This website is part of The New York Public Library's Online Exhibition Archive. For current classes, programs, and exhibitions, please visit
American Shores Maps of the Middle Atlantic Region to 1850 The New York Public Library
Map Collection
Overview Basics of Maps Maps Through History Geographical Areas

Middle Atlantic Region & the Wider World

Middle British colonies in North America. 1758
catalog record

The right half of the map, along the Atlantic Ocean coastline, focuses on the Middle Atlantic colonies from New York south to Virginia. There are notes all over the map about various agreements between the Native Americans and the French and British. A rather stern note at the far right chides the English King about losing territory to the French: if he knew its value, "his Majesty would sacrifice one of the best Gems in his Crown" to stop the French incursions! Early trails and road networks are visible, and the English mapmaker has made a good effort to depict the Appalachians.
At the lower right corner the mapmaker has included charts of mileage from place to place. A bit of trompe l'oeil cartography is used to set off the Illinois region--seemingly at odds with the elaborate baroque design of the title cartouche.

The Middle Atlantic region is defined as that area east of the Appalachian Mountains from New York south to Virginia, incorporating important waterways and urban areas along the way. This digital collection includes maps of the entire region, as well as maps of its political areas and major geographic features, including the critical river links to the interior.

The Middle Atlantic region was the commercial and, along with Boston, the political heart of first the colonies and later the new nation. The capitals of the new democratic government - New York City, Philadelphia, and ultimately Washington, D.C. - were all located in this region. Its coastal location facing Europe and its mighty rivers, the Hudson, the Delaware, and the Potomac, offering gateways to the interior of the continent, provided the foundation for the developing economic engine based on trade and shipping.

Pre-1850 maps of North America often show information about the Middle Atlantic region in relation to the larger nation, the continent, and the world. These coastal regions, even after the formation of the United States, continued to look outward toward Europe for their identity, and for trade and support. Maps from the 17th and 18th centuries focused on the trade routes and geographic information linking the region to its trading partners in Europe and the West Indies.

Although the depiction of the Middle Atlantic coastline was relatively accurate on early maps, the interior, Appalachia and beyond, remained clearly inaccurate for decades. Following river valleys and Indian trails, explorers, settlers, and exploiters of natural resources broke through the Appalachian barrier early in the 18th century. But these continental interiors were only sketchily reflected on maps prior to 1850.

Privacy Policy | Rules and Regulations | Using the Internet | Website Terms and Conditions | © The New York Public Library