Drawing the Line: How Mason and Dixon Surveyed the Most Famous Border in America

Drawing the Line: How Mason and Dixon Surveyed the Most Famous Border in America

Drawing the Line: How Mason and Dixon Surveyed the Most Famous Border in America

Drawing the Line: How Mason and Dixon Surveyed the Most Famous Border in America

Synopsis

THE FIRST POPULAR HISTORY OF THE MAKING OF THE MASON-DIXON LINE The Mason-Dixon line-surely the most famous surveyors' line ever drawn-represents one of the greatest and most difficult scientific achievements of its time. But behind this significant triumph is a thrilling story, one that has thus far eluded both historians and surveyors. In this engrossing narrative, professional surveyor Edwin Danson takes us on a fascinating journey with Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, two gifted and exuberant English surveyors, through the fields and forests of eighteenth-century America. Vividly describing life in the backwoods and the hardships and dangers of frontier surveying, Drawing the Line discloses for the first time in 250 years many hitherto unknown surveying methods, revealing how Mason and Dixon succeeded where the best American surveyors of the period failed. In accessible, ordinary language, Danson masterfully throws the first clear light on the surveying of the Mason-Dixon line. Set in the social and historical context of pre-Revolutionary America, this book is a spellbinding account of one of the great and historic achievements of its time. Advance Praise for Drawing the Line "Drawing the Line combines a fast-moving story, a human drama, and a clear account of surveying in the era of George Washington. An intriguing interaction of politics and science."-CHARLES ROYSTER, Boyd Professor of History, Louisiana State University, and Winner of the Bancroft Prize in History

Excerpt

Made famous as line between free and slave states before War Between the States. the survey establishing Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary began in 1763; halted by Indian wars 1767; continued to southwest corner 1782: marked 1784.

Behind these brief words lies a long and complex story with roots in an acrimonious and often violent boundary dispute between two seventeenth-century aristocratic, colonial families. For more than eighty years, the quarrel between the proprietors of Maryland and Pennsylvania was fought out in the English courts and across the border itself. the only hope for a peaceful resolution rested on a very precise survey to delineate the boundary lines, but at the time such a survey had no precedent anywhere in the world. After several valiant attempts by local surveyors to lay out the lines, the colonial proprietors were forced to conclude that the task was beyond their means. Just when it seemed that the boundary survey was “impossible for the Art of Man, ” two gifted English surveyors returned home, victorious, from an unusual astronomical expedition in South Africa. Their names were Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.

From London, where Mason and Dixon had been found to be “persons intirely accomplished” to conduct the great survey and resolve the . . .

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