An introduction to the mapping of Maryland Counties
Edward C. Papenfuse*

    In March of 1864, the normally sedate and often tedious proceedings of the American Philosophical Society were enlivened by a graphic account of the military importance of county maps.  A member reported that on the eve of the battle of Gettysburg the previous July an

advance guard of the rebels swept the Great Valley clean of all its county maps; those of Franklin and those of Cumberland.  The same fate befell those of Adams County.  For a day or two, not a map of the seat of war was to be obtained at Harrisburg for the use of the Governor and his staff.  General Couch had but a single copy at his headquarters.  An order on Philadelphia could only be filled by sending out a special agent, who succeeded, at great personal risk, in procuring one or two of each county.  Judge Watts, of Carlisle, informed me that the maps were torn hastily from the walls of the farmers' houses. . . .  The rebel visitation was very complete; he thought it likely that not a single house had been overlooked. . . .  A rebel general is understood to have made a reconnaissance of these counties previous to the invasion under the guise of a map-peddler, and, while selling some of a more general character, no doubt bought up county maps to be used in the invasion. [ 1 ]
    The Civil War had interrupted a flourishing business, centered mostly in Philadelphia, of privately financed county maps.  By 1850, advances in the technology of printing maps had enabled publishers to replace the costly, time-consuming engraving of copper plates with faster, more versatile, and considerably less expensive lithography. [ 2 ]  At the same time, the growing number and general prosperity of American farmers made them excellent potential customers for itinerant salesmen, who offered, at a modest fee, to place their farms on the map.

    In and exposé first published in 1879, Bates Harrington describes the manner in which farmers were enticed to spend six dollars for a map of their county:

The distances were ascertained by means of the odometer--then a novelty. . . .  It consists of an apparatus resembling a wheelbarrow, upon which is perched a clock-like piece of mechanism [see fig. 88].  The instrument is wheeled over the roads, and, by the revolution of the wheel, which is mathematically constructed, a record of the distances traversed is made by the "clock," and shown on the dial.  This strange affair naturally provoked a vast amount of curiosity among the country people, who would stop work and carefully inspect its construction.  Meanwhile, the operator would harangue them upon the importance of the work he was doing and the absolute certainty of his getting everything just as it should be on his proposed map. . . .

The odometer claims the attention of the public for an instant, but that time is sufficient to impart the knowledge that John Smith and Richard Roe will occupy a conspicuous place on the glazed surface of the wonderful draught [of the proposed map].  The distinction thus accorded them lures them on to subscribe for the work, without their stopping to think that hundreds of other names will appear in equal prominence.  Many of them, long before the map is delivered, find out their mistake, but it is then too late to retreat.  Their names are down in black and white, and no law in the land relieves them of the responsibility, but rather, compels them to fulfillment of their contract.  Their house may need repairing; their cooking-stove may need replacing; their children may need clothes or schoolbooks. . . .  Still, the sensible words of the good wife, offered in protest, serve only to aggravate the case, and the victim finds no alternative but to sink his money from sight in the pocket of the man who delivers the [map]. [ 3 ]

    The largest publisher of county wall maps hardly resembled the image evoked by Harrington.  He was a quiet Philadelphia Quaker by the name of Robert Pearsall Smith, whose father and financial backer was the distinguished librarian of the Library Company of Philadelphia. [ 4 ]   When Smith turned his attention to Maryland in 1850 with a map of Baltimore County (fig. 90), it was not the first to feature the names of residents.  Over forty years earlier, Charles Varlé, a French engineer and refugee from the Revolution in Haiti, had published a cadastral, or landownership, map of Frederick and Washington counties (fig. 89).  In 1808, Varlé advertised that for an additional fee beyond the normal subscription he would indicate "plantations, mills, &c."  As Varlé's biographer, Richard Stephenson, observed, a number of citizens were apparently willing to pay extra money to see their property identified, thus making Varlé's map, published in 1809, "the earliest known printed map of an American county to include the names of residents." [ ]  It does not seem to have been exceptionally profitable, however.  Only two known copies of the map now exist, and nothing comparable was available for any other county until 1850, when Robert Pearsall Smith published James C. Sidney's map of Baltimore County.

    James Sidney was a "clever civil engineer from England" who was employed by Smith's father at the Library Company of Philadelphia.  Robert Pearsall Smith launched Sidney's career as a map maker in 1847 with the Map of . . . Ten Miles around . . . Philadelphia, which proved so popular that versions were printed on scarves.  For some unknown reason, Sidney's map of Baltimore County, 1850 (fig. 90), was Smith's sole excursion into the mapping of Maryland counties.  Yet by 1864, Smith was "instrumental in the manufacture of 100 or more land ownership maps" in other states, almost one-third of the total published to that time.[ 6 ]

    County map makers did not return to Maryland until 1857, when Robert Taylor offered another map of Baltimore County, printed in Baltimore City by George Hunckel and Son (fig. 91).  In the following four years, nine more of Maryland's then twenty-one counties were mapped.  Dillworth's Talbot County (fig. 94), printed in New York; Isaac Bond's Frederick County (fig. 92), lithographed by E. Sachse in Baltimore; and Simon Martenet's Cecil County (fig. 93), probably printed in Philadelphia, all appeared in 1858.  Other county wall maps continued to be privately published by individual authors until 1878, including Taggert's Washington County, 1859 (fig. 95), lithographed in Philadelphia, Strong's Queen Anne's County, 1860 (fig. 99), lithographed by Schmidt and Trowe of Baltimore City, and Isler's Caroline County, 1875 (fig. 103), probably printed in Philadelphia.  It was Simon Martenet of Baltimore, however, who came to dominate the market.  In all, he published eight of the fourteen county wall maps that ultimately appeared.

Simon Martenet

    Simon Martenet, like Robert Pearsall Smith, was a member of the Society of Friends.  Born in Baltimore in 1832 of Swiss immigrant parents, Martenet was apprenticed at the age of thirteen to Thomas P. Chiffelle, a graduate of West Point and city surveyor of Baltimore, to learn surveying and civil engineering.  He took over Chiffelle's business in 1855, but, for political reasons, did not immediately succeed him as city surveyor.  As a contemporary recounted in the Biographical Encyclopedia of Representative Men of Maryland and the District of Columbia:

During the financial crisis of 1857, when his business had somewhat fallen off in the general depression of that period, to fill up his time he commenced surveys of several counties of the State with the design of making maps of the same, and of finally making and publishing a complete and detailed map of the State of Maryland.  He had completed surveys and maps of Cecil, Howard, Kent, Anne Arundel, and Prince George's Counties, and had commenced the work in several others when the civil war interrupted its further prosecution till 1865.  Surveys were then completed and maps made of Carroll and Harford counties, and the remaining counties surveyed for the purposes of the State map only, the entire work having required about fifteen thousand miles of surveys. [ 7 ]
    Although Martenet published two county maps after the Civil War (Montgomery, fig. 102, and Harford, fig. 104, both lithographed by Schmidt and Trowe of Baltimore), his major concern was the more general composite map of the state which he published as an atlas and wall map in 1865 (fig. 87).  It was an unqualified success, particularly after Martenet had secured the legislature's requirements that it be used in all Maryland public schools.  Reissued with little alteration in 1885 and in regional segments in 1886, it continued to be the standard school map of the state until the twentieth century. [ 8 ]

County Atlases

    The demand for single wall maps after the Civil War was sharply curtailed by the appearance of what Bates Harrington charged was another devious scheme to deprive honest farmers of their hard-earned dollars.  Known as the county atlas, it presented county maps in a more manageable book form, with ample space to include "scenes" of the more prosperous farms and business (paid for by the farm owners), laudatory county histories prominently mentioning the leading businessmen, farmers, and politicians, and prepaid local advertisements. [ 9 ]

    The national rage for county atlases in the 1870s did not leave Maryland untouched.  The first to appear was one of Frederick County by D. J. Lake, in 1873 (fig. 105).  Four years later, Lake chose to concentrate on the Eastern Shore, where, in partnership with Griffing and Stevenson, he published atlases covering Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties (fig. 107-10).  In addition, Lake, Griffing, and Stevenson also produced atlases of Washington and Carroll counties in 1877.  On the whole, however, the Western Shore of Maryland became the domain of another Philadelphia firm, G. M. Hopkins and Company.  G. M. Hopkins offered atlases of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Prince George's, and Montgomery counties, as well as Baltimore City (for an example, see fig. 106).  Only the lower Western Shore and the sparsely populated western counties of Allegany and Garrett (created in 1872, the last of a total of twenty-three) were not covered by either wall maps or atlases, an economic decision deeply regretted by subsequent generations of local historians and genealogists. [ 10 ]

    Not until after 1900 would the Maryland Geological Survey in cooperation with the national Geological Survey produce separate maps of Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Allegany, and Garrett counties.  Mapping became a tax-supported scientific endeavor.  Names of owners and their property lines were abandoned in favor of more accurate topography.  Only considerably later in the twentieth century did the state compile property maps to facilitate tax collection. [ 11 ]  By then the personal vanity of appearing on a map, so effectively exploited by enterprising map makers wheeling their odometers through the countryside in the 1870s, no doubt vied with an equally strong desire for anonymity and lower taxes.

Source: modified and expanded from a chapter by Dr. Papenfuse in  Edward C. Papenfuse and Joseph M. Coale III. The Hammond-Harwood House Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, 1608-1908. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982, pp. 79-90. ©Edward C. Papenfuse, April 19, 1999.