By: John Cary
Date: 1807 (dated) London
Dimensions: 18.25 x 20.5 inches (46.4 x 52 cm)
A fascinating map of Canada, the Great Lakes Region and Northwest Territory from Lake Winnepeg to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. This is the first state of the map, published just after the turn of the 19th century when the English began to focus efforts on Canada and the United States eye their new country west of the Appalachians with the intention of undertaking their first major westward expansion.
The map centers on the Great Lakes, which are bisected between Canada and the United States by a distinct boundary on the map that is quite ambiguous when on the water. Interestingly, this border places Royal Island in Canada and Isle Philippeaux in both countries. This would change as Royal Island would become part of the United States and Isle Philippeaux would disappear from the map as the last phantom island of the French cartographer Jacques Nicolas Bellin whom first added them to his map of the Great Lakes in the mid-19th century. The only other geo-political boundary separates French speaking Protestants Lower Canada from the English speaking Catholics Upper Canada as per the Constitutional Act of 1791.
Fine Details and Annotations
Like most old maps, this map of the Great Lakes region only becomes more intriguing the closer one examines it. Throughout the map, many forts are located, some of which were established by the French long ago, and others more recently established by the English and Americans. Additionally, many "houses," which acted as frontier outposts for fur trappers and explorers such as "Fredrick," "Brunswick," "Osnaburgh," and "Chatham," are scattered about the map. Of course, all of these settlements are surrounded by the many indigenous Native American tribes that once flourished throughout the region. Descriptive notations such as “Chippeway Hunting Grounds,” “Immense Forests,” “This creek is the boundary of the Six Indian Nation,” and “Crooked Land Cliffs in the crevices of which a quantity of arrows are stuck,” only add to the idea of the region being a wild and unknown wilderness from the white settlers that had interest of expansion and commerce.
The Fur Trade: Hudson’s Bay Company vs. The Northwest Company
The last thing one must consider when looking at any map is the significance of the time period to the area shown. While there are many interesting historical events happening around this time, one that cannot be overlooked is the increasingly hostile competition between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company. Both companies were invested in the most lucrative business in North America of the time; the fur trade. While the HBC had long been established, they primarily stayed close to the shores of the Hudson Bay and traded for furs brought to them by native peoples. The Northwest Company was based in Montreal and elected to travel and establish settlements well into the unknown interior in order to catch their own furs as well as trade with the natives much closer to their home. The approximate locations of one such settlement is given in present-day northern Wisconsin, in the heart of Chippeway Territory.
Increasing competition over the fur trade would bring about the Pemmican War, which was a series of armed confrontations between the two companies that sometimes pitted native tribes against one another should they have chosen sides. One such confrontation was the Battle of Seven Oaks that took place on 19 June 1816, in which the Métis people fought for the North West Company and as a result of their excellent sharp shooting killed 21 men of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Pemmican War would ultimately come to an end in 1821, when the two companies were forcibly merged by intervention of the British government.
Condition: This map is in B+ condition with original color and full margins on all sides. Some oxidized offsetting is apparent from the original color and years of being folded in an atlas.
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