George Washington and His Maps
In his journey from surveyor to soldier to leader, our first president used cartography to get a feel for the young nation
- By John Hanc
- Smithsonian.com, November 16, 2010
(Yale University Library)
Part of the significance of this map, originally done in 1751, was its creators: Peter Jefferson, Thomas’ father, and Joshua Fry, who commanded George Washington during the French and Indian War. But Schecter suggests that it also maps out the contours of the young Washington’s mind and character. “All the land up to the mountains was owned by people like Lord Fairfax,” Schecter says. “This map sets up one of the great shaping forces of Washington’s life—his search for land beyond the mountains. It shows the acquisitive, ambitious side of the man.” Later, he notes, “That self interested pre-occupation became ‘how do we unify this country?’” Washington found the answer to both of those questions in his maps.