Latitudes Newsletter Dec. 2017

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Map Society
December 2017


Due to the possibility of a government shutdown on December 8,  the WMS has decided to postpone the previously scheduled member meeting on December 7. If the shutdown were to occur, the Library of Congress would likely have to close at the end of regular business hours (5 PM) on December 7, therefore cancelling all after-hours events. Since government decisions aren't always finalized until the 11th hour, we decided it was prudent for the WMS to make the decision now to allow our speaker and members to plan accordingly. Our guest speaker, Les Trager, has agreed to move his talk to our February meeting - please see below for details.

We wish everyone a lovely holiday season and a happy New Year! We'll see you in 2019!
Thursday, January 11, 2018 – 5 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Christian J. Koot will present A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman's Chesapeake. Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited is one of the most extraordinary maps of colonial British America. Created by a colonial merchant, planter, and diplomat named Augustine Herrman, the map pictures the Mid-Atlantic in breathtaking detail, capturing its waterways, coastlines, and communities. The map was done in exchange for Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore, giving him a large land holding. (Old Bohemian brand beer was not named after him, but it could have been. Find out why.)
Christian Koot's talk follows the map from the waterways of the Chesapeake to the workshops of London and offers new insights into the creation of empire in North America. It is often cited as one of the important early maps of the region, but it is seldom discussed.
Thursday, February 15, 2017 – 5 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Leslie Trager (WMS) will present Henry Hudson: Cree History and Ancient Maps. Trager is a revisionist historian who believes Cree and Inuit history indicate they encountered Hudson during his exploration of Hudson Bay. The Cree allegedly witnessed the mutiny and rescued Hudson and his remaining men. Trager also believes that knowledge of the Hudson Bay area existed before Hudson arrived there in 1610 based on maps which depicted the Bay years before that date.  Come for a thought-provoking evening.

Thursday, April 12, 2018 – 5 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Mark Monmonier, distinguished professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, will discuss map-related patents with a focus on inventor John Byron Plato. His talk is inspired by his recent book, Patents and Cartographic Inventions: A New Perspective for Map History.  Mark has published a number of books and articles on cartography, including his instant classic, How to Lie with Maps, now in its third edition.
Friday, May 4, 2018: The Washington Map Society Annual Dinner will be held on 4 May 2018 at a location yet to be announced. Max Edelson, associate professor of American History at the University of Virginia, will speak after dinner on his recent book The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence.
After the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, British America stretched from Hudson Bay to the Florida Keys, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and across new islands in the West Indies. To better rule these vast dominions, Britain set out to map its new territories with unprecedented rigor and precision. The American Revolution up-ended these plans. Dr. Edelson’s new book depicts the contested geography of the British Atlantic world and offers new explanations of the causes and consequences of Britain’s imperial ambitions in the generation before the American Revolution. His talks have been successful with map and non-map oriented audiences alike.

Dr. Donald L. McGuirk Jr., a WMS member for 13 years, discussed A Survey of the Stars and Stripes on Early Maps, 1777-1795 at our November meeting. The first official definition of the United States flag read: "Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation." This allowed at least a dozen variations: circles, squares, diagonals, diamonds, etc. Don’s survey covered the period 14 June 1777 to 15 May 1795, at which time a new flag for 15 states arose. The first uses of the flag were on manuscript maps of the Battle of Savannah, in late 1779, with maps in 1780. The first printed map (1782) was by a German officer fighting for the US at the Battle of Yorktown. There followed Dutch, French, American, and most of all British maps with Old Glory on them. Among these are the famous Abel Buell map of 1783. This excellent talk and slides are now available for viewing on the WMS web site.

WMS has long sought a way to make our monthly programs available to all our members, not just those who can attend in person. Last year we began making videotapes and posting them in the Members Only section of the web site. This has been a learning experience, regarding not only the recording of sound and images, but the legal aspects of doing so. Great credit is due to webmaster Leigh Lockwood and those who have helped him, notably Iris Taylor. Our most recent talk, by Don McGuirk on early US flags on maps, shows how far this effort has progressed. Please take a look at the latest effort. I think you will find Don’s talk not just watchable but enjoyable.

The WMS FaceBook page continues to grow, with 500+ members. We have at least five postings each day, often more.  Here are a pair of images that recently captured our attention.
On the left is the Braun and Hogenberg of Palmanova, founded in 1593 by the Venetians in northeastern Italy.  The print is from 1610. On the right is an aerial view of Palmanova today. It is one of the finest examples of a late Renaissance star fort still extant. You don’t need to be a member of WMS to be a member of the FB page, and we have members and postings from all over the world.  If would like to join, send us a request (via FB, of course).

We have been remiss in not sharing some good news. You may recall that last January, WMS and the Capitol Hill community were shocked when fire broke out at the Hunan Dynasty Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, Southeast. The board takes the speaker to dinner there after the meeting, but anyone is very welcome to come along.
Hopes for a quick repair were in vain, and we took temporary refuge at the Hawk and Dove pub, another Capitol Hill landmark. That was okay, but we were delighted several months ago to be able to return to our natural habitat.

As you know, the WMS is an all-volunteer society that is governed by a board of directors. Each spring at our Annual Meeting, we elect new board members to fill any vacancies in the board. The board meets monthly from September to May at 3:00 PM in the Geography & Map Reading Room at the Library of Congress Madison Building, on the same day as the monthly scheduled lecture. If you are interested in serving on the board, or would like to nominate someone for board membership, please contact Ed Redmond at

Miami International Map Fair, Miami, FL
2-4 February 2018

15th Annual Alan M. and Nathalie P. Voorhees Lectures on the History of Cartography
28 April, 2018
Library of Virginia, 800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA.  Additional details to be announced.

Mystic Seaport: The Vikings Begin: Treasures from Uppsala University, Sweden
May - September, 2018 -- Mystic, Connecticut
This exhibit will feature the Vinland Map, the document that ignited a controversy in 1965 as it purported to show the Vikings reached and mapped a portion of the New World long before Christopher Columbus. Experts concluded it is not legitimate, but it still has much to tell us about issues of authenticity and the origins of modern America. This exhibition will place the Vinland Map on display in the U.S. for the first time in more than 50 years, allowing those who have followed the saga to see its primary evidence for the first time. Mystic Seaport will engage historians, archaeologists, scientists, and other leading experts to share the Map's story, and discuss its out-sized role in modern American history. This exhibition is made possible in collaboration with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
Image is by Yale University Press, Yale University, Public Domain
Note: Far 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:

"[I] spent a day crawling around the attic searching for my beloved Kummerly and Frey maps. I bought nearly the whole European set in 1972 and it was one of the few intelligent investments of my younger years. What am I saying? It was the intelligent investment of my younger years.

Best of all, the explanatory notes were in German and French only, which gave them an exotic ring that appealed to me in 1972 and appeals to me still. There is just something inherently more earnest and worldly about a traveler who carries maps with titles like ‘Jugoslawien 1:1 Mio’ and ‘Schwarzwald 1:250,000′. It tells the world, “Don’t f*** with me. I’m a guy who knows his maps.”

Bill Bryson
Neither Here nor There – Travels in Europe

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