So, for the 238th Independence Day, I thought I’d get a handle on what the United States looked like in 1776. A map-making company in England with the resources to get good maps of the original 13 colonies printed a map for the public interest during the “War”.
I tied this set of maps as best I could to today’s geography. I thought this would be easy, as they showed many of the same towns and rivers. I’m not proud of the way this worked out, but at a large scale you cannot tell how horrible the map referencing was. If I had 10x the time, I would tie points and roads to the current map. Fortunately, I don’t. So I will present the national scale map that I got instead.
After referencing these maps, I traced all 21,000 miles of roads and trails shown on the map. At first I thought about distinguishing roads, from trails from footpaths, and native trails from colonist trails. I saw that differ t maps had different standards for this, so I’m glad I just stuck with one type of road. In 1776, the fastest thing was a stagecoach, and the best surface was a gravel road. A lot pif roads were dirt/mud, and a lot of travelers were just walking.
The standards for inclusion on the map differed wildly between maps, so I just traced everything. I don’t know if the Carolinas d ten times as many roads as New England, but I suspect different standards were at platy. It could also be that New England was still more nautical than the Carolinas, with little opportunity for inland development up north. Mnay of the maps also showed Ameircan villages and tribal names, like Creek, Cherokee, Oneida, and Shawnee.
The details on these maps are pretty icy, and make me wish I had time to get precise referencing on them. I’d like to figure out how to open source this.