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An 18th-century American map of the United States.

Double-page engraved map of the United States, by John Reid, from the second folio atlas printed in America and the first in New York. Reid's map reflects the early Federal period interest in settling and organizing the territory around the Ohio River and to the northwest of it.

The map pays particular attention to the military reserve lands across the frontier, which had been set aside for Revolutionary War veterans; the following are illustrated:

  • "Reserve for the N. Carolina Troops" in Tennessee.
  • "Land Reserved for the Virginia Troops" in Kentucky.
  • "Army Lands" in eastern Ohio.
  • "Army Lands" in southern Illinois.

Further interesting details on the frontier and in the Northwest are noted:

  • Lands of the Illinois Company
  • Lands of the New Jersey Company
  • Lands of the Wabash Company
  • Lands of the Ohio Company
  • General Clark's Grant of 150,000 acres
  • "Donation Lands from the Commonwealth of Virginia"
  • The Seven Ranges

Where states or territories are not named, an attempt has been made to label the area with the most prominent local Indian tribe.

A large swathe of territory in the northwest (modern-day Midwest) is labeled "Divided into States by a Resolve of Congress in 1784". This is a reference to a fascinating and brief period in the history of the United States, that could have seen our present state configuration looking very different.

The Land Ordinance of 1784 was an attempt led by Thomas Jefferson to lay out the future states in the Northwest Territory. The Ordinance's primary articles were fairly straightforward, establishing the status of the new states in perpetuity and equality with the preexisting ones. However, the final clause in the original draft proved quite controversial; it called for slave emancipation in the new states by 1800. The southern states rallied against this proposal, and it was struck from the legislation.

Among Jefferson's other contributions to the Ordinance were ten prospective names for the new states: Sylvania, Michigania, Assenisippia, Metropotamia, Cherronesus, Saratoga, Polypotamia, Pelisipia, Illinoia, and Washington. He drew on classical and Native American inspirations for the appellations, only three of which lived on in any way, albeit far from where they were originally intended to cover.

In the end, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and subsequently 1789, proved far more important for the political boundary development of the American frontier. Therewith the Northwest Territory was established, allowing for decisions about state formation to be substantially delayed; the westernmost part of the Jeffersonian state "Sylvania" finally reached actual statehood almost 75 years after his proposal, in the form of Minnesota in 1858.


The present example is a variant edition, lacking the Smith, Reid and Wayland imprint at the bottom center of the map.

John Reid Biography

Following Mathew Carey’s publication of the American Atlas in 1795, the second large format atlas published in America was produced by John Reid of New York in 1796. The project began as an atlas to accompany William Winterbotham’s An Historical, Geographical, Commercial and Philosophical View of the United States, but was also sold separately under the title The American Atlas.

Reid’s atlas included 20 maps. In addition, John Russell’s plan of Washington, D.C. is also bound into some copies of the Atlas. Reid’s atlas was a collaborative work, with 9 of the maps engraved by Benjamin Tanner, 5 by David Martin, two by D. Anderson and one each by John Scoles and John Roberts. Two of the maps do not include engraving credits. Each of the engravers was probably working in New York (including Tanner, who had not yet relocated to Philadelphia). According to the various entries for the maps in Wheat & Brun, the cartographic content of the maps is drawn largely from Carey’s first atlas of 1795.