Mapping a Nation: Shaping the Early American Republic

April 12–December 29, 2019
104 S. 5th Street Philadelphia, PA 19106

“Indeed, what is the history of a country without maps?”
—Sebastian Bauman (1782)

Mapping a Nation: Shaping the Early American Republic traces the creation and use of maps from the mid-18th century through 1816 to investigate the way maps, as both artworks and practical tools, had political and social meaning. It features historical maps, surveying instruments, books, manuscripts, and other objects to show how maps were used to create and extend the physical, political, and ideological boundaries of the new nation while creating and reinforcing structural inequalities in the Early Republic. The exhibition emphasizes the processes that produced maps—surveying, drawing, engraving, and printing—in addition to the information and ideas contained in the maps.  It also sheds light on the ways that mapmakers functioned as political actors—and how different people used maps as political and ideological tools—to express multiple, sometimes competing visions of what the new United States would be.

Mapping a Nation draws on the APS’s extensive Library and Museum holdings. Highlights of the exhibition include a 1757 copy of the John Mitchell map of the British Empire in North America, manuscript maps from the American Revolution, surveying instruments, the first map of Tennessee as a state, George Washington’s copy of the 1792 map of Washington, D.C., and maps from the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition along with the copper plates used to publish them.