December 5, 2011

Emigrant's Map and Guide for Routes to North America

This map by Gotthelf Zimmermann reflects the importance of German immigration to North America in the mid-19th century. When the Revolution of 1848 failed to produce desired reforms within the German confederation, droves of disillusioned Germans turned their sights abroad. Maps such as this helped show them the way. At the time, land in the United States was cheap, fertile, and plentiful, making it an ideal choice for immigrants eager to establish new settlements and to begin new lives. German communities in the United States became so prevalent that on the eve of World War I, some six percent of American children spoke only German in primary school. War with Germany hastened the decline in the use of German in the United States. Nonetheless, in Pennsylvania official state documents remained available in German until as late as 1950.


The German East-Asian Expeditionary Corps was sent to China in 1900 by Kaiser Wilhelm II as part of the eight-nation (Britain, France, Germany, Russia, United States, Japan, Austria, Italy) operation to suppress the Boxer Rebellion against foreign influence in China. The German force arrived in Beijing in mid-October, by which time the conflict was largely over. In late 1900-early 1901, the corps engaged in a series of brutal punitive expeditions designed to end Boxer resistance in the countryside and force China to sign a peace treaty with Germany. This detailed map of Beijing by the Cartographic Division of the Royal Prussian Ordnance Society is based on surveys carried out by the Expeditionary Corps in 1900-01.

Campaigns of the Hesse-Darmstadt Contingent Under the First Empire

During the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, many Germans fought on the side of the French Empire. After Napoleon defeated Austria and Russia in the December 1805 Battle of Austerlitz, he grouped 16 German states that were part of the Holy Roman Empire into a French-controlled Confederation of the Rhine. He then dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. The states that were members of the confederation were compelled to supply military units and soldiers to Napoleon’s armies. This map and the accompanying table show the military engagements in which units from Hesse-Darmstadt were involved while fighting for the French in central Europe, Spain, and in the 1812 invasion of Russia. The map is based on the research of Lt.-Colonel Jean-Camille Abel-Fleuri Sauzey, a French military officer and historian who published, in 1902-12, a six-volume study of the German contingents in the French army.

Cape of Good Hope

John Arrowsmith (1790-1873) was best known for the 1834 publication London Atlas of Universal Geography, widely considered among the best European sources of maps at the time. In 1810 he had joined the mapmaking firm of his uncle Aaron Arrowsmith, one of the premier publishers of the day, known for rendering the latest geographical findings into impressively detailed maps. Arrowsmith was a founding member of the Royal Geographic Society, which awarded him its gold medal in 1863 for his maps of Australia, North America, Africa, and India. Arrowsmith’s 1842 map of the Cape of Good Hope was produced on the eve of British interventions to stabilize the Cape Colony. Its detailed portrait of coastal trading ports alongside a vast, empty interior highlights just how little was known geographically at a time when Britain’s imperial reach remained largely informal and gave priority to seaward trading over inland expansion.

Map of Quantong Province or Lyau-tong and of the Kingdom of Kau-li or Korea: For the Universal History of a Society of Men of Letters

This 1745 map of Korea was prepared for a universal history published in France in the 18th century. Based on an earlier English map, it is mainly in French but includes some names in German, e.g., “Das gelbe Meer” for the Yellow Sea. The notation at the bottom indicates that the prime meridian is set at Ferro Island, otherwise known as El Hierro, the southwestern-most of the Canary Islands. In his Geographia, the ancient astronomer and geographer Ptolemy (87-150) specified that maps should use coordinates stated in degrees, with the prime meridian -- 0º -- passing through the Fortunate Islands. The latter were a group of islands, referred to in classical Greek and Roman literature, which may or may not have been the Canary Islands. Following Ptolemy, in 1634 Cardinal Richelieu, first minister to the King of France, decreed that Ferro Island be established as the prime meridian. This practice was followed on French and other maps for many years. In 1884 an international convention established Greenwich, London, as the prime meridian, the practice that remains in use to the present day.

Map of Africa

This 1820 map of Africa by Adrien Hubert Brué (1786-1832), one of the leading French cartographers of the day, shows the state of European geographic knowledge of Africa in the early 19th century. Unlike many sedentary mapmakers, the Parisian Brué had traveled widely from a young age, on long sailing voyages to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and as a midshipman on a French naval expedition along the Australian coast. These voyages damaged Brué’s health, however, so that he returned to Paris where he began to draft maps under the guidance of one of his former commanding officers in the naval cartography bureau. This map was made shortly after the 1818-19 Senegambian expedition of French explorer Gaspard-Théodore Mollien. It includes physical and geographical details that were learned from Mollien’s travels as well as those of predecessors and contemporaries such as Mungo Park, Henry Salt, John Lewis Burckhardt, and George Francis Lyon. A decade before the French conquest of Algeria and more than a half century prior to the European “scramble for Africa,” Brué’s map shows how much of Saharan and sub-Saharan central Africa remained terra incognita for Europeans.