1612 – Map of Virginia by John Smith

Map courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Map

Captain John Smith created the first detailed map of the Chesapeake Bay and what is today Washington, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Published in 1612, the map shows the shoreline, rivers, tributaries, bays and islands he visited on his journey.
Some notable features of the map include:
• The compass, which shows north to the right rather than at the top of the map. Smith drew the map from the perspective of a ship crossing the Atlantic.
• The native chief Powhatan, who is shown in his long house, in the upper left of the map.
• Small circles that show the location of more than 200 native towns.
• The sea monster to the right of the compass, common on early maps.

The Map Maker

  • John Smith

    Captain John Smith (1580-1631) was a soldier and writer who is best known for his role in establishing the Virginia colony at Jamestown. While there, he served on the local council; explored and mapped the Chesapeake Bay; and was president of the colony from September 1609-September 1610. He returned to England in October 1610. He never went back to Virginia, but he did travel to and map a portion of the northeast coast of North America, which he named New England. His narratives provide invaluable insights into English and native life during the Virginia Colony’s formative years.