American Geographers, 1784-1812: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide

American Geographers, 1784-1812: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide

American Geographers, 1784-1812: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide

American Geographers, 1784-1812: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide


The first major work to identify the original generation of American geographers--teachers, writers, surveyors, cartographers, engravers, and others--who made significant contributions to the field of geography during the early years of the republic. As such, it represents a powerful research tool for scholars interested in learning about this group and the products of their labors.

A comprehensive and inclusive reference work, this book depicts the individuals who engaged in the establishment and description of the United States. It includes information on people who were involved in activities that led to a remarkable body of information, maps, and literature of a geographic nature about the country.


Since we are geographers with an interest in American history, perhaps it was inevitable that we would develop an interest in the history of geography. Many years ago, before we knew each other, we each began building a collection of geography books published before the Civil War. Eventually, each of us would own one of the country’s largest personal collections of early American geographies. the research potential of these collections became apparent to us long after we began assembling them. By the 1980s, we were giving papers based on early American geographies in our collections. in 1988, we found out about each other’s interests and decided to join our efforts in an attempt to make some significant contributions to the history of American geography. Since then, we have given a number of joint papers and co-authored a number of publications.

Almost two decades before we began our joint efforts, Antonelli (1970) divided early American geographers into the “post-Revolutionary geographers” and the “second generation of American geographers.” the time periods of publications by the first group was given as 1784 to 1812 and that of the second group as 1812 to 1845. Inspired by, but slightly modifying, his assertions, we began speaking of the “first generation of American geographers” (including writings published between 1784 and 1812) and the “second generation of American geographers” (publications between 1812 and 1860). Our focus, in this work, is on the first generation.

Geographical writers in those days, of course, had much less information at their disposal than the geographers of today. in 1812, the states of the United States numbered only 18, and the population of the country was less then eight million. Some geographers of our time have criticized the early geographers for the inaccuracies in their work, but we consider that unfair.

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