The Library of Virginia

Detail view of Map of the State of Virginia, Herman Boye, engraved by Henry S. Tanner, 1827, hand-colored engravingVirginians in the new nation turned their energies to creating a commercial empire that would extend Virginia's influence to the Ohio River and beyond. Virginia and other states scrambled to create canals and establish road systems in a race to control the potential wealth of the trans-Appalachian interior. Throughout the 19th century, Virginia focused on developing internal transportation systems to funnel goods from the West to its eastern ports.

Numerous companies attempted to raise funds for canal construction. The James River and Kanawha Plan of the Great Kanawha River Company was founded in 1785 at the insistence of George Washington. After Andrew Alexander's 1814 survey of the headwaters of the James to determine the extent to which the James was navigable revealed the potential for development, the commonwealth of Virginia began to oversee the internal improvement projects. On 5 February 1816 the General Assembly Map of a Survey from Lynchburg to Lexington established the Board of Public Works and created a fund for "the purpose of rendering navigable, and uniting by canals, the principal rivers, and of more intimately connecting, by public highways, the different parts of this Commonwealth." The Board of Public Works Map & Profile of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad invested public money in the development of the state's infrastructure after private funds had been subscribed. With oversight by its principal engineer, the Board developed maps as planning documents that individuals and companies used to develop natural resources, understand demographics, and to plan turnpikes and railroads.

A Map of the Internal Improvements of VirginiaThe commonwealth also commissioned a map of the state based on extensive county surveys, which John Wood executed and Herman Boye then completed and compiled. Published in 1827, their creation served as the basic map of the state until its revision in 1859. Specialized maps, such as Claudius Crozet's internal improvement map of 1848, detailed the routes of canals and railroads, as well as locations of Virginia's rich coalfields, and were distributed not only to document the internal improvements of the state, but also to advertise the economic potential of the commonwealth. William Barton Rogers led a geological survey of the state from 1835 to 1841, Rogers's map of Virginia's geological divisions remained unpublished until 1876 when Jedidiah South West Virginia ResourcesHotchkiss included a map based on Rogers's data in a volume on the state's natural resources. Maps of Virginia's coalfields and iron ore deposits, such as Charles R. Boyd's 1881 map of southwestern Virginia, served as documents of Virginia's mineral resources and also as enticements to development in the state's western counties.


Mapping Virginia

image (23337 bytes)

Surveyors and Mapmakers

Mapping Technology

Vision of Empire

Building the Commonwealth

The Geography of Culture

Educators' Lesson Plans


image (23337 bytes)