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Early Real Estate Speculation in the Ohio Valley

Iimportant map for the early development of the Ohio Valley, promoting the lands of the Scioto Company.

The map was published to accompany Prospectus pour l'éstablissement sur les rivières d'Ohio et de Scioto en Amérique, Paris, 1789. The prospectus and map were issued by the Scioto Company, which was associated with the Ohio Company, a group of American land speculators who in 1786 received a grant of several million acres from Congress along the Ohio in the vicinity of the Scioto and Muskingum Rivers.

The Scioto Company was organized to market some of these lands to prospective French investors and emigrants. The Scioto Company failed to meet its contract with the Ohio Company, and issued worthless deeds to about 150,000 acres before it collapsed in 1790.

The map shows all of the present State of Ohio from Lake Erie south to the Ohio River, and as far west as the Scioto. It includes the Seven Ranges of Townships, laid out in 1786 by Thomas Hutchins, Surveyor General of the United States, the first part of United States Territory surveyed according the pattern subsequently used for all territory as far west as the Pacific. Just to the west is the original Ohio Company Grant (colored pink), and beyond, in blue, is the proposed Scioto Company purchase.

A simplified and more common second state of the map was published in the same year. It omits many details shown on the first state, including the Seven Ranges, and the town of Marietta ("Mariana"), founded in 1787. Named in honor of Marie Antoinette, Thomas Smith speculated that the town may have been erased because of the Queen's "considerable loss of popularity among the French people by 1789".

The Scioto Company

The Scioto Company, was formed in 1787 by Colonel William Duer and several associates. It was reorganized in 1789, in Paris, as the Compagnie du Scioto and focused on attracting French investors. The Company had arranged to purchase of 4 million acres from the Ohio Company, occupying the western portion of their lands. For a time "Sciotomanie" spread through the salons of Paris, as many of the France's wealthiest and most esteemed figures enthusiastically invested in the endeavor.

However, the Scioto Company proved to be only one of Duer's several spectacular failures, ultimately defaulting on its payments to the Ohio Company. In 1791, 218 French settlers arrived in Ohio to find that the Scioto Company was a chimera, and that no provisions had been made for their presence. Arriving in Marietta (founded in 1788), shown in manuscript on the map, the settlers were soon moved upriver to Gallipolis (also drawn in manuscript), a crude settlement that was created especially for them. Also added by hand is a trail running along the Ohio River along with the several forts, while the lengthy inscriptions surrounding the area give a detailed accounting of the amounts that were to be paid per acre, for land sales in these regions.

A 1794 opinion by the U.S. Attorney General officially voided the Scioto Company's claims. On March 31, 1795, the U.S. Congress felt compelled to arrange for some form of restitution for the beleaguered French settlers, granting them 24,000 acres on the Ohio, just down river from the mouth of the Scioto. Elsewhere, French settlers were permitted to purchase the lands they occupied for $1.25 per acre.

Smith, The Mapping of Ohio, pp. 125-130, plate III; not in Phillips, Maps of America.
Pierre Antoine Tardieu Biography

Pierre Antoine Tardieu (1784-1869), also known to sign his works as PF Tardieu, was a prolific French map engraver and geographer. The Tardieu family, based in Paris, was well known for their talent in engraving, cartography, and illustration. Pierre Antoine’s father, Antoine Francois Tardieu, was an established cartographer who published numerous atlases. His son is said to have collaborated with him for many years before establishing his own independent career.

Pierre Antoine Tardieu’s most famous work includes engravings of the islands of La Palma and Tenerife, for which in 1818 he was awarded a bronze medal by King Louis-Phillipe for the beauty and accuracy of his mapping. Other famous work includes his mapping of Louisiana and Mexico, engravings of Irish counties, maps of Russia and Asia, and his highly celebrated illustrations of all the provinces of France. He was also the first mapmaker to engrave on steel.

Tardieu was a popular map engraver in his lifetime, enjoying the patronage of the likes of Alexander von Humboldt and respect among his peers. In 1837, he was appointed the title Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. As was written in his obituary in the Bulletin of the Geographical Society of France, he was renowned for his combination of technical talent and scholarly research skills and praised for furthering his family’s well-respected name in the scientific arts.