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Mapping and Recording

Samuel de Champlain’s 1607 Map

This unique exploration document, originally intended for presentation to the king of France, was compiled by Samuel de Champlain (1567–1635), founder of New France. One of the great cartographic treasures of America, it provides the first thorough delineation of the New England and Canadian coast from Cape Sable to Cape Cod. It shows Port Royal; Frenchman’s Bay; the St. John, St. Croix, Penobscot, and Kennebec Rivers; and many offshore islands—including Mount Desert, which Champlain himself named. The place names and coast line correspond closely to Champlain’s narrative in his Voyages, published in 1613.

Champlain personally designed and drew this portolan-style chart on vellum. Most charts of the time were drawn by professional cartographers who depended on information obtained from explorers, navigators, and cosmographers. In contrast, Champlain based this chart entirely on his own exploration and observations, including interviews with Native Americans, and on his own mathematical calculations.

A number of habitations are shown along the shoreline, the larger ones representing French settlements and the smaller ones Native American villages. At Port Royal a turreted fort is shown, signifying a European settlement. Forests are represented by stylized drawings of trees, singly and in groups. Hill symbols indicate higher elevations visible from the shore. Dangerous shoals are shown as groups of small dots, and anchors represent locations where Champlain himself set anchor.

In 1883, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris purchased from a monk in Nantes a precious atlas containing Champlain’s chart. Later the chart came into the possession of Henry Harrisse, a distinguished lawyer, historian, and bibliographer, who built a remarkable collection of maps, publications, and papers pertaining to the early exploration of America. Harrisse bequeathed his entire collection to the Library of Congress in 1915.

Samuel de Champlain (1567–1635). Descripsion des costs, pts., rades, illes de la Nouvele France . . . . Manuscript chart on vellum, 1607. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

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George Washington, Mapmaker

George Washington, best known as a planter, soldier, and statesman, was trained as a surveyor during his late teenage years and practiced surveying in the western part of Virginia during the 1750s. Recent inventories indicate that he drew or annotated at least 150 maps during his lifetime. Of these, more than forty are found in various collections of the Library of Congress. Most of these pertain to land surveys in western Virginia, military operations in southwestern Pennsylvania, and surveys of his lands near Mount Vernon, Virginia.

Here are examples of Washington’s exemplary mapmaking skills. The first map was drawn by Washington when he was about seventeen years old. He prepared this manuscript plan of Alexandria, Virginia, as well as a similar map of the town site before the streets and lots were laid out. The town, which was formally established on July 13, 1749, consisted of eighty-four lots, most of which were one-half acre in size. The site for this new town focused on a tobacco inspection warehouse and the stores of several Scottish merchants, located on the Potomac River just north of Great Hunting Creek in a small community that was originally known as Belhaven. It is possible that Washington prepared this map while he was apprenticed to the county surveyor John West, whom he assisted in surveying the town boundaries and lots. He apparently prepared the map to send to his half-brother Lawrence, who was in England at the time, to show him the two town lots that had been purchased for him.

During the early 1750’s Washington was employed as a surveyor for several counties in western Virginia. An example of his work is this “metes and bounds” survey for a tract of land in Frederick County, Virginia.

Washington prepared this manuscript plan of lands he had recently purchased adjacent to his ancestral home of Mount Vernon. This is one of the few examples of colonial-era plantation maps in the Library’s collection.

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A Map of General Washington’s Farm

Between 1786 and 1794 George Washington and Arthur Young exchanged nearly thirty letters, mainly on the subject of agriculture. Washington enclosed a map of his farm in a letter to Young dated December 12, 1793, and this printed map is based upon it. Originally prepared for an 1801 publication concerning the correspondence, this map describes land under cultivation on the Union, Dogue Run, Muddy Hole, Mansion House, and River Farms. The map also shows land unsuitable for agriculture because of marshes, woodlands, or topography.

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George Washington as a Surveyor

Trained as a surveyor at Mount Vernon, George Washington began work as a surveyor’s assistant in 1748 when he was just sixteen-years-old. Because the neighboring plantation of Belvoir was owned by a member of the Fairfax family, in 1749 Washington was named one of the surveyors of Lord Fairfax’s Northern Neck Proprietary of five million acres between the Potomac and Rappahanock Rivers in Virginia. During his three years in service as one of the proprietor’s surveyors, Washington prepared this survey of two hundred acres in Frederick County, Virginia, for John Madden.

Also shown is a mid nineteenth-century daguerreotype of an unidentified surveyor photographed with a transit and calipers—indispensable tools of the trade.

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First American Globes

The three globes shown here were produced by James Wilson, America’s first commercial globe maker. Born in New Hampshire in 1763, he spent much of his adult life as a farmer and blacksmith in nearby Vermont. After seeing a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes at Dartmouth College, he decided to make his own. He set about learning geography from an encyclopedia he purchased for the purpose and learned engraving from an experienced engraver of maps. Around 1810 he had produced his first globe, and by 1818 he and his sons had established an “artificial globe manufactory” in Albany, New York, where they produced globes of three-inch, nine-inch, and thirteen-inch diameters.

In 1827 he brought his globes down to Washington, D.C., to display to Congress. On his business card he wrote that he was “now exhibiting for public inspection at the United States Library” a pair of thirteen-inch globes, and claimed he was “the original manufacturer of Globes in this country, and has brought the art to such a degree of perfection, as to supersede altogether the necessity of importation of that article from abroad.”

The two smaller globes shown here are an undated pair of three-inch terrestrial and celestial globes probably published in the 1820s. They were purchased by the Library in 1940 from Harold F. Wilson, a descendant of the globe maker. The larger thirteen-inch globe is one of Wilson’s earliest dated globes (1811), and was a gift to the Library in 1991 by the estate of the noted globe and map collector, Howard Welsh.

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  • James Wilson and Sons. [Composite photograph of two terrestrial globes and one celestial globe.] A New American Terrestrial Globe. Bradford, VT: Wilson & Sons, 1811. A Three Inch Terrestrial Globe. Albany: Wilson & Sons, ca. 1820. A Celestial Globe. Albany: Wilson & Sons, ca. 1820. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

  • Wilson’s American Globes, J. Wilson & Sons. Albany: April 1828. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (111B.2)

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American Naturalist

“Each moss,
Each shell, each crawling insect, holds a rank
Important in the plan of Him who fram’d
This scale of being.”


This epigram graces the three-volume work American Entomology: or Descriptions of the Insects of North America (1824-28), the masterwork of Thomas Say (1787–1834), the father of American entomology. The engraving of the butterfly Papilio turnus reproduced here is typical of the meticulously detailed and beautifully conceived plates throughout the work.

The drawings were done either by Say himself, or, as in this case, by Titian Ramsay Peale (1799–1885), the son of Charles Willson Peale, based on observations taken from nature in the course of various expeditions to the South, the Rocky Mountains, the Minnesota River Basin, and Mexico. After finishing this work, Say went on to publish another definitive work, on American shells, and approached the subject with the same spirit of adventure and reverence that informed his work on insects. As he wrote, “It is an enterprise that may be compared to that of a pioneer or early settler in a strange land,” and he did much to advance Americans’ understanding of the natural world they encountered as they moved inexorably across the continent.

Son of a wealthy Quaker merchant, Say himself chose to sacrifice material comforts for the sake of science and was chronically ill from the malnutrition he experienced as a young man. In the 1830s he followed British philosopher Robert Owen to Indiana, where Owen established the utopian community of New Harmony. While the utopian experiment failed and Owen returned to England, Say remained in New Harmony and made it the base for all his scientific expeditions.

Thomas Say (1787–1834). American Entomology; or Descriptions of the Insects of North America. Philadelphia: 1824-28. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

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Indian Map of Ohio River Country

According to marginal notations, this rough sketch map was drawn by “Chegeree (the Indian) who says he has travell’d through the country.” One of the very few examples in the Library’s collection of a map drawn by a Native American, it shows Indian settlements in the area from Lake Erie to the mouth of the Ohio river in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Chegeree (the Indian). Map of the country about the Mississippi. [ca. 1755]. Manuscript map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Purchased from Peter Force, 1867 (113.4)

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Exploring the Colorado

In 1871 Lt. George Wheeler was put in charge of the United States Geological Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian, the fourth official exploration of the West. Wheeler was tasked with collecting an accurate physical description of parts of eastern Nevada and Arizona, including the topography and mineral resources, information on resident Native Americans, and other facts valuable for settlement and economic exploitation. One of the first assistants he hired was the highly experienced field photographer and surveyor Timothy O’Sullivan (1840–1882).

Probably born in Ireland, O’Sullivan joined Mathew Brady’s Washington, D.C., studio as an apprentice photographer in 1856 or 1857. It was on the bloody battlefields of the Civil War, working first for Brady and then Alexander Gardner, that O’Sullivan won his reputation for technical proficiency in the tedious wet collodion photographic process and for artistry in the field.

After having witnessed the cataclysm of his country torn by civil war, O’Sullivan satisfied a lust for adventure by joining government-sponsored missions intended to support America’s rush to fulfill its Manifest Destiny. O’Sullivan worked on assignments with geologist Clarence King’s survey of the Fortieth Parallel and the Navy’s Darien Survey in Panama before being chosen for Wheeler’s team.

Hoping to test the limits of practical navigation by measuring the width and velocity of the Colorado River, Wheeler commanded a party of three boats for the month-long journey. The trip up the Colorado to Diamond Creek in the Grand Canyon was two hundred miles against a strong current. Two boats in Wheeler’s party—including O’Sullivan’s boat, “The Picture”—accomplished the feat of reaching the highest point believed to have yet been navigated at the time, with Wheeler’s own boat lost in the effort.

“The Picture” is shown in this photograph with a tiny figure aboard, who mediates between the viewer and the dramatically lit landscape of stilled water and harsh rock walls. The photograph provides proof that the crew survived the long and tortuous journey through the mysterious canyon, while at the same time implying how they must have been humbled by the chilling experience.

The Wheeler Expedition: In the 1870s, Lt. George Wheeler led a U.S. Geological Survey of the West to collect an accurate physical description of the territory west of the 100th meridian. O’Sullivan and a small group traveled 35 miles across a dry, desert plateau before descending into this fertile canyon. Their campsite is visible in the foreground.

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The Voices of America

The first field recordings of Native American music contain Passamaquoddy songs, tales, and vocabulary, sung and spoken by Noel Josephs and Peter Selmore, as recorded by Jesse Walter Fewkes (1850–1930) at Calais, Maine, in mid-March 1890.

The cylinder recording technique was patented by Thomas Edison in 1878, and by 1888 machines were becoming commercially available for use with prerecorded cylinders. But it was Fewkes, the man in the photograph, who first realized the potential of the cylinder recorder to revolutionize the methods of documenting human cultural expression.

Knowing that he would participate in the Hemenway expedition to Hopi and Zuni pueblos in the Southwest during the summer of 1890, he decided to test the brand-new technology closer to his home in Boston. Delighted with the results, he immediately published enthusiastic accounts of the process and of his results in three journals, thereby spreading the word of the “talking machine’s” utility to folklorists, linguists, ethnologists, and other interested parties. As he himself said on a cylinder recording in 1891, “You can talk into it as-fast-as-you-like, or you can speak a-s d-e-l-i-b-e-r-a-t-e-l-y a-s y-o-u c-h-o-o-s-e. In either case, it reproduces exactly what you say.” This was significant because “the necessity of work with the phonograph in preserving the languages of the aborigines of this continent is imperative.”

The two cylinders in the photograph are among those recorded in Maine between March 15 and 17, 1890. They came to the Library in 1970 from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. The cylinder machine in the photo, while not the same model as Fewkes used, is a Columbia Graphophone, Model N, marketed in 1895 and manufactured in Washington, D.C.

Jesse Walter Fewkes (1850–1930). Wax cylinder recordings of Passamaquoddy songs and stories, March 1890. American Folklife Center

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Fire Insurance Map

The O.K. Corral, where the notorious gunfight between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday versus the Clanton gang took place October 26, 1881, is shown (between 3rd and 4th Streets, bounded by Fremont on the north and Allen on the south) in this 1886 fire insurance map of Tombstone, Arizona.

This map is one of over 700,000 fire insurance map sheets produced by the Sanborn Map Company for more than twelve thousand American cities and towns from the 1870s until the 1950s. These maps were prepared primarily to assist insurance underwriters in determining the risk involved in insuring individual properties.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, most fire insurance companies were small and based in a single city. Consequently, the underwriters could themselves examine properties they were about to insure. However, as insurance companies became larger and expanded their coverage to numerous cities, a mapping industry developed to support this need. The Sanborn Map Company of New York eventually came to dominate the insurance mapping business.

As the Tombstone map illustrates, fire insurance maps provide a block-by-block inventory of the buildings in the built-up or congested parts of towns. The outline or footprint of each building is indicated, and the buildings are color coded to show the construction material (pink for brick; yellow for wood; brown for adobe). Numbers inside the lower right corner of each building indicate how many stories the building had, while the numbers outside the building on the street front refer to the street addresses, allowing researchers to correlate these locations with census records and city directories. Individual dwellings are marked with “D” or “Dwg,” but the residents or owners are not identified. Factories, businesses (such as hotels, saloons, liveries), churches, schools, and other public buildings (city hall, assay office, library) are labeled by name.

Today, fire insurance maps are used for a wide variety of research purposes including genealogy, urban history and geography, historical preservation, and environmental studies. The Library accumulated its unsurpassed collection of fire insurance maps primarily through copyright deposit. In addition, the Bureau of the Census transferred a set of maps updated with pasted-on corrections through to the mid-1950s to the Library of Congress in 1967.

Another typical example is the 1919 map of a portion of the Hollywood-Colegrove district of Los Angeles showing the Douglas Fairbank Pictures Corporation Studio. While most of the building in the complex, which are devoted to stages, dressing rooms, wardrobe, scene printing, property storage, and projection, are constructed of wood ( indicated by the color yellow), the archives building is the most substantially constructed building, being made of reinforced concrete (indicated by the brown color).

Fire insurance maps, prepared for underwriters, provide block-by-block inventories of individual buildings for more than 12,000 cities and towns from the 1870s to the 1950s. A typical example is this 1893 coverage of Pittsburgh, which was the capital of the world’s steel production. Native coke and coal, resources found in abundance in western Pennsylvania, were essential to the production of steel. This map shows the precise layout of the Carnegie and Black Diamond Steel mills on the south side of the city, as well as the close proximity of workers’ homes as indicated by the letter “D” for dwelling.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Reno, Nevada, dated April 1899, shows the commercial center of the city, including the railroad tracks and train station, several hotels, and a variety of businesses, most of which were constructed of brick, which is indicated by their pink coloring. The lower right corner shows the evolving ethnic neighborhood of “China Town,” located near the Truckee River. The buildings labeled “Female Boarding” were legal houses of prostitution.

Another example is this sheet from the 1910 coverage for Williamsburg, Virginia. It focuses on Bruton Parish Church, the city hall, and the powder magazine, all along Duke of Gloucester Street, constituting the core of the historic restoration initiated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which is celebrating its seventieth anniversary this year. These maps document the former colonial Virginia capital at the beginning of the twentieth century, just before this major restoration began.

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Drake’s Attack on St. Augustine

Five years after Sir Francis Drake completed his circumnavigation of the globe (1577–1580), he was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth to lead a fleet of twenty-five ships against the Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. On this punitive expedition, he attacked and plundered Cartagena in Colombia, San Domingo on the island of Hispaniola, and St. Augustine in Florida. Depicted here is his 1586 assault on St. Augustine. This is the earliest printed depiction of any European town within what is now the United States.

St. Augustine.” London: 1589. Hand-colored engraving. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

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Mound Builders of Ohio

This Plan of the Ancient Works at Marietta, Ohio, was sketched in 1837 by Charles Whittlesey, geologist, engineer, and student of ancient North American cultures. It depicts a huge earthwork shaped by so-called Mound Builders, prehistoric Indians who lived in the Ohio Valley. Such mounds, varying greatly in size and built for purposes that are still not fully understood, once numbered in the thousands throughout the Midwest. Many have been eradicated by the spread of settlement and and the expansion of farmland.

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  • Charles Whittlesey (1808–1886). Plan of the Ancient Works at Marietta, Ohio. Ink and graphite on paper, 1837. Gift of Frank Squier, 1905 Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (114A.2)

  • Charles Whittlesey (1808–1886). Fortified Hill, Butler Co., Ohio. Ink and graphite on paper, 1836. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of Frank Squier, 1905 (114A.13)

  • Charles Whittlesey (1808–1886). [Plan of the] Ancient Works at Ross County, Ohio. Ink and graphite on paper, ca. 1837. Gift of Frank Squier, 1905. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (114A.2)

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Mapping The Western United States

One of the primary objectives of Wheeler’s survey was the preparation of a systemic series of topographic, geologic, and land-use maps of the western United States. Displayed here is the topographic map sheet for northern Arizona, depicting the rugged terrain of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Although Wheeler’s mapping program was never completed, it did provide the basis for the founding of the U.S. Geographic Survey.

Topographic Atlas Projected to Illustrate Explorations and Surveys West of the 100th Meridian of Longitude. George M. Wheeler’s Map of Colorado. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

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Alaskan Expedition

From May to August 1899, the Harriman Alaska Expedition, brainchild of railroad magnate Edward Harriman, sailed from Sitka, near Juneau, to Siberia, with many stops on the way. The passengers, who included leading scientists, artists, and photographers, pursued their specialties while also joining in the ship’s festivities. This special volume, a potpourri of poems, watercolors, and photos, was Harriman’s personal souvenir. Pictured are a few pages from his album.

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  • Edward H. Harriman (1841–1901), et al. Fourth of July at Kodiak, Alaska, 1899. “The Harriman Expedition: Chronicles and Souvenirs, May to August 1899.” Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

  • Alaska map with Chart of Lands and Coasts of Alaska in North America. “The Harriman Expedition: Chronicles and Souvenirs, May to August 1899.” Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

  • Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Bird painting. “The Harriman Expedition: Chronicles and Souvenirs, May to August 1899.” Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

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George Washington’s School Copybook

Washington was a young teenager when he wrote these school exercises between 1745 and 1748. His particular mathematical and surveying interests are reflected in the carefully drawn and written exercises. However, the three copybooks’ general topics of geometry, poetry, weights and measures, and proper gentlemanly behavior provide a fair view of the range of early tutorial education provided the son of a Virginia planter in the eighteenth century.

George Washington’s School Copybook. Geometrical Definitions. Manuscript copybook, 1745–1748. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

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Bartram’s Travels

Pioneer naturalist William Bartram discovered many new species of native plants and birds during his trip through the southeastern wilderness from 1773–1777. With an artful balance of science and poetry, Bartram described the profusion of natural beauty he encountered in his Travels. Believing that civilized man could learn much from studying the Native Americans’ relationship to nature, he carefully recorded details about Indian history, religion, and customs that revealed the complexity of their culture and innate virtues. Although received with initial indifference in the U. S., Travels was embraced abroad, with nine European editions in six different languages. Bartram’s lyrical prose later influenced the writings of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Thoreau.

William Bartram (1739–1823). Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida. Philadelphia, 1791. Page 2. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

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Birds of America

The most celebrated work of American ornithology, Birds of America by John James Audubon owes much to its author’s determination to have his art reproduced by the best possible craftsmen and to his insistence that the drawings be reproduced life-size, as he had drawn them. Often referred to as the Elephant Folios, the 435 plates were sized to accommodate Audubon’s depictions of bird specimens. Audubon could find no American publisher willing to take on this complicated and expensive venture, so he went to England. There he found both master engravers and over half of his subscribers, including King George IV.

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“Indians Coming From War”

In George Washington’s earliest known diary, the young man of sixteen records his encounter in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with a party of thirty “Indians coming from War with only one Scalp.” Washington would later build his military career on a foundation of warfare against Native Americans, but in this encounter on a surveying expedition the Virginian and his companions shared their liquor with the warriors and joined them in a “War Daunce.” Washington became an inveterate diary writer, but his entries became less informative as his public fame increased.

George Washington. Diary entry for March 23, 1748. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. State Department transfer, 1909

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Circumnavigation of The Globe

Published by noted Dutch cartographer Jodocus Hondius, this elaborate double-hemisphere world map records the first English circumnavigation of the globe by Sir Francis Drake (1577–1580), as well as that of his countryman Thomas Cavendish a few years later (1586–1588). The map portrays the outlines of continents leaving the interiors blank, suggesting that the land areas were left unexplored. The marginalia includes the Elizabethan coat-of-arms, a vignette of Drake’s ship the Golden Hind, and four corner illustrations. The drawing in the upper-left corner shows Drake’s landing at Nova Albion in present-day California.

Jodocus Hondius (1563–1611). Vera Totius Expeditionis Nauticae . . . . Possibly Amsterdam, ca. 1595. Hand-colored engraving. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Gift of the estate of Robert Powers (110.2)

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Plains Indians

Prince Maximillian von Wied-Neuwied traveled deep into the American West between 1832 and 1834 with the Swiss artist Karl Bodmer. On their journey up the Missouri River, the expedition party studied the Plains Indians. Bodmer’s rendering of Minnetarre (Hidatsa) warrior and principal leader of the Dog Society in his village, shows him in a magnificent ceremonial costume. Members of the Dog Society were expected to exhibit daring and bravery in battle. Bodmer’s renderings were the first accurate images of Native Americans to reach the public.

Prince Maximillian Alexander Philipp von Wied-Neuwield. Reise in das innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834 [Travels in the Interior of North America]. Koblenz: 1839–1841. “Pehriska-Ruhpa,” after a painting by Karl Bodmer. Hand-colored engraving. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (114.7)

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Native American Totem Knife

More of an adventurer than explorer, Newton Chittenden’s scrapbooks record his travels across the continent. He traveled 3,400 miles on burro and foot through the Southwest, Northwest Coast, and Central Plains. In his scrapbook documenting his travels through the Pacific Northwest and California, Chittenden recorded his observations of the Indians he encountered and on the artifacts of their past. This totem knife was carved by a member of the Haida tribe of Queen Charlotte Islands and given to Chittenden in 1884.

Haida Totem Knife. ca. 1884. Reverse side of knife. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift, 1918 (46C.2a,b)

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Jefferson’s Only Published Map

This map was prepared by Thomas Jefferson as a fold-out illustration for his sole book-length publication, Notes on the State of Virginia. His keen interest in geography and natural history led Jefferson to prepare the geographical text as a response to a series of questions proposed by the secretary to the French Legation in Philadelphia. This text was eventually expanded, revised, and published in various French and English editions, beginning in 1785. Jefferson incorporated his own observations, as well as those of friends and colleagues in the compilation of the map, but the final product was based primarily on existing maps, including the 1751 map prepared by his father Peter Jefferson and Joshua Fry.

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At the Pole

What became known as the “Polar Controversy” began on September 1, 1909, when Dr. Frederick A. Cook cabled from the Shetland Islands (north of the Scottish mainland) that he had reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908. His claim was countered four days later by U.S. Navy officer Robert E. Peary, who said that Cook was a fraud and claimed that he had reached the Pole first. This Polar notebook is one of several kept by Cook and contains a purported account of his expedition by dog sled. This typical page exemplifies how Cook’s strange writing gaps, crossed-out words, changed dates, erasures, and altered instrument readings only fueled further accusations of inconsistencies, discrepancies, and finally deliberate deception.

Frederick A. Cook (1865–1940). Polar Diary Cape Sparbo. Page 2. May 25, 1907-June 13, 1909. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of Janet Cook Vetter, 1959 (110.3)

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Mapping the Ocean Floor

For 30 years, oceanographic cartographer Marie Tharp and marine geologist Bruce Heezen compiled the first comprehensive physiographic diagram of the ocean floor. Using such data as continuous echograms and closely spaced depth soundings, they constructed preliminary contour diagrams, such as the one for this area in the North Atlantic. These diagrams demonstrated that the sea floor was not a monotonous “abyssal plain,” as many had previously thought, and that mid-ocean ridges paralleled the shapes of the continents, thus setting the stage for the acceptance of the theory of plate tectonics.

T. Casper. “Contours, 0504N” for Atlantic Ocean Floor. Colored pencil on mylar and graphite on paper, July 1973. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Gift of Marie Tharp, 1995-96 (118.1)

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John and Ruby Lomax

John Lomax, the Library’s Honorary Consultant and Curator of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), and wife Ruby left their vacation home on San Jose Island at Port Arkansas, Texas, on March 31, 1939, and began a three-month, 6,502-mile journey through the southern United States collecting folksongs. After the trip, Ruby transcribed song lyrics and composed and typed much of the 307 pages of fieldnotes at the Library. The dust jackets illustrated here include the date and place of each recording and information about the songs, performers, and disc itself. Both John and Ruby Lomax contributed to the notes on the dust jacket. Shown is John’s handwriting.

John Lomax (1867–1948). Ruby Lomax (1886–1961). Dust jackets, with fieldnotes. Recording Trip April 26, 1939 to May 13, 1939. Reverse. Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas and Huntsville, Walker County, Texas. American Folklife Center (113.8a, 113.8b)

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Field Recordings in Spain

During the 1950s Alan Lomax lived and conducted extensive fieldwork in Europe. His pioneering Spanish field recordings, made in 1952 during the Franco regime, constitute an invaluable historical document of music from all over the country. Lomax often took photographs of the same subjects he recorded. This contact sheet, from the village of Brumojo, features the singer Anastasio Baque (second row), whose fandango performance shows how the songs of Andalusia live every day among its people, rather than as sung by one of the great flamenco stars.

Alan Lomax (1915–2002). Photographic contact sheet pasted into notebook and annotated. Bormujo, Seville, Andalusia, Spain. 1952. [accompanying sound recording: World Library of Folk and Primitive Music, Vol. 4: Spain. Rounder CD 11661 1744-2]. American Folklife Center. Purchase from the Estate of Alan Lomax (222A.13)

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Field Recordings in Italy

From the summer of 1954 to January 1955, Lomax and ethnomusicologist Diego Carpitella undertook a period of intensive fieldwork in Italy. The goal of their research was to document the folk music of the different Italian regions for a recorded anthology, but the scope of their initial project quickly broadened to become a “voyage of discovery.” From Sicily to Liguria and then south again to Campania—in over a hundred localities, Lomax and Carpitella recorded the music and sounds of the peasants, shepherds, fishermen, and artisans of rural Italy. This tape box is from Calabria, in the south, and these are the songs of the swordfishing villagers.

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  • Alan Lomax (1915–2002). 7-inch open reel tape box from Calabria, Italy. July 26, 1954. [accompanying sound recording: The Alan Lomax Series: Italian Treasury, Calabria. Rounder CD 1803]. American Folklife Center. Purchase from the Estate of Alan Lomax (225.3b)

  • Alan Lomax (1915–2002). 7-inch open reel tape box from Calabria, Italy. July 26, 1954. [accompanying sound recording: The Alan Lomax Series: Italian Treasury, Calabria. Rounder CD 1803]. American Folklife Center. Purchase from the Estate of Alan Lomax (225.3a)

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Woody Guthrie

Alan Lomax played an active role in the folk movement of the 1930s–1950s. He conducted field work with his wife Elizabeth and his father, John A. Lomax, and with other documentarians such as Zora Neale Hurston. He made some of the first recordings and corresponded actively with important performers such as Woody Guthrie. His correspondence with Guthrie, for example, provided unique insight into the artist best-known for his role as “Dust Bowl balladeer.” In the early 1940s, Guthrie had moved to New York and was pursuing broadcasting and recording careers, meeting artists and social activists and gaining a reputation as a talented and influential songwriter and performer.

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  • Sonny Terry, Woody Guthrie, Elizabeth Lomax (foreground), Lilly Mae Ledford, and Alan Lomax play and sing folk music at a cast party for The Martins and the Coys, 1944. Contemporary gelatin silver print from original negative. American Folklife Center (224.2b)

  • Letter from Woody Guthrie to Alan Lomax. September 17, 1940. American Folklife Center (224.2a)

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Reactions to War

On December 8, 1941, Alan Lomax, then “assistant in charge” of the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), sent a telegram to fieldworkers in ten different localities across the U.S. asking them to collect “man-on-the-street” reactions of ordinary Americans to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war. All told, approximately twelve hours of opinions were documented in the days and months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor from more than two hundred individuals. The recordings captured a wide diversity of opinion concerning the war and other social and political issues of the day.

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Fitz Globe

Ellen Eliza Fitz, an American working in Canada as a governess, obtained a patent for an invention to mount globes in 1875. Her innovation mounted the earth in order to show the position of the sun and the length of days, nights, and twilight for the entire year. This globe is mounted and operated as Fitz describes in her Hand-book of the Terrestrial Globe; or, Guide to Fitz’s New Method of Mounting and Operating Globes, Designed for the Use of Families, Schools and Academies, 1876.

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  • Ellen Eliza Fitz (b. 1836). Fitz’s double horizon ring globe. [Manufactured by Ginn Brothers], ca. 1877. Reverse of globe. Purchase by Shirley Phillips. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (110.12a)

  • Hand-book of the Terrestrial Globe; or, Guide to Fitz’s New Method of Mounting and Operating Globes. . . Boston: Ginn & Heath, 1876. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposit (110.12b)

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Coming of Age in Samoa

Before departing for a field trip to New Guinea in the fall of 1928, anthropologist Margaret Mead reviewed the proofs and this printer’s prepublication dummy for her first book, Coming of Age in Samoa. A study of adolescent girls in American Samoa, the book became one of the best-known—and controversial—works of popular anthropology ever. It has been reprinted more than a dozen times in a variety of languages and editions. Mead did not realize the extent of her popular success until her 1929 return to the United States.

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  • Margaret Mead (1901–1978). Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilization, 1928. Printer’s prepublication dummy. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Bequeathed by Margaret Mead, 1979 (113A)

  • Margaret Mead (1901–1978). Reporter’s note book 2. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of the Institute for Intercultural Studies, 1982 (113.7b)

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American Ornithology

Scottish ornithologist Alexander Wilson made a comprehensive study of the birds of North America by studying the specimens skillfully mounted and displayed by artist Charles Willson Peale and his sons in the Philadelphia Peale Museum. The museum became the repository for a wide array of natural history specimens from commercial and government-sponsored expeditions. Wilson’s masterwork, American Ornithology, would eventually grow to nine volumes and was the first comprehensive survey published on the birds of North America.

Alexander Wilson (1766–1813). “Scarlet Tanager,” American Ornithology or Natural History of the United States. Vol. 1. Page 2 - Page 3. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1811. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (113A.1)

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A Selection of Almanacs

The Library’s American Almanac Collection is strongest in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century material. These volumes contain astronomical and meteorological data for a given year and often include a miscellany of other information. Almanacs were printed in virtually every American town that had a printing press and were found in homes where the only other book was a Bible. American almanacs were published in a wide variety of languages including Chippewa, Cherokee, Hawaiian and other tribal languages, as well the major European languages. In the nineteenth-century special interest almanacs issued by political parties, religious groups, labor organizations, and business promoters emerged as powerful propaganda tools. At this time comic almanacs, such as Davy Crockett’s Almanack, also appeared and became the forerunners of modern comics and joke books.

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Documenting the Lower West Side

In the early 1970s, Milton Rogovin photographed working families on Buffalo’s Lower West Side. He documented these same individuals in the 1980s and again in 1992, providing an amazing portrait of families over time. Working in the style of a social documentary photographer, Rogovin’s dignified portraits speak of the dreams and aspirations common to humanity. Milton Rogovin and his family recently donated his photographic archive to the Library of Congress, including this series taken of Robert “Chino” Montalvo, Johnny Lee Wines and Ezekiel Johnson, photographed over an almost twenty-year period.

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1895 Omaha Indian Pow Wow

Alice Fletcher and her adopted Omaha son, Francis La Flesche, documented Omaha traditional music on wax cylinder recordings between 1895 and 1911, as part of their research leading to the publication of a major ethnography entitled The Omaha Tribe (1911). Here you see both a sample cylinder and the types of notes and translations Fletcher made regarding four Pebble Society songs recorded from an unnamed singer by La Flesche in September 1895.

Alice Fletcher (1823–1923). Francis La Flesche (1857–1932). Hube na-au (Pebble Society Songs). Original Field Notes for Omaha Indian Pow Wow, 1895. American Folklife Center (119A)

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Return of Early Cylinder Recordings

During the 1980s, staff members of the American Folklife Center worked together with the Omaha tribe to return copies of the early cylinder recordings to the community and to select appropriate historical recordings for an LP/cassette release. Staff also documented current Omaha songs at the annual pow wows in Macy, Nebraska. Shown is a poster from that historical event.

53rd Annual Omaha Tribal POW-WOW, August 11–14, 1983. Color poster. Courtesy of Nebraska Commission of the Humanties. American Folklife Center (118.8)

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Cabinet of Natural History

The Cabinet of Natural History and American Rural Sports was published from 1830 to 1833 by Philadelphians John and Thomas Doughty. The short-lived magazine featured articles on hunting, detailed descriptions of newly described flora and fauna, and some of the finest examples of early American hand-colored lithography. Fellow artist and naturalist Titian Peale contributed this image of an Indian mounted on horseback taking aim at a charging buffalo. This drawing was based on Peale’s sketches made as a member of the expedition led by Stephen H. Long to explore the Great Plains in 1819–1820.

Titian Ramsay Peale. “American Buffaloe,” in The Cabinet of Natural History and American Rural Sports. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: J&T Doughty, 1830. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (113.9)

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Terrestrial Globe

Globes were widely used as educational tools in nineteenth-century America and were more popular than their current representation in American museums and libraries would suggest. During the past decade, the Geography and Map Division has made a concerted effort to assemble a strong collection of globes produced by American manufacturers, and now holds the major study collection for globes produced in the United States. The Division holdings include approximately 400 terrestrial globes, like this example produced by Gilman Joslin about 1840.

Joslin’s Six Inch Terrestrial Globe, ca. 1840. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Gift/purchase from Philip Colman, 2002 (119A.2)

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Wildflowers of Colorado

By mid-life Helen Hunt had become one of the most prolific and respected poets, as well as a popular writer of children’s stories and travel sketches. While visiting in the Rockies, Hunt met and married Colorado Springs banker and railroad magnate William Jackson in 1875. Her charming essay celebrating the beauty of the wildflowers of her adopted state was originally published in 1878. To honor Jackson’s memory and her personal encouragement, painter Alice Stewart published and illustrated a limited edition of one hundred copies of this essay with twelve in-text marginal watercolors. This unique copy is opened to one of its extra six spectacular full-page watercolors.

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885). “Scarlett Painter’s Brush” in The Procession of Flowers in Colorado. Illustrated by Alice A. Stewart. Page 2. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1886. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. Purchase, 1995 (113A.4)

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Rare American Produced Planetarium

Planetariums are scientific educational instruments that model the solar system. The relative motion of the Earth around the Sun, the phases of the moon, seasonal changes, and other astronomical motions can be demonstrated by using the instrument’s pulleys and string or gears and chains. The Laing Planetarium Company of Detroit, Michigan, under the direction of Alexander Laing, developed its string-driven planetarium at the end of the nineteenth century. The Library’s collections contain textual material describing the use and utility of these scientific and educational instruments, but this is the first planetarium acquired by the Library.

Laing Planetarium Company. Laing’s Planetarium. Detroit: ca. 1895, with Rand McNally & Company’s New 3 Inch Terrestrial Globe, 1891. Coated paper globe gores over solid molded brown papier-mâché orb with walnut wheels and parts. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Acquisition made possible by Marjorie S. Fisher, 2005 (119.2) Digital ID:

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Journey into North America

Prince Maximilian Alexander Philipp von Wied-Neuwied, an experienced world traveler and naturalist, chose the Swiss artist Karl Bodmer to accompany him on his travels through the West and to produce a complete pictorial documentary. After his journey, Maximilian published an account of his travels with this supplemental picture atlas of eighty-one hand-colored engravings, after paintings by Bodmer.

Prince Maximilian Alexander Philipp von Wied-Neuwield. “Fox River with Carolina Parakeets” Reise in das innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis 1834. Coblenz: J. Hoelscher, 1839–1943. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (114.7b)

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