Map of the United States in 1825
Full original hand-color example of John Cary's map of the United States, published shortly after the Adams Onis Treaty of 1819.
John Cary's map presents an impressive and detailed portrayal of the young nation in a period of rapid territorial growth and evolution, among the most noteworthy features is the continuing misprojection of Illinois and Indiana, both of which are pushed west of their true locations, such that, for example, Illinois is not on Lake Michigan.
This map provides valuable insights into the political and geographical changes occurring in the United States during this time. In 1825, the nation was experiencing significant expansion and reorganization, particularly in the Midwest and the South.
Illinois (still listed here as a Territory), for example, had only recently gained statehood in 1818, transforming from a territory into the 21st state. Its borders on this map are slightly different from those today, particularly in the north, which was not yet extended to include the region around what is now Chicago.
Michigan, still a territory, would not achieve statehood until 1837. However, the map already outlines the lower peninsula that is now identifiable as the characteristic shape of Michigan. Notably, the contested region known as the Toledo Strip, a source of dispute between Michigan and Ohio, is also present on the map and the Upper Peninsula is still part of North West Territory.
Indiana, admitted as the 19th state in 1816, is represented with its current boundaries. A robust network of rivers is prominently displayed, underlining the significance of these waterways for trade and transportation in the era.
In the South, the state of Mississippi, admitted as the 20th state in 1817, is seen in its modern configuration. However, its neighboring Alabama was still emerging, having only achieved statehood in 1819.
The state of Georgia is depicted with its pre-Cherokee removal boundaries, extending westward into modern-day Alabama and Mississippi. This reflects the territorial claims prior to the forced relocation of the Cherokee people along the infamous "Trail of Tears" in the 1830s.
The North West Territory, which had been one of the first territories of the United States, no longer exists on this map. By 1800, portions of it had been carved out to form the state of Ohio and the Indiana Territory, and by 1805, the remainder had become part of the Michigan Territory.
What is truly noteworthy about Cary's map is how it reflects the dynamic process of westward expansion and state creation in the early 19th century. The new states and evolving territories underscore the United States' growth and the increasing complexities of its regional politics.
John Cary (1755-1835) was a British cartographer and publisher best known for his clean engraving and distinct style which influenced the entire map industry. Born in Wiltshire, John was apprenticed to an engraver in London. He started his own business by 1782 and moved to several premises before settling at 86 St James’s Street in 1820.
Cary had several significant collaborations during his career. John Wallis and Cary diversified Cary’s business to include broader publishing projects. Brother William and John made globes together, while brother Francis participated in the company’s engraving work. Finally, geologist William Smith and Cary developed and sold geological maps, some of the first of their kind. The pair also produced a notable series of county maps starting in 1819. Cary’s atlases, of English counties and the world, were the standard texts of the early nineteenth century. He was appointed surveyor of roads to the General Post Office in 1794, which led to the New Itinerary, first published in 1798.
John trained his son, George, in engraving and George and his other son, John Jr., took over the business in 1821. It was then known as G. and J. Cary and continued in trade until 1850. The firm’s materials were then acquired by George Frederick Cruchley and then Gall and Inglis. By the time John died in 1835, Cary was the authoritative name in private map publishing and his business was a leader in the field throughout the first half of the nineteenth century.