Captain John Smith and Augustine Herrman published two prototype maps of Virginia in 1612 and 1673, respectively, that focused on the Tidewater region and served as theBoard of Trade in London requested a map of the colony. Lieutenant Governor Sir William Gooch received the board’s request on “short notice” and in May 1731 sent them a manuscript map of Virginia that provided little detail. (The identity of the author of the 1731 map is unknown today.) A more accurate and detailed map was clearly needed, but the Board of Trade was unwilling to invest the time and money needed to publish one—a stance echoed by the House of Burgesses, which in 1744 rejected a petition to map Virginia by colonists Joshua Fry and Robert Brooke.
By 1750 the British became convinced that the French were encroaching on their territory. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713), signed at the end of Queen Anne’s War (1702–1713), had determined the boundaries of French and British claims to lands in North America, but was not specific enough to prevent territorial disputes between the two countries. With the French increasing their presence in the Virginia frontier, the Board of Trade determined that a more accurate map of the colony was needed. George Montagu Dunk, earl of Halifax and president of the Board of Trade, asked the colonies for more information about activities on the frontier. Lewis Burwell, acting governor of Virginia, responded by commissioning Fry and Peter Jefferson to prepare a map of the colony. They were experienced surveyors who had worked together in determining the Fairfax Line in 1746, had served as joint commissioners to extend the western portion of the Virginia–North Carolina boundary line, and were surveyors for Albemarle County, a recently created county in Virginia’s Piedmont region.
Compilation and Production of the Map
The pressure to produce the map quickly compelled Fry and Jefferson to rely on their own surveys and experiences to supplement existing published maps, manuscript maps, and field notes; they also relied, in the words of American historian Sarah S. Hughes, “upon the network of personal connections that bound members of Virginia’s gentry.” Brooke had died by the time Lord Halifax issued his request, but it is highly likely that Fry had access to maps and notes from his estate, including the 1731 map of Virginia. Fry and Jefferson completed their manuscript map of Virginia in less than a year.
In 1751 Fry and Jefferson delivered a draft of the map to Burwell, who forwarded it to London with a description of Virginia’s boundaries and back settlements, compiled by Fry, and a brief account of the travels of John Peter Salley, a German man living in Augusta County. The Board of Trade paid Jefferson and Fry £150 each, and their work became the property of the English government. Thomas Jefferys, a prolific publisher and engraver and geographer to the Prince of Wales, engraved the map on four copperplates. Artist and engraver Francis Hayman, a popular historical painter and a founding member of the Royal Academy, and Charles Grignion, about whom little is known, were commissioned to design and execute the cartouche, a decorative element that bears a map’s inscription.
The result was the most important map of Virginia drawn in the mid-eighteenth century. Wavy lines represent the colony’s waterways; the great valley and the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains are shown; the North Carolina–Virginia and Fairfax boundaries are marked, as well as the colony’s Pennsylvania and Maryland boundaries; and several Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Delaware counties are named. The year 1751 is printed in the cartouche to reflect the date the manuscript map was completed, but Jefferys did not publish it until late in the summer of 1753. The first edition, entitled A Map of the Inhabited Part of Virginia containing the whole Province of Maryland, with Part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina, is distinctive from future states by the lack of the word “most” in the title, the inaccurate depiction of the Ohio River’s course, and the lack of roads, ordinaries and other landscape features.
In 1754 Jefferys reworked the map’s western plates to include information provided by the surveyor and explorer Christopher Gist, whom Fry had met on an expedition to the forks of the Ohio River in 1752. Gist’s contributions are noted in the legend printed on the map’s subsequent states. Lake Erie was deleted, and several rivers were extended, altered, or deleted and replaced by Gist’s data on the correct course of the Ohio, Kanawha, and New rivers and the French settlement along the Pennsylvania frontier. How Jefferys received this information is puzzling to scholars: Fry may have added information from Gist’s surveys to his own manuscript map during the time the two were together in Pennsylvania, or Fry may have sent Gist’s journal and parchment map directly to Jefferys. It is plausible that Captain John Dalrymple, Fry’s quartermaster during the western Pennsylvania expedition, carried this information to Jefferys when he returned to London in 1754.
In the second state of the map, published in 1754, new mountains were added; the eastern section was augmented by the addition of roads, including the Great Wagon Road from the Yadkin River through Virginia to Philadelphia, and the names of several towns and ordinaries. The word “most” was added to the title and a table of distances supplied by Dalrymple was added to the map itself.
Jefferys made additional geographical changes to A Map of the Most Inhabited Parts of Virginia, which are reflected in the third and fourth states published in 1755. He computed the longitude west from London for each degree indicated on the map and these were added to the plate in the appropriate places both top and bottom. The third state is easily recognized from other editions by incorrect longitude degree marks inside the upper and lower borders. The longitude degree marks were reworked in the fourth state, and this is the last state in which any geographical changes were made. Any changes made to the plates after 1755 reflect changes in their ownership.
In 1768 the Fry-Jefferson map began to be sold in atlases, such as the two that Jefferys published, A General Topography of North America and the West Indies (1768) and The American Atlas (1775), and William Faden’s two volumes, The North American Atlas (1777) and The General Atlas of the Four Grand Quarters of the World. The map was translated into French by two different French publishers, was copied by innumerable publishers, and was a major resource for cartographers such as John Henry, who mapped Virginia counties in his New and Accurate Map of Virginia (1770); Lewis Evans, who drew A General Map of the Middle British Colonies in America (1755); and John Mitchell, author of A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America (1755), which was used to determine the boundaries of the United States as set by the Treaty of Paris (1783) after the American Revolution (1765–1783).