Latitudes Feb. 2019

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Map Society


February 2019






Thursday, February 14, 2019 – 5:00 PM – Madison Building, Geography and Map Reading Room, Library of Congress: Washington’s Mapmaker: Colonel Robert Erskine, First Surveyor General, by Kass Kassebaum, Department of the Geographer (Reenactment and Historical Study Group), and WMS member


Robert Erskine (1735–1780) was a Scottish inventor and engineer who came to the colonies in 1771 to run the ironworks at Ringwood, New Jersey. He later became sympathetic to the movement for American independence. Known for his engineering innovations, he devised an aquatic version of the cheval de frise, a spiked underwater barrier instrumental in preventing British ships from sailing upriver into the Hudson.



General George Washington appointed him Geographer and Surveyor General of the Continental Army in the rank of colonel; Erskine drew more than 275 maps, mostly of the Northeast region. His untimely death as the war was ending is largely responsible for his relative anonymity among the heroes of the Revolution. He remains one of America’s great unsung heroes of the revolution, and one of its least known, most important map-makers.
(The Department of the Geographer aims to accurately portray a Continental Army Staff surveying party including proper uniforms & clothing, equipment & instruments, skills & knowledge, theatre of operations & campaigns during the period from 1777 to 1783.)




21 March 2019
The History of Cartography Project: Its Past, Future, and Lasting Importance, by Dr. Matthew Edney, University of Southern Maine; Osher Chair in the History of Cartography; Osher Map Library; Director, History of Cartography Project (WMS)

11 April 2019
In the Footsteps of the Crime (Recovering a Map Masterpiece stolen by E. Forbs Smiley), by Dr. Ronald Grim, Formerly Curator of Maps, Leventhal Map Center, Boston Public Library (WMS)

17 May 2019 - JUST ANNOUNCED!
Annual Washington Map Society Dinner
Speaker: J. C. McElveen (WMS), Exhibit Curator for Westward the Course of Empire: Exploring and Settling the American West 1803-1869, an exhibition of maps and books from the collection of J. C. McElveen, Jr., on veiw at New York City's Grolier Club during May 2018.
Venue: Maggiano's at Tysons
Further details to be announced





Greenbrier Historical Society, North House Museum, 814 W Washington St., Lewisburg, WV. James Wilson, America's First Terrestrial and Celestial Globe Maker.


Wilson was a self-taught globe maker from New Hampshire. Wilson and three of his sons operated two manufacturing plants in Bradford, Vt., and Albany, N.Y. After just a few years of operation they were able to outsell the European globe makers who dominated the American market until then. It's a real American success story. The exhibit will include the historical society’s original, fully restored Wilson terrestrial globe. Another unusual exhibit item is the first map made and engraved in America. Printed in 1794, it is a map of Virginia by Samuel Lewis. The exhibit continues to March 2019 (NFI on close date).


Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBBM), St. Michaels, MD.  Exploring the Chesapeake–Mapping the Bay.
This exhibit examines the different ways the Chesapeake Bay has been portrayed over time through mapping and charting. The exhibition continues in CBMM’s Steamboat Building through March 17, 2019. The exhibit was recently visited by four WMS presidents (see WMS web page for details) who gave it high marks. For more information:



Johns Hopkins George Peabody Library, 17 East Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD.  Maryland, from the Willard Hackerman Map Collection.


From colonial impressions of the Chesapeake Bay to detailed city plans for guiding Baltimore's rapid expansion, this exhibition features over 30 of the most stunning and historically significant maps of early Maryland from the collection of the late Baltimore developer, philanthropist, and Johns Hopkins alumnus Willard Hackerman, Engr 1938. The maps are brought together with related rare books, objects, and digital "story maps" to reveal the passion of a collector, the early mapping of Maryland, and the potential of combining historical maps with modern data to re-examine the past.




S.T. Lee Gallery, Weston Library, Oxford University, UK.  Talking Maps.


The Bodleian Libraries’ summer 2019 exhibition is a celebration of maps and the stories they tell. Drawing on the Bodleian’s unparalleled map collection, Talking Maps brings together an extraordinary collection of ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps in a range of media as well as showcasing fascinating imaginary, fictional and war maps.


The exhibition will explore how maps are neither transparent objects of scientific communication, nor baleful tools of ideology, but rather proposals about the world that help people to understand who they are by describing where they are. July 2019 - February 2020.


More Opportunities:
Many more events are listed on the web site known simply as Cartography Calendars, operated for many years by WMS member John Docktor. Go to (note relatively new address) and select the page you wish to see, i.e., Calendar of Meetings and/or Calendar of Exhibitions.




The Washington Map Society follows the closing decisions of the Federal Government. If they are closed due to bad weather, our meeting will be canceled. If bad weather develops on the day of our event, and the Government authorizes early release, we will probably still be forced to cancel. (If the Madison Building is closed, there’s not much we can do.) We will attempt to send a blast e-mail in that case. Please check your email before coming to a meeting when bad weather is predicted. You can also check the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site at Finally, you can call the OPM status hotline at 202-606-1900.


A Word of Warning: Predicting snowfall in the DC area is an imperfect science at best.  Once in a great while we have cancelled meetings and then not a single flake of snow fell. That is always disappointing and irritating, but it doesn’t happen very often, and this is still the most workable system we have come up with.



Cartographic Quotes:

“For the baggy and middle-aged who cannot afford skiing in Austria or sailing off Bimini, Greenhood invites his readers to a sort of intellectual excitement which neither skiing nor sailing could equal… Unless you work professionally with maps to the degree that a navigator does, this book will fascinate and enthrall you.”


Obviously, this is not a quotation about maps per se. It is instead a favorite line of mine from a review of David Greenhood’s 1964 book Mapping, University of Chicago Press (previously published under the title Down to Earth: Mapping for Everybody).



(Note: For better or worse – probably the latter – most written content in Latitudes is the work and wording of editor Bert Johnson, Vice President and Program Chair of WMS. Bert can be reached at Lay-out, much of the graphics, and transmission is done by Eliane Dotson, President of WMS.) 


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