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"Remaps the Entire Continent West of the Mississippi" -- The First Large Format Map To Incorporate Lewis & Clark's Completed Discoveries in the West

Fine example of Aaron Arrowsmith's map of North America, one of the seminal maps for the early history of the Transmississippi West.

The present example of Arrowsmith's map is the June 1814 edition, revised by Arrowmsmith to incorporate the recently released Lewis & Clark map and account of their expedition, as well as the information derived from a number of other expeditions in the Transmississippi West undertaken prior to 1814. An 1802 edition of Arrowsmith's map was the only printed map brought on the expedition and consulted by Lewis & Clark  in search of the headwaters of the Missouri, making this a remarkable update to the primary printed source utilized on the expedition.

In describing this edition of the map, Rumsey notes:

This issue incorporates the Lewis and Clark discoveries (and other discoveries) and remaps the entire continent west of the Mississippi. The changes between this and the last edition (1811) are monumental. 

Scholars have noted that the 1814 map is far more accurate than the map which accompanied the first edition of Lewis & Clark's travels. This is in part due to Arrowsmith's access to information drawn directly from manuscript maps by the British explorer David Thompson, who provided a far more accurate delineation of the Columbia River, as well as other Hudson Bay Company source materials. The map also benefitted from access to the maps and reports of Zebulon Pike and Alexander von Humboldt.  

The 1802 Edition of Arrowsmith's Map

Arrowsmith's 1802 map incorporated several monumental changes not present in the four 1795 editions of the map. For Lewis & Clark, the most notable are those added to the Upper Missouri River regions. The 1802 Arrowsmith was the first to show the Upper Missouri joined with the Mississippi River in its correct location. The ruins of Fort Orleans, built by the French fur trapper and explorer Bourgmont in the early 1700s is shown on the Lower Missouri. The course of the Missouri River, below the Kansas River to the Mississippi, is significantly improved, although above the Kansas River and the Mandan Villages, the Arrowsmith map references "the most Northern Bend of the Missesouri Rios" (an area derived from David Thompson's manuscript map of 1798), but still lacks the information recently obtained by the Spanish / St. Louis fur traders in the preceding decade.

Above and west of the Mandan Villages, the map incorporates for the first time the reports of Peter Fidler for the Hudson's Bay Company, by including a series of possible river courses to the west, leading to (and prospectively through) the Rocky Mountains. It was this section of the map that provided the best depiction of the prospect of a water route or portage through the Rocky Mountains and to the Pacific. It was this information, along with reports from local Indians encountered on the expedition, which Lewis & Clark relied in choosing their path to the Rocky Mountains.

On the far side of the Rocky Mountains, a section of river called the Great Lake River includes a speculative water course which flowed to the River Oregan (Columbia River), included a note stating that "the Indians say they sleep 8 Nights in descending this River to the Sea." This note was one more factor which led to the exploration of this route as a means of a locating navigable route by water to the Pacific Ocean.

The additions and corrections present in the fifth and sixth states of the map, coming from Peter Fidler and the Hudson Bay Company, were the result of Fidler's extensive contacts with the indigenous tribes on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and contributed greatly to the geographical knowledge of the region prior to the return of Lewis & Clark in 1806. The information was transmitted through the Hudson's Bay Company channels back to England and very quickly delivered to Arrowsmith, who was then the primary mapmaker for the HBC.

For a complete discussion of the map, see Warren Heckrotte, "Aaron Arrowsmith's Map of North America and the Lewis and Clark Expedition" in The Map Collector No. 39, Summer 1987.

Lewis & Clark

Both the 1795 and 1802 editions of Arrowsmith's map were used by Nicholas King in his preparation of the primary manuscript map used on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. However, only the 1802 Arrowsmith map (state 5) was carried on the expedition by Lewis & Clark.

As noted by Warren Heckrotte:

On the third of June, 1804, the Lewis and Clark expeditionary party ascending the Missouri River came unexpectedly to "the junction of two large rivers." The information the two captains had obtained from the Minnatree Indians at the expedition's winter camp, Fort Mandan, near the Great Bend of the Missouri had not indicated the presence of a branch of the river at this location. The decision as to which branch was the Missouri was a critical one: the wrong choice "might defeat the expedition altogether." For the next week the captains reconnoitered the two branches. By June 10 they had decided the south branch was the Missouri. Lewis set out ahead of Clark to search for the critical text -- the Great Falls of the Missouri. On June 13 he found them . . .
DeVoto calls the reasoning of the two captains at this juncture a remarkably act of the mind that should occupy a distinguished place in the history of thought.
In their considerations the captains brought to bear the great map of North America by Aaron Arrowsmith. . . .

In making this critical decision, Arrowsmith's map was the focal point. As noted by Heckrotte:

On June 8 the journal of the expedition summarized their assessment of the relevant portions of Arrowsmith's map. Lewis believes from the map that [Peter] Fidler had descended along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains to the "remarkable mountain" called the "Tooth" at latitude 46º north and that Fidler had not seen the Missouri on the journey, "only small streams coming down from the mountains." The captains reasoned that Fidler could not have come so far south without meeting the great river and concluded that Fidler and the map were in major error in this region.

The 1814 Edition

A second edition of the map was issued in 1802, adopting additional information from Peter Fidler.  Thereafter, the next edition of the map was issued in 1811.  As noted by Rumsey:

This issue is the seventh (Heckrotte) and makes changes to the Canadian waterways, when compared to the 1802 editions. The American West has been largely unchanged since the first issue of 1795. In the next issue (1814) there are massive changes in the American West.  

Beginning with the 1814, edition, Arrowsmith makes a massive leap forward, introducing the breakthrough cartographic content derived from Lewis & Clark, Alexander Humboldt, Pike and others. What had previously been a little known a largely blank canvas west of the Mississippi River is radically transformed, with extensive hydrographic details, mountains, Indian Settlements and far better understanding of the Rocky Mountains and various other primary Mountains ranges of the mid-continent.

It may fairly be stated that prior to John Melish's map of 1816, which would not appear for another 2 years, Arrowsmith's 1814 map, more than any other, offered the first glimpses of the full extent of America's "Manifest Destiny," a term still not yet born, but very much a part of the Jeffersonian and later Jacksonian visions for America.

Editions of the Map

Arrowsmith's map was published in a number of editions between 1795 and 1824, with the later editions by his son John Arrowsmith in 1833 and 1839.

The present state is the only edition issued between 1811 and 1817 and bears note below the title that it includes "Additions to June 1814."


The 1814 rarely appears on the market.  We are aware of only 2 examples on the market in the past 30 years, including (1) this example which we purchased from Lyon & Turnbull in 2018 and (2) an example, which was previously sold at Sothebys in 2008 to Donald Heald, catalogued by Heald in Fifty Maps of America, Item 11, then sold to Aubrey McClendon circa 2011 and (2) resold by Sothebys in June 2018.

Condition Description
6 sheets joined. Several repaired tears and paper cracks and some soiling and discoloration. Trimmed to plate mark, with false margins added.
Aaron Arrowsmith's Map of North America and the Lewis & Clark Expedition, The Map Collector, Spring 1987, pp 16-20; DeVoto, Westward the Course of Empire, p. 328 (1953).
Aaron Arrowsmith Biography

Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823) was born in Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith’s three shops were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer. Through his business ties and employment at the HO, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the HBC, and other companies. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King. He died in 1823, whereby the business passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John.