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William L. Clements Library pres.

[POSTPONED] "How the War of 1812 Changed American Cartography"

Dr. Martin Brückner

Map of the seat of war in North America / J. Melish, del. Map of the seat of war in North America / J. Melish, del.
Map of the seat of war in North America / J. Melish, del.
Update 3/10/20: This lecture has been postponed. It will be rescheduled at a later date.

Taking its cue from John Melish’s polemical 1814 title, The Sine Qua Non: a Map of the United States—which ambitiously claimed his map to be indispensable to the point that without it “there is nothing”—this lecture explores the way in which two national crises—the War of 1812 and the Panic of 1819—changed the map industry in the United States and the very design of American maps. Using the career of John Melish as its narrative thread, the talk delves into the politics, economics, and optics of American cartography between 1810 and 1820. Tapping source materials that range from newspapers and account books, to showrooms and eye-popping map designs, it examines the roots of nineteenth-century American map production.

What started out as local rivalries between mapmakers during the War of 1812, quickly made headlines in the news (and in the courts) when cartographers not only challenged existing business models and the way in which maps were consumed, but the very look of maps. The fallout was profound: as established mapmakers, like Samuel Lewis or Abraham Bradley, were quickly eclipsed by a new cohort of ambitious cartographers, it was upstarts like Melish—a total novice in all things cartographic—who not only managed to launch a national brand, but generated maps that would influence the nation’s education and public sphere in new and spectacular ways.

Martin Brückner serves as the Interim Director of the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, as the Co-Director of the Center for Material Culture Studies (CMCS), and as professor in the English department at UD. He earned his M.A. from the Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in American Studies and Cultural Geography in his native Germany, and his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Brandeis University in the United States.

A Michigan Map Society sponsored lecture presented in collaboration with the Stephen S. Clark Library.
Map of the seat of war in North America / J. Melish, del. Map of the seat of war in North America / J. Melish, del.
Map of the seat of war in North America / J. Melish, del.
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