1 Map Making in Philadelphia

John Melish
John Melish, born in Scotland in 1771, was one of the first printers to focus exclusively on the production of maps and atlases. His first published work was a two-volume book entitled Travels in the United States of America in the Years of 1806 & 1807, and 1809, 1810 & 1811. This is a prose work describing Melish’s travels around the country. The work also includes eight maps drawn by Melish himself. Seven of the maps were engraved by John Vallance and the final map by Henry S. Tanner, both of Philadelphia.

Melish’s first published Atlas was completed in 1813. Titled A Military and Topographical Atlas of the United States; Including the British Possessions & Florida, this work is a collection of all of Melish’s maps drawn by that time, including Map of the Seat of War, Map of the Southern Section, and Map of the American Coast – all with accompanying texts – along with several smaller, regional maps. Melish continued to publish maps and atlases of this sort until his death in 1822.

Henry S. Tanner
Henry S. Tanner began his career as an engraver with the firm Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Company. Tanner engraved several maps for John Melish and thus following in his footsteps worked almost exclusively in cartographic publications. One of the first works Tanner prepared on his own was a five-volume atlas ­entitled the New American Atlas. The first volume, published in 1819, included maps of the world, Europe, and South America. The final four volumes appeared in 1819, 1821, 1822, and 1823. Tanner’s 1829 map, United States of America, extends from the Atlantic to the Missouri River and includes thirteen inset maps of important cities. Tanner’s output decreased considerably in the early 1840s with the advent of lithographic printing. In 1843 he relocated to New York City, and there died in 1858.

Robert Pearsall Smith
In 1845, Robert Pearsall Smith and his father, John Jay Smith, traveled from Philadelphia to Europe. While there, they ­became aware of a new printing technique known as the anastatic ­process. A form of lithography, the anastatic process involves transferring a printed sheet onto a lithographic stone or zinc plate for reproduction. Upon returning to Philadelphia, the Smiths acquired the patents for the process in the United States and opened a shop. The running of this shop was left primarily to Robert Smith, and one of the first projects undertaken was a reproduction of Thomas Holmes’ 1681 map of Pennsylvania.

The Anastatic Printing Office, as it was called, continued producing copies of maps until 1847, when Smith slowly began the move to the more traditional lithographic process. By 1849, Smith was publishing maps under the name Smith & Wistar. Isaac Wistar was a young man employed at the shop in charge of handling business and accounts. When Smith learned that Wistar intended to leave his employ, Smith began printing his name on maps as an enticement to stay. This did not work and Wistar left to travel the country.

Several maps were published under the name Smith & Wistar. These include Map of Burlington County, NJ, Map of the City of Philadelphia Together With All the Surrounding Districts Including Camden, New Jersey, and the central piece of this exhibition, Map of the Counties of Salem and Gloucester, New Jersey. After 1850, the business name Smith & Wistar no longer appears on any of Smith’s maps.