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Thomas Jefferson and Maps
Thomas Jefferson collected maps throughout his lifetime, amassing a collection of more than 350 maps, navigational charts, city plans, and writings on the subject of geography. His father Peter Jefferson was a skilled surveyor, who along with Joshua Fry, produced what came to be known as the Fry-Jefferson map of Virginia in 1752. Jefferson called his father’s work “the 1st accurate map of Virginia which had ever been made.” A competent surveyor himself, Jefferson strove to make a contribution to the emerging science of geography with his authorship of Notes of the State of Virginia (and its accompanying map.)
As Jefferson traveled through Europe, he collected maps and integrated them into his notes in his travel log. He advised other travelers to “buy beforehand a map of the country you are going into.” In April 1791 Jefferson lent his collection of city plans to Pierre Charles L’Enfant to aid in his planning of the federal city of Washington D.C.
During the years of his presidency, Jefferson displayed “maps, globes and charts around the walls” of his Cabinet at the President’s House. As he traveled very rarely during this time, his map collecting shifted from city plans and road maps, to wall maps. According to an inventory made by Jefferson’s daughter Martha Randolph following his death, at least eight engraved wall maps hung in the Entrance Hall at Monticello: “Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, Map of the World, United States (and) 2 of Virginia.”