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Description

First Appearance of the Jeffersonian States of the Old Northwest Territory

Important map of North America, the United States, and the American West, published in London by Jonathan Carver.

The map is perhaps most noteworthy for its treatment of the Transmississippi West, showing a picture of the British understanding of the West at the time of the conclusion of the American Revolution.  The River of the West appears prominently, along with a tentative watercourse above the Rocky Mountains which stretches nearly to the headwaters of the Missouri, suggesting a short portage between the two rivers and therefore a possible watercourse across the continent.

Relatively little is known about the West Coast -- even the discovery of San Francisco Bay and the Spanish Missions in Upper California are not yet shown.  The placement of the Straits of Anian within the inland area between the discoveries of Augilar and Juan de Fuca is unusual.

The map is also noteworthy for depicting the states proposed by Thomas Jefferson.  Following the American Revolution one of history’s great land rushes began, as settlers poured over the mountains into Kentucky and the “Old Northwest,” the vast triangle of land between the Great Lakes and the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

The Continental Congress sought to impose order on the process through diplomacy with the native tribes and legislation regulating the governance of the territory north and west of the Ohio River. The first such was the Land Ordinance of 1784, which among other things dictated the future division of the region into ten states and specified their boundaries. Jefferson, who helped write the Ordinance, proposed ten names, most now lost to history: Illinoia, Michigania, Saratoga, Washingon, Chersonesus, Sylvania, Assenisipia, Metropotamia, Polypotamia, and Pelisipia. Only the first two names endured, of course, though not in the locations they were originally assigned.

The plan to create new states in the region was documented on just a few maps.  The present map, which identifies 11 unnamed regions, is apparently the earliest and most unusual, showing 11 states and pre-dating the Ordinance Survey by 3 years.  The appearance of these proposed 11 states, pre-dating the Land Ordinance of 1784, is a fascinating inclusion, which only exists in the last of 3 editions of Carver's Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America, first issued in 1778.  The map was apparently an early attempt to reconcile the lands that were claimed and later ceded by Virginia to the newly formed United States, a process that resulted in several proposals by Virginia beginning in January 2, 1781.