a copy which was rediscovered and again sent to St. Paul in 1963. Miron “Bud” Heinselman reconstructed that map with two University of Minnesota cartographers and published it in 1974.

The sixteen categories of vegetation give us a very clear idea of what Minnesota looked like just before white settlement with its signature division between the prairies and the forests. By comparison with what we can see around us today it also speaks to us about the great change that settlement brought to the land. The text on the map’s reverse is an interpretation of the map by Heinselman and can be seen on another copy of the map in the MHS library.


Langwith’s Pictorial Map of Minnesota

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 6F G 4141 .E635 193- .L359

The tourist industry and the many business that profited from it was responsible for a boom in map making. Many of these maps, perhaps a majority, were graphic maps like the Langwith. The idea was to pack in as much history, if not especially good history, and people, if largely stereotypical people, and iconic Minnesota as possible, hoping to trigger in the viewer a longing to see the real thing. The result is at least a colorful distraction for travelers in the pre World War II era


Charles M. Pottsmith

Cartomap of Bemidji, Minnesota: Vacation Playground with Highways and Historical Data

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 2F G 4144 .B3 E635 1947 .P6822

While it sounds like a redundant combination of “cartography” and “map,” it is more likely a “cartoon map.” This cartomap was obviously made to entice tourists to the region as it lists all of the resorts, hotels, motels, and motor courts. It is a fun and lighthearted depiction of the area, although sixty years after its creation, some of the stereotypical cartoons may offend our heightened sensibilities. Harold Haag, of Bemidji, and the Minnesota Historical Society are credited with such historical information as “Indians moved into the Bemidji area in about 1722.”


Hudson’s Indexed Map of Lake Minnetonka: Showing Main Lakes, Bay Depths, Channels, Buoys, Points, Towns, Villages, Islands, Public Roads 

The Minnesota Historical Society library contains almost 100 maps published by the Hudson Map Company. This important local mapping business is mainly known for their Hudson’s Twin Cities Street Atlas, but in their 117-year-history they have published everything from promotional maps like the one exhibited here to city wall maps. Charles Hall, a cartographer hired by founder Horace B. Hudson, bought the company with fellow employee Walter Eng in the early 1900s. Hudson is now owned by the fourth generation of Halls.


W.A. Fisher Company

The Quetico-Superior County of Minnesota and Ontario Featuring the Ancient Voyageur’s Highway along the International Border

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MHS Location: Minnesota Historical Society Map 4F G3462.Q42E63 1952 .W2

If ever there was a time when your life depended upon a map, it was likely in the wilderness of Minnesota’s canoe country. And it is even more likely that the map you depended on was made by the Fisher Map Company. The company’s bread and butter is their canoe country maps indicating portages and campsites. They also sold decorative maps of the area like this one showing the “Voyageur’s Highway,” with text by historian Grace Lee Nute. The juxtaposition of Nute’s scholarly text and the cartoon images is unlikely, but it seems to work.


St. Paul Cycle Path Association



Chris Kvale

Cycling Routes Around the Twin Cities

There’s a map for virtually any recreational activity you can imagine. In the case of bicycling, maps have been around long enough to show both change over time and continuity. The earlier map shown here is unusually useful in that it labels routes for both condition and difficulty, and the dotted concentric circles give the rider an idea of distance.

When the Environmental Movement blossomed in the 1970s, bikes came to be seen as an alternative sustainable lifestyle choice. With that in mind, legendary Minneapolis cyclist Chris Kvale, with the support of the Environmental Library, produced this map of the Cities’ best routes, judged for safety, traffic, and scenery. Note the handwritten names along the margins that name the communities an ambitious cyclist would eventually reach.


About 1982

Northern Sun Alliance and Friends for a Non-Violent World

Effects of a 20-Megaton Bomb on the Twin Cities

Maps have a long history of being used to promote political agendas. At the time the Nuclear Freeze movement was active, a local left-wing business came up with a very graphic way to demonstrate the awful power of the bomb. The map personalizes the issue by adding familiar geographic information to the discussion.


Rosalind Lyons

Minneapolis St. Paul Neighborhood Map

Even those of us who have spent our lives in the Twin Cities have trouble remembering what a neighborhood is called or where its agreed-upon boundaries are. This fun map names 101 Minneapolis and 127 St. Paul neighborhoods. The reasoning behind the map’s Nordic design is unknown.