A Chart of the Gulf Stream


This map, from the Peter Force Map Collection at the Library of Congress, was created by the Philadelphia engraver James Poupard. It was the third in a series featuring a chart of the Gulf Stream. The latter was well known to Spanish ship captains, who relied on it to sail from the Americas to the Iberian Peninsula, but there were no universal charts or maps due to Spanish secrecy. This map originally was sketched by Timothy Folger, a Nantucket fisherman and a cousin of Benjamin Franklin, who conceived the map and actively promoted study of the Gulf Stream. Franklin published the original chart in 1770 and sought to distribute it among mariners, but British sea captains skeptical of colonial ideas largely refused to purchase copies. He suspended his efforts during the American Revolution to avoid giving any advantage to the British, but at the end of the war he collaborated on a second printing in France. In 1786, Poupard’s engraving appeared in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, the publication of the country’s first learned society founded by Franklin and others in 1743.

Last updated: December 16, 2014