Latitudes Nov. 2018

Map Society
November 2018

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and it seems only right to mark the day cartographically as well as gastronomically. To that end, we offer a few selections showing the way turkeys, and even pilgrims have been depicted on maps over the years. One of the earliest was this really fine-looking bird which appeared on a Jan Janzoon map in 1660. It looks like something from a contemporary source rather than one that’s 350 years old. It also looks looks like turkeys as represented in modern day sources – not all pics over the centuries have.
This one in a De Fer map of 1719 isn’t too bad but falls short of Janszoon’s sketch.
More motley are the clips below from various maps which appeared in the North Carolina Map Blog, published intermittently by the Cumming Map Society, this one appearing in 26 August 2012. (They publish some pretty interesting stuff – check it out at
Probably the greatest distortion of Thanksgiving related pictures appeared in a cartouche on a 1755 map by Jefferys depicting the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1620. Given that the pilgrims eschewed any sort of ostentation in their dress or appearance, they would have been appalled to see themselves represented in this fashion. That said, our best Thanksgiving wishes to everyone.

Saturday, November 3, 2018 – 1:00-4:00 PM – Baltimore, MD
There will be an Open House at the home of a WMS member Robert Gensler to view around 100 maps framed and hung in his home. His collection has two main foci: Age of Discovery and Early Colonial Americana. The former includes maps of the world and continents by Schedel, Waldseemuller, Fries, Ruscelli, Ortelius, Munster, Blaeu, and Braun and Hogenberg. His Early Colonial Americana includes maps of Virginia, Maryland, and DC, including those by Jansson, Speed, and Fry-Jefferson. Beverages and hors d'oeuvres will be served. To sign up for this event, please contact WMS President Eliane Dotson at Registration will be limited to the first 35 guests. Complete details will be made available to those signed up as the date draws nearer. (Note: This event was originally planned for May 2018, but was rescheduled due to a family emergency. Please sign up again even if you were signed up for the field trip in May.)

Thursday, December 6, 2018 – 5:00 PM – Madison Building, Geography and Map Reading Room, Library of Congress: Flying by the Seat of Your Pants:  Rand McNally, and Post Office (Belt Maps – The U. S. Post Office Airmail Service Air Navigation, 1918 – 1926), by Mr. Ralph Ehrenberg; Chief, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, Retired (WMS)
The United States Post Office’s Airmail Service played a pivotal role in developing the aeronautical chart in the United States from its establishment in 1918 through 1926 when airmail service was contracted out to private carriers. As the first organization in America to fly long distance scheduled flights on a daily basis, the Airmail Service worked closely with other Federal agencies, state and municipal governments, private industry, and civic groups to establish a national airways system analogous to the nation’s railroad and highway systems. The lack of adequate flying maps remained a major problem, however. As airmail pilot Ken McGregor remembered, “I got from place to place [by] the seat of my pants [and] the ability to recognize every town, river, railroad, farm, and, yes, outhouse along the route.” While a few pilots like McGregor relied strictly upon visual navigation, the majority resorted to using some form of published map. In an illustrated lecture, Mr. Ehrenberg will trace the history of map use by the Airmail Service and its own efforts in developing a basic aeronautical chart.

Thursday, January 24, 2019 – 5:00 PM – Madison Building, Geography and Map Reading Room, Library of Congress: The Map Collection of the G&M: New Directions, Dr. Paulette Hasier; Chief, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress
Dr. Hasier will discuss her personal interests in the history of cartography. She will also explain her mandate to take the Geography and Map Division in new directions more attuned to today’s cartographic technology. This does not mean abandoning the historic treasures of the Library, but rather using technical means to make them more readily available to researchers and aficionados alike.
This is a special event and an opportunity to understand major changes which lie ahead for the Geography and Map Division. We would like to have maximum participation for this program.

14 February 2019
Washington’s Mapmaker: Colonel Robert Erskine, First Surveyor General, by Kass Kassebaum, Department of the Geographer (WMS)

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)

May 2019
Annual Dinner - Details yet to be determined

Rick LaPrairie has been a member of WMS for about a decade and interested in maps for much longer. His WMS info notes his interests are 17th and 18th century Great Lakes, French North American, and Native American cartography. All three of these came together recently when he was looking at a 1678 map made by Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin, a major player in early Canadian mapping. In what is now called Lake Simcoe, he noticed an earlier name: Lac Tarantos. The map predated all other uses of this name (which ultimately became Toronto) by several years. The story made quite a splash in Canada, with major coverage on the CBC and front page story in the Toronto Star. Rick also had an article published in the journal Ontario History. It is my understanding that Rick also is writing an article for the Portolan, so we won’t steal his thunder, just enough to whet our appetites and say “Well done, Rick. Really well done.”

George Washington University Museum (and the Textile Museum), 701 21st Street, NW; Washington, DC. Exhibition: Eye of the Bird – Visions and Views of DC’s Past.

Now through 23 November 2018: Monday 11 AM to 5 PM; Closed Tuesdays; Wednesday thru Thursday 11 AM to 7 PM; Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM; Sunday 1 to 5 PM.
This exhibit presents two bird’s eye paintings by New Zealand-born artist Peter Waddell. They were commissioned by Albert H. Small, 93-year old DC philanthropist and collector of historical DC artifacts. (Mr. Small has also been a member of Washington Map Society since 1980, and the Society has on occasion toured his collections.)
The paintings are each six feet wide by five feet high, but because they depict the entire Washington area, their scale is tiny. The first of the pair is The Indispensable Plan, showing the city as Pierre l’Enfant had envisioned it. The second is The Village Monumental, depicting the way the town appeared on June 17, 1825 – the day l’Enfant died. Waddell ruthlessly researched that day in DC history to capture minute details to ensure veracity. For example, he wanted to include a fire somewhere for drama, but could find no record of a fire that day, so he did not. For those who love bird’s-eye views, this is an unparalleled opportunity to see two such items nearly at birth. (Some information from Washington Post article by John Kelly, It took this artist two years – and tiny brushed – to create bird’s eye views of DC, 18 October 2018;
Visitors to the museum can also see a selection of maps, letters, prints, and artifacts on display from the museum’s Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBBM), St. Michaels, MD.  Exploring the Chesapeake–Mapping the Bay. (New Listing)
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:

Fry Jefferson Map Society, Library of Virginia (LAV). Saturday, 3 November 2018, 10 AM.
The Fry-Jefferson Map Society will bring S. Max Edelson, author of The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, to the Library for a map lecture and book signing. If you missed Max’s presentation at our 2018 annual banquet, this is your chance to fill in the blank. His latest book examines the cartographic record of empire in British America in the generation before the American Revolution and features a dynamic digital archive of 257 maps and map collections. He’s a great speaker and the topic is an important one. For more information or membership in the Fry-Jeff, contact Dawn Greggs at or 804.692.3813. Cost: $20 to members of the general public; $15 for Semper Virginia Society members; free for Fry-Jeff members. To register visit:
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:

“When our maps do not fit the territory, when we act as if our inferences are factual knowledge, we prepare ourselves for a world that isn’t there. If this happens often enough, the inevitable result is frustration and an ever-increasing tendency to warp the territory to fit our maps. We see what we want to see, and the more we see it, the more likely we are to reinforce this distorted perception, in the familiar circular and spiral feedback pattern.”
Professor Harry L. Weinberg
Levels of Knowing and Existence: Studies in General Semantics

“A number of astronauts, and then all of us who saw the photography from space, marveled at how much the Florida peninsula, meandering Mississippi, the islands of Britain, and the boot of Italy resembled the maps everyone had grown up with. We had taken it for granted that maps were faithful reflections of reality; but we were somehow amazed when reality turned out to be true to the maps.”
John Noble Wilford
The Mapmakers

(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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