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Charting the Chesapeake Bay, 1590-1700


Image of Compass

A chart is a road map for mariners. It tells them where they are, where they can sail safely, and delineates areas to avoid by describing the surface under the water. Anyone venturing out on the Chesapeake Bay needs to consult a chart to ensure a safe voyage.

Today's charts provide mariners with a wealth of data. Hundreds of bits of information are readily available telling them virtually everything they need to know to reach their destination safely. Based on sophisticated surveys, modern charts reflect how much is known about the world below the surface, often building upon the information provided by their predecessors.

Chesapeake mariners have not always had the benefit of such knowledge. Earlier charts were far less informative, depending on the state of exploration or survey work at a given time. The charts presented here reflect four hundred years of knowledge about the bay. They illustrate how new information was made available to mariners over time.

Because the Chesapeake Bay has been so important to the history of Maryland, charts have played a central role. From the seventeenth century forward, charts were the key to economic or naval power. Charts were indispensable to Maryland's early vessels of commerce and trade, such as the tobacco ships which transported the region's cash crop to market in Europe. They were also essential to both the British and American navies during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Sailors needed to know the location of shoals, conditions of the bottom, and the ways of tide and current to maneuver their vessels during battles on the Chesapeake and its tributaries.

Today's Marylanders also rely on charts of the Chesapeake to find their way. Maryland pilots use charts to guide foreign container vessels into and out of the bay's major ports, Baltimore and Norfolk. Millions of recreational boaters consult charts to navigate to safe harbor. They are also used by watermen to locate the bay's natural oyster beds.

Today, the Chesapeake Bay is still the prize of the mid-Atlantic region. The Chesapeake watershed covers 64,000 square miles, extending across six states and the District of Columbia. As the largest estuary in the United States, the Bay has for centuries provided a haven to wildlife, a cultural link between the shores of Maryland, a source for recreation, and a continuing livelihood for the people living on and near the bay, making this truly the "Land of Pleasant Living."

U.S. History Content Standards for Grades 5-12



Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following United States History Content Standards

Era 2: Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)

Standard 1: Why the Americas attracted Europeans, why they brought enslaved Africans to their colonies, and how Europeans struggled for control of North America and the Caribbean.

Standard 2: How political, religious, and social institutions emerged in the English colonies.

Standard 3: How the values and institutions of European economic life took root in the colonies, and how slavery reshaped European and African life in the Americas

Era 3: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s)

Standard 2: The impact of the American Revolution on politics, economy, and society.



U.S. History Content Standards for Grades K-4


Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following United States History Content Standards

Topic 2: The History of Students' Own State or Region

Standard 3: The people, events, problems, and ideas that created the history of their state.

Standard 3b: Gather data in order to analyze geographic, economic, and religious reasons that brought the first explorers and settlers to the state or region. [Obtain historical data]

  • K-4: Examine visual data in order to describe ways in which early settlers adapted to, utilized, and changed the environment. [Draw upon visual data]

Standard 3d: The student understands the interactions among all these groups throughout the history of his or her state.

  • 3-4 - Investigate the influence of geography on the history of the state or region and identify issues and approaches to problems such as land use and environmental problems. [Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage]

TOPIC 3: THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage

Standard 5: The causes and nature of various movements of large groups of people into and within the United States, now, and long ago.

Standard 5a: Demonstrate understanding of the movements of large groups of people into his or her own and other states in the United States now and long ago.

  • 3-4 - Draw upon data in historical maps, historical narratives, diaries, and other fiction or nonfiction accounts in order to chart various movements (westward, northward, and eastward) in the United States [Obtain historical data]
  • K-4: Draw upon data from charts, historical maps, nonfiction and fiction accounts, and interviews in order to describe “through their eyes” the experience of immigrant groups. Include information such as where they came from and why they left, travel experiences, ports of entry and immigration screening, and the opportunities and obstacles they encountered when they arrived in America [Appreciate historical perspectives]

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following Maryland Social Studies Standards for Grades 4 and 5.

Grade 4 - Standard 3.0: Geography Students will use geographic concepts and processes to examine the role of culture, technology, and the environment in the location and distribution of human activities and spatial connections throughout time.

    Topic A. Using Geographic tools
      Indicator 1. Use geographic tools to locate places and describe the human and physical characteristics of those places
      • Objective b. Use photographs, maps, charts, graphs, and atlases to describe geographic characteristics of Maryland/United States
      • Objective c.Identify and locate natural/physical features and human-made features of Maryland such as Appalachian Mountains, Piedmont Plateau, and Atlantic Coastal Plain

    Topic B. Geographic characteristics of places and regions
      Indicator 1. Describe similarities and differences of regions using geographic characteristics
      • Objective a. Compare physical characteristics of different places and regions of Maryland and the United States including natural/physical features , weather and climate, soil, vegetation, minerals and animal life
      • Objective c.Describe how geographic characteristics of a place or region change over time and affect the way people live and work
    Topic C. Movement of People, Goods and Ideas
      Indicator 1. Describe and analyze population growth, migration, and settlement patterns in Maryland and regions of the United States
      • Objective a. Explain how geographic characteristics influenced settlement patterns in Maryland and the United States

Grade 4 - Standard 5.0: History Students will examine significant ideas, beliefs, and themes; organize patterns and events; and analyze how individuals and societies have changed over time in Maryland and the United States

    Topic A. Individuals and Societies change over time
      Indicator 2. Compare Native American societies in Maryland before and after European colonization
        Topic C. Conflict Between Ideas and Institutions
          Indicator 1. Examine the consequences of interactions among groups and cultures in Maryland

Grade 5 - Standard 3.0: Geography Students will use geographic concepts and processes to examine the role of culture, technology, and the environment in the location and distribution of human activities and spatial connections throughout time.

    Topic A. Using Geographic tools
      Indicator 1. Use geographic tools to analyze geographic issues and problems prior to 1877
      • Objective c.Analyze thematic maps to determine demographic and economic information about a region

Grade 5 - Standard 5.0: History Students will examine significant ideas, beliefs, and themes; organize patterns and events; and analyze how individuals and societies have changed over time in Maryland and the United States

    Topic B. Emergence, expansion, and changes in nations and empires
      Indicator 1. Analyze the growth and development of the United States
      • Objective b. Evaluate Manifest Destiny and its impact on territorial expansion of the nation
      Indicator 3. Evaluate westward movement in the United States before 1877
      • Objective a. Explain the political, economic, and social factors that motivated people to move west.

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following Maryland Common Core Reading Standards for Grades 6-8:

CCR Anchor Standard #7 - Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
RH.6-8.7- Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts

  1. Title: Virginia Cartographer: John Smith Date Created / Published: 1608 [1612], Oxford Description: A print of fugitives escaping from Maryland in William Still's book The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts... Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-101 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  2. Title: Noua TERRAE-MARIAE tabula Cartographer: Anonymous Date Created: 1635, London Notes: This map, usually called "Lord Baltimore's Map," is the first to indicated the northern and southern boundaries of Maryland and the first to name "Delaware Bay." The map proved important in the boundary dispute with the Penns because it placed the northern boundary of Maryland at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, rather than, as the Charter required, at the 40th degree of North Latitude, which was farther up the Susquehanna. See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-101 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  3. Title:A Mapp of Virginia Discouered to ye Hills, and in it's latt. from 35 deg. & 1/2 neer Florida to 41 deg. bounds of New England Cartographer: Virginia Farrer Date Created / Published: 1651 [1652], London Notes: The Farrer map illustrates the many geographic misconceptions still widely held in the middle of the 17th century. It shows the South Sea (Pacific) as a ten day's march over the hills. The Hudson is connected by a lake to the Pacific, perpetuating the belief in a northwest passage. It depicts the Appalachians extending as far as the Hudson River. See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: G3880 1667 .F3 Repository: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.
  4. Title: Noua TERRAE-MARIAE tabula Cartographer: John Ogilby Date Created: 1671, London Notes:This is the second edition of the "Lord Baltimore Map" and is more widely available than the scarcer first edition. The map names ten Maryland counties, identifies other new places, better defines the major islands in the Chesapeake Bay, including Kent, and moves the northern boundary farther up the Susquehanna hiding the change with two extra rows of trees. Neither edition of the map is as geographically accurate as the John Smith map.See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-187 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  5. Title: Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited this Present Year 1670, Surveyed and Exactly Drawne by the Only Labour & Endeavour of Augustim Herrman Bohemiensis Cartographer: Augustine Herrman Date Created: 1673, London Source: G3880 1670 .H4 Repository: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.
  6. Title: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsilvania, East & West New Jersey Cartographer: John Thornton and William Fisher Date Created / Published: 1689 [1767], Dublin Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-779 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  7. Title: Virginische Paskaart Cartographer: Jacobus Robijn Date Created: 1692 Notes: See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-200 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  8. Title: Carte Particuliere de Virginie, Maryland Pennsilvanie La nouvelle Iarsey Orient et. Occidentale Cartographer: Pierre Mortier (Alexis-Hubert Jaillot?) Date Created / Published: 1696 [1701] Notes: See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-200 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  9. Title: A New Map of Virginia and Maryland Cartographer: Herman Moll (Robert Morden?) Date Created / Published: 1708 [1741] Notes: From the 1741 edition of Oldmixon's British Empire in America. See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-516 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  10. Title: A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pensilvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751 Cartographer: Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson Date Created / Published: 1751 [1775] Notes: See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map.Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-418 Source: G3880 1755 .F72 Repository: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.
  11. Title: Il Maryland, il Jersey meridionale, la Delaware, e la partie orientale della Virginia, e Carolina settentrionale Cartographer: Antonio Zatta Date Created / Published: 1755 [1788] Notes: See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-54 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  12. Title: A Map of Maryland, with the Delaware Counties, and the Southern part of New Jersey Cartographer: Thomas Kitchin (publisher) Date Created/Published: 1757 Notes: See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-59 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  13. Title: A New Map of the Province of Maryland in North America Cartographer: John Hinton (publisher) Date Created: 1780 Notes: See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-231 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  14. Title: Map of the State of Maryland Cartographer: Dennis Griffith Date Created/Published:1794 [1795] Notes: An important, detailed, topographical map, the best of Maryland at the time, especially of the northern border of the state.See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-320 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  15. Title: Map of the States of Maryland and Delaware Cartographer: John Denison Date Created: 1796 Notes: This map shows roads and county lines for Maryland and Delaware. Washington D.C. is shown as well. See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-49 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  16. Title: Maryland Cartographer: Matthew Carey (publisher) Date Created/Published: 1814 Notes: Shoals are shown by dotted lines along the Chesapeake Bay. See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-321 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  17. Title: Maryland Cartographer: Anthony Finley Date Created: 1824 Description: A print of fugitives escaping from Maryland in William Still's book The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts... Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-101 Repository: Maryland State Archives
  18. Title:A Chart of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays Cartographer: Fielding Lucas Jr. Date Created: 1832 Notes: Lucas’ primary innovation in this chart was the use of color, not adopted by the successor agencies of the U.S. Coast Survey until the 20th century. See Huntingfield Collection map report for additional information about this map. Source: Huntingfield Corporation Map Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-295 Repository: Maryland State Archives

Barbour, Philip L. The Three Worlds of Captain John Smith. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1964.

________. Pocahontas and her World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1970.

Barbour, Phillip L., editor. The Jamestown Voyages Under the First Charter, 1606-1609. 2 vols. Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, 2nd series nos. 136-137. Cambridge, England, 1969.

Brugger, Robert. "From Province to Colony (1634-1689)." In Maryland: A Middle Temperament. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Maryland Historical Society, 1988.

Callcott, George H. "The Quality of Life in Maryland Over Five Centuries" Maryland Historical Magazine 2001 vol. 96, no. 3, pp. 272-302.

Hulton, Paul and David Beers Quinn. The American Drawings of John White, 1577-1590. 2 vols. Trustees of the British Museum, and University of North Carolina Press, 1964.

Koot, Christian J. A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman’s Chesapeake. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

Morrison, R. and Hansen, R. Charting the Chesapeake. Annapolis: Maryland State Archives, 1990.

__________, Papenfuse, E. C., Bramucci, N. and Janson-La Palme, R. J. H. On the Map. Chestertown: Washington College, 1983.

Papenfuse, E. C. and Coale, J. M. The Hammond Harwood Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland 1608-1908. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

___________. The Maryland State Archives Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, 1608-1908. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Roundtree, Helen C. "Powhatan Indian Women: the People Captain John Smith Barely Saw." Ethnohistory (Winter 1998): 1-29.

_________________, Wayne E. Clark and Kent Mountford. John Smith’s Chesapeake Voyages , 1607-1609. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2008.

Smith, John. "The Generall Historie of Virginia. " In Captain John Smith of Willoughby [1624]. Edited by Philip Barbour. 3 vols. II:33-475. University of North Carolina Press, 1986. (Earlier reprinted in 1884 by The English Scholar's Library, Birmingham.)

________. "A Map of Virginia." In The Complete Works of Captain John Smith [1612]. Edited by Philip Barbour. 3 vols. I:131-177. University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

________. "A True Relations of such Occurrences and Accidents of Noate hath Hapned in Virginia Since the First Planting of the Colony...to 1608." In The Complete Works of Captain John Smith [1612]. Edited by Philip Barbour. University of North Carolina Press, 1986.

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Documents for the Classroom is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Prince George's County Public Schools, Caroline County Public Schools and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress.

This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.


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