1861 – MAP OF VIRGINIA Showing the distribution of its SLAVE POPULATION from the CENSUS OF 1860

Map courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Map Makers

  • Edwin Hergesheimer (1835-1889)

    Though the map was copyrighted by commercial lithographer Henry Graham, it was drawn by Edwin Hergesheimer (1835-1889), one of several pro-Union German emigres working for Alexander D. Bache (1806-1867), the superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey and a pro-Unionist. It was engraved by Theodore Leonhardt (1818-1877), another German immigrant.

    Building on the success of the Virginia map, Hergesheimer produced a Map Showing the Distribution of the Slave Population of the Southern Stateswhich reportedly caught the attention of President Lincoln and features prominently in the lower right-hand corner of the painting, “President Lincoln Reading the Emancipation Proclamation to His Cabinet,” by Francis Bicknell Carpenter.

The Map

The map depicts Virginia and its counties in outline, with each county shaded to reflect the number of slaves as a percentage of the overall population. Based on the 1860 Census, it is one of the first examples of thematic mapping in the United States, and was intended to demonstrate the wildly uneven distribution of slaveholding in Virginia and thereby influence the state’s secession debates of 1861.

The map’s shading graphically shows that slaveholding was heavily concentrated in Virginia’s eastern and southern counties. In the buildup to the Civil War, the intensity of slaveholding in the eastern and southern counties correlated rather strongly with secessionist sentiment, whereas the western counties tended to be pro-Union.

The map was printed in several editions in 1861.  The second edition, shown here, included a dashed border that separates the western counties, collectively called Kanawha, which became the core of the new State of West Virginia in June of 1863. Slaves accounted for 27 percent of Jefferson County’s 1860 population of 14,535, the highest percentage of any county in what would become the state of West Virginia.