Hand Drawn Maps


During the late-eighteenth century, some educators advocated teaching geography by having their students copy printed maps by hand, another form of the rote education popular in the United States. While the practice of student-drawn maps began in Europe, Emma Willard and other American educators promoted the technique in schools and academies throughout the United States. The maps of New York [#50] and Rhode Island [#49] are examples of hand-drawn manuscript maps created by American students during the early-nineteenth century.

Occasionally, the identity of the printed map being used by these student mapmakers as a reference is obvious. For example, the maker of the Rhode Island map was clearly copying “State of Rhode Island” from one of the many editions of Mathew Carey’s General Atlas. The student even faithfully copied the printed map’s title cartouche with its credit to Caleb and Harding Harris. The printed map copied by the student mapmaker of the New York map is more difficult to identify. The student’s inclusion of Sullivan County and Schenectady County, both created in 1809, indicates that the printed reference map was produced during or after 1809. Likewise, the lack of Putnam County, which was incorporated in 1812, indicates that the printed reference map was produced prior to 1813. This does not mean, however, that the manuscript map of New York was produced between 1809 and 1812; it is highly likely that the student could have copied the printed map years after it was published.

Rhode Island

49. The State of Rhode Island, c.1820
Smith Collection

State Map

More About Rhode Island

Statehood: 1790
Fun Fact: The Rhode Island Red Chicken Breed has it’s own statue dedicated to it in Little Compton, Rhode Island.

New York

50. State of New York, c.1820
Donated by Maine Historical Society

State Map

More About New York

Statehood: 1788
Fun Fact: Pearl Street in New York City used to be paved with oyster shells.