Friday, January 28, 2011

An activist government agency, a map

What a map it was.

Many thanks to Patsy for sending this story.

In the 1800's the United States Coast Survey, now part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was the official keeper of technology, scientific knowledge and map making for the US Government. Their official responsibilities included accurate map making of all US rivers and coastal waters, but occasionally the curiosity of the department head crept in and official maps veered in tangents never intended.

The 1860 US census was the last to include slaves. Inventing new display techniques, and using the new census data the Coast Survey created a map in 1861 illustrating the number of slaves by county. Shading was used to illuminate the number of slaves. The darker the shading the greater the number.

From a propaganda standpoint the map couldn't have been better. With a quick glance a Northerner could discern the order of states secession(the more slaves, the sooner gone). A more careful reading would show a field commander where pockets of Union solidarity lie in the South. On a more personal level, mid Missouri calls itself "Little Dixie". I never understood why until I saw the map.

This map was Lincoln's favorite and is included, bottom right, in the official painting of "Lincoln Reading the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet" by Francis Carpenter.

For other map geeks the NOAA collection of maps are available electronically here.



Lou said...

Maybe it's not your style, but I've listed you for an award over at mine. I like your style.

Patsy said...

Glad you enjoyed it!

Courtesy of my map (and history) geek Dad:

Toad said...

Thank you again Patsy, I didn't know where to find your father.