Early North Carolina school maps

It’s August, which means most of us are thinking about the start of school, even those of us who aren’t in school as students or teachers (think traffic). Let’s take a look at a few very scarce 19th Century published school maps of North Carolina.

Although school geography texts and atlases were plentiful in the 19th Century, most of them had only regional maps.1 Some had only continental maps. We’re going to focus on a few that contained a map of North Carolina, or of the two Carolinas.

1822 school atlas map of North Carolina
Courtesy of State Archives, Raleigh

The map above was published in A geography for schools : upon a plan entirely new… by Luke Drury, (printed by Miller & Hutchens, Providence, RI, 1822).2 One map dealer’s web site, invoking the most extreme hyperbole, states that “Drury was a preeminent mapmaker of the early 19th century, and his state maps in particular were noted for their quality and accuracy…”3  However, this school geography/atlas seems to be the only cartographic work attributed to Luke Drury (b1794-d1845).  One author’s description of a Drury map as “primitive” paints a more accurate picture.4 Only one state of the Drury map of North Carolina is known. The town locations and river systems are reasonably accurate, but the map is sparse in its detail. Obviously, some sparseness is to be expected for the small size of this map. Neither county boundaries, county names, nor roads are shown, and the towns of Salisbury and Charlotte, amongst many others, are omitted.

The map shown below was published in 1822 by Henry Charles Carey & Isaac Lea, in  The Juvenile Atlas or a Series Of Maps, To Illustrate the Old and New Worlds… (Philadelphia, PA).

1822 map of the Carolinas and Georgia
Image courtesy of the David Rumsey Collection


The map was likely drawn by John Graeme Melish. Compared to Drury’s map of the same year, the map from Carey & Lea’s Juvenile Atlas shows many more towns. The delineation of the rivers may be improved slighty, but the NC/TN boundary is a little less accurate than depicted by Drury. The Carey & Lea map exists in three states, but only the first state, the rarest of the three states, was used in a school atlas. For a more detailed discussion of the different states of N.&S. Carolina and Georgia, please click here.


1841 School Map of Carolinas
No. 11 Mitchell’s Series of Outline Maps for the use of Academies and Schools, courtesy of Connecticut Historical Society Collection

The map above was one of a series of twenty-three outline maps copyrighted (and likely printed)  by Philadelphia map publisher S. Augustus Mitchell, on behalf of the firm of Mather, Case, Tiffany & Burnham, of Hartford, CT. The latter firm published an accompanying small text (also authored and copyrighted by S. Augustus Mitchell) that served as a key for all the number and letter symbols on the maps. Other symbols representing important locations were designated as follows:

Explanation for characters used on Mitchell's Series of Outline Maps
Explanation for characters used on Mitchell’s Series of Outline Maps

These maps measured about two feet diameter, were backed with linen, and had two small rings attached on the verso so they could be hung in the classroom. A “Revised & Improved” series of maps was published in 1848, apparently limited to the maps of the U.S., world, and continents, and not including the state maps. The “Key” book is available on line; here is a link to the page with the key to the number & letter symbols on Map No.11 of North Carolina/South Carolina.

In 1916, James Albright wrote about the history of textbooks in the Confederate States of America:

Immediately upon the breaking out of hostilities between the North and the South in 1861, it became a necessity for the South to use home edited and printed school books, that our children should cease to be taught things inimical and untruthful to the Southland. And, as during the progress of the struggle for Southern rights and independence, men of brain and courage, were ever ready to meet the demands made upon them.5

Women of brain, and strong opinions of the North, also answered the call. Marinda Branson Moore authored a number of school textbooks: The Dixie primer: for the little folks; The first Dixie reader; The Dixie speller; and The geographical reader for the Dixie children. The last of that list, published in 1863, included the map shown below:

untitled map of the Carolinas from a Confederate school geography book
Untitled map of North Carolina and South Carolina from The Geographical Reader for the Dixie Children, 1863.

Like Drury’s maps, the maps in Moore’s Geographical Reader have a primitive style. However, Moore’s maps include more towns and show important roads and railroads. The entire text of Moore’s geographical reader is available on line.

The following year, 1864, Moore published a “Second Edition”, albeit under a different title: Primary geography, arranged as a reading book for common schools, with questions and answers attached. That textbook, as well as a few late issues of the 1863 Geographical Reader, contained the same maps, spruced up with a border, printed titles, and outline color.6

1864 map of North Carolina and South Carolina, published in a Confederate school book.
Image courtesy of the Osher Map Library:
Moore, Marinda Branson. 1864. Primary Geography, arranged as a Reading Book for common schools : with Questions and Answers Attached By M. B. Moore. Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, University of Southern Maine: http://www.oshermaps.org/container?id=6753, accessed 13 December 2017.

School is about to start, so we’ll stop for now so that you can go study your geography. Your first assignment is an excellent history of “Marinda Branson Moore’s Dixie Geography”, available on line here. If you have any questions, comments, or corrections, please use the “What’s on your mind?” option below.


  1. School atlases in David Rumsey Collection  http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/j2xkw1
  2. https://lccn.loc.gov/map54001112
  3. http://www.miklianmaps.com/shop/drury-map-of-new-england-1822-2/
  4. “A Checklist of Tennessee Maps, 1820-1830”, Wells, Ann Harwell. Tennessee Historical Quarterly; Nashville; 43.3 (Fall 1984): 209.
  5. “Books Made in Dixie”, Albright, James W.; Southern Historical Society Papers, XLI (September 1916), 57-60.
  6. Parrish and Willingham, Confederate Imprints, entries 7806 & 7807.

What's on your mind?