Map, "A MAP of/ the most INHABITED part of/ VIRGINIA/ containing the whole PROVINCE of/ MARYLAND/ with Part of/ PENSILVANIA, NEW JERSEY AND NORTH CAROLINA"

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  • Cartographer: Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson Engraver: Thomas Jefferys
  • London, England
  • 1768 (first published ca. 1753)
  • Black and White Line Engraving with Period Color
  • 1968-11

In Virginia and Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay and its vast tributaries were the single most important factor in shaping the culture of that region. Thousands of miles of waterfront provided rich tracts of land, well-suited for an agrarian economy supported by the importation of slave labor. The wealthiest colonists amassed large plantations along the shorelines. These waterways were critical to the tobacco trade, allowing ships to sail inaldn for miles to load tobacco directly onto the boats at each plantation. This advantage spared planters the expense of transporting their crops over land. Not only was land transportation more expensive, but damage to the tobacco was greater.

The significance of this feature of the landscape was captured in the cartouche of A MAP of the most inhabited part of VIRGINIA. The "seated" palnter, being served a drink in a wine glass, is the only one for whom a chair was provided. The standing man in the foreground is presumably the ship captain. The scantily clothed laborers working in the background represent the large labor force necessary for tobacco cultivation. These slaves were clearly depicted in a manner subservient to the Englishmen. For the most part, they have their backs towards the viewer.

Perhaps the most curious feature of the cartouche was the rendering of the structure in the background. No shed or warehouse on a wharf in Virginia would have been constructed out of stone block in the middle of the eighteenth century; they would certainly have been made of wood. But, the material properties of stone create a sense of solidity and permanence not associated with wood. The stone struture provided a subtle device to indicate England's secure position over both the land and their imported labor force.

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