County Map of the State of Pennsylvania by Mitchell, 1873
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County Map of the State of Pennsylvania by Mitchell, 1873

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County Map of the State of Pennsylvania by Samuel Augustus Mitchell, Jr, published in Mitchell’s New General Atlas, 1873

This map from 1873 depicts the counties of Pennsylvania. By this year all of the state’s current county boundaries had been established.  Pennsylvania has sixty-seven counties with Philadelphia County sharing the same boundaries as the City of Philadelphia, since 1854. However, the names and locations of former municipalities are still included on the map for Philadelphia County. This could be the result of re-using already existing map plates for multiple publication issues of the atlas. Since the creation of copper plates for printing was expensive, mapmakers often transferred the image to stone to prolong the life of the plate, allowing the plates to be used for an extended period of time. Another reason for their inclusion could be that the communities had not yet been fully integrated into the city and were therefore still considered by many to be separate entities.

The year 1873 saw many important events for the United States, several of which directly affected Pennsylvania. America had entered the Gilded Age which saw rapid urban and industrial expansion. Railroads, oil, coal, and steel dominated the economy. Pennsylvania, with its vast natural resources, saw the growth of mill towns across the state. Pittsburgh, in particular, became a vital urban and industrial center. However, over expansion of these industries, especially railroads, lead to the failure of several investment ventures leading to the New York Stock Market crash on September 18, which triggered the Panic of 1873. The panic resulted in mass layoffs and severe wage cuts across the country. The resulting depression lasted until 1879, and saw a surge in organized strikes as workers protested their worsening work conditions.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous and thirty-third largest state in the United States. It borders New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio. It was the second state to ratify the Constitution, doing so on December 12, 1787. Pennsylvania’s landscape is varied with its geography being divided into regions, such as Ridge and Valley or Allegheny Plateau. Additionally, it has a number of rivers and creeks that wind through its topography, with the most important being the Delaware, Susquehanna, Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers. Each has played an important role at one time or another in Pennsylvania’s history. The state is the only one of the original thirteen not located on the Atlantic coast, increasing the importance of its rivers and its access to Lake Erie. It was a lack of coastline that ultimately decided the outcome of the Erie Triangle dispute, with the Federal government choosing to sell the contested patch of land to Pennsylvania in 1792. Otherwise, it would have remained a landlocked state.

Pennsylvania’s history can be traced back to the beginning of the colonial era. However, the history of the land and its inhabitants date back much further than that. There were several Native American tribes that lived on the land that is now Pennsylvania. The dominant groups were the Lenni Lenape (Delaware), Iroquois, Erie Nation, and the Shawnee. Within each nation, there were multiple tribes and clans spread out across the area. As Europeans began to explore North America, they encountered these tribes and early on established trade between them. Fur was the main commodity sought by European traders and the demand for pelts caused competition between several tribes. Settlers played these tribes off each other as they began to establish more permanent settlements. Competing Old World powers rushed to increase their holdings in North America and the Caribbean to secure access to valuable resources. The Swedish were the first to establish trading posts in Pennsylvania as part of their New Sweden Colony. The colony ended in 1655 when it was absorbed by the Dutch who incorporated it into their other New World holdings. In 1673, the Dutch reorganized what had been New Sweden into the three Counties of Upland, New Amstel, and Hoarkill. After Pennsylvania was turned over to England, these counties were shifted and renamed. Upland was divided between Pennsylvania and Delaware with the latter being incorporated into New Castle County, which had been New Amstel.

William Penn was the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania as issued in a royal charter by King Charles II. The colony was officially created on March 4, 1681. It was a proprietary colony and operated under Penn’s Frame of Government. The revised Frame of 1701, commonly known as the Charter of Privileges, was a significant push toward democracy in North America. In it, the lower counties were granted the right to establish home rule charters and create their own assembly. This was an important step in the creation of the State of Delaware. The 1701 Frame of Government would remain the government of Pennsylvania until the Revolutionary War.

As the colony prospered it soon sought to expand westward. The Ohio Country as it was called was claimed by both the British and the French. Tensions rose between the two countries as raids increased along the frontier. The French began to construct a line of forts to prevent British expansion, with the most important being Fort Duquesne at the confluence of the Ohio. The Battle of Jumonville Glen, on May 28, 1754, between the French and men under the leadership of George Washington, is considered the opening of the French and Indian War in North America. It was followed by an organized British Campaign to oust the French under the command of General Edward Braddock. Though his expedition failed, the larger campaign escalated hostilities and war was formerly declared two years later, following the British capture of Fort Beauséjour, May 18, 1756. Despite early losses, the British would emerge victorious. On February 10, 1763, the war was officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which saw the transfer of all French land east of the Mississippi River pass into British hands.

Despite the victory, Britain had accrued massive debts from the war. In an attempt to raise revenue, parliament passed a series of bills taxing the colonists. They also passed a bill restricting settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains to smooth tensions with the area’s powerful Native American tribes. These actions would ignite anti-British sentiment among the colonies leading to the War for Independence.  Pennsylvania would play an important role during the Revolution, particularly its capital Philadelphia, which would host the First and Second Continental Congresses. It would be the Second Continental Congress that would issue the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Several of the war’s battles took place on Pennsylvanian soil and during the winter of 1777-78, the Continental Army was camped a Valley Forge.

Following the end of the War in 1783, Pennsylvanians began to push west of the mountains. Settlements emerged around American forts, such as Fort Pitt, and along the areas river valleys. However, development did not occur at the pace the government had hoped. Despite the passage of a land act in 1792, large areas remained unoccupied and land speculation ran high. The three major land holding companies for Western Pennsylvania were the Holland Land Company, Pennsylvania Population Company, and the North American Land Company. However, population increases did occur at a steady enough rate to allow for the formation of new counties.

The outbreak of the Civil War, in 1861, had a great impact on Pennsylvania. It served as a major supplier of equipment and man power. Over three hundred sixty thousand men from Pennsylvania served in the Union Army. Only the State of New York sent more than that. In addition to man power, the Commonwealth provided the Army with critical raw supplies, such as iron for weapons and wheat for food. The rail lines that stretched across the Pennsylvania were important in transporting supplies to army regiments. However, its resources made it vulnerable to Confederate Raids. The Confederacy embarked on the Gettysburg Campaign, led by General Robert E. Lee, during the summer of 1863. It would be during this campaign that the Battle of Gettysburg would occur.  The engagement lasted three days from July 1st through 3rd. It was the bloodiest battle of the entire war with over forty-six thousand causalities. It was an important turning point in the war, which would end two years later in 1865.

After the Civil War, Pennsylvania’s resources became important economic drivers as the country tried to rebuild itself. It was this industrial growth that drew immigrants to the area leading to rapid population increase. The need for raw materials like coal and steel would help shape America’s Glided Age (1869-1896) and set the stage for the events of 1873.

Samuel Augustus Mitchell (1792-1868) turned his attention to mapmaking in the 1830s, due to his dissatisfaction with available school maps. He developed a map publishing business that would make him and later his son the most prominent American map publishers of the nineteenth century. By collaborating with prominent engravers of the day Mitchell ensured that the maps were of a high quality and consistent. In 1860, his son Samuel Augustus, Jr, joined the company and he ensured that the Mitchell name remained an important one well into the 1880s.

- Naomi Bean

Plate: 13.75” x 10.25”

Sheet:  14.75” x 10.75”

Condition: Excellent condition, with some very minor spotting.


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