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Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia, 1755

Context

This map was created in response to British concerns that French colonists were encroaching on British territory. Since there were no clear boundaries and very few maps that accurately depicted the lands that the Virginia colony held, the acting governor of Virginia (Lewis Burwell) commissioned Colonel Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson to prepare a map.

The two men were familiar with the subject as they had worked as surveyors and joint commissioners in Virginia, but the task subjected both men to extreme pressure. As a result Fry and Jefferson created the map by utilizing their own surveys and experiences, paired with previously published maps, manuscript maps, and field notes. Burwell received the Fry-Jefferson Map in 1751 and the map was considered the definitive cartographic representation of Virginia until Bishop James Madison published an updated map in 1807.

This map was the first of its type to properly depict many of the natural landmarks and also displayed Virginia’s portion of the “Great Waggon Road to Philadelphia”. Jefferson’s son Thomas, the third President of the United States, would later cite this map in his 1781 work Notes on the State of Virginia.

Citation: Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, A Map of the most Inhabited part of Virginia. Thomas Jefferys, engraver. London, 1755. State 3. Engraving with outline color and watercolor. The Library of Virginia.

Standards

VS.1, VS.4, VS.5, USI.1, USI.2, USI.5, VUS.1, VUS.2, VUS.3

Suggested Questions

Analyze: Do you think that the map would have been different if Fry and Jefferson had been under less pressure to create it so quickly?

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