James Wimble: 1738 map of NC

In 1738, James Wimble’s chart of the coast of North Carolina was published in London. The lengthy title: To His Grace Thomas Hollis Pelham Duke of Newcastle Principal Secretary of State and one of His Majesties most Honourable Privy Council, &c. This Chart of his Majesties Province of North Carolina With a full & exact description of the Sea-coast, Latitudes, Capes, remarkable Inlets, Bars, Channels, Rivers, Creeks, Shoals, depth of Water, Ebbing & Flowing of the Tides, the generally Winds Setting of the Currents, Counties, Precincts, Towns, Plantations, and leading Marks, with directions for all the navigable Inlets; are Carefully laid down and humbly dedicated, by Your Grace’s most humble, most dutiful, & most Obedient Servant, James Wimble. The map was printed on two large sheets that, when joined, measure approximately 57 x 96 cm (over three feet wide).

James Wimble published a large chart of the North Carolina coast in 1738
James Wimble’s 1738 chart of the North Carolina coast. Image courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library (click on image to go to zoomable image on JCB web site).

One would think a map that size could not be easily hidden. Yet, I have been unable to locate a surviving original copy of this map in the state of North Carolina. Original copies are known in the John Carter Brown Library, Yale University, the University of Virginia, in the national libraries of France and Spain, and in several British repositories. The Library of Congress has a copy, but I do not recall if it is an original.

Were there ever any original copies of Wimble’s chart in North Carolina? Absolutely, though the number is unknown. Without doubt, Josiah Collins III, of Washington County, owned an original Wimble chart. I have been unable to determine if it was brought to America by his grandfather, Josiah Collins Sr., in 1773, or if it was a later purchase by Collins Sr, II, or III.

The Collins copy was in Josiah Collins III’s possession in 1850. On March 14-15, 1850, more than 100 delegates from the counties in the Albemarle Sound region met in Plymouth, NC, to discuss the feasibility of opening an inlet at or near Nag’s Head. The published proceedings include the following information.1

Mr. Collins (JC III) proposed that those Gentlemen who had maps, documents &c., relating to the subject of an inlet at Nag’s Head, be requested, to lay them on the Secretaries table which was agreed to.

Charts and documents, were presented by Josiah Collins, J. C. B. Ehringhaus, and J. C. Bond. (March 14)

Resolved, That the committee on printing be directed to take charge of the funds raised, and have Wimble’s chart (laid on the table by Mr. C.) lithographed… (March 15)

The second meeting of the Nag’s Head Convention met in Edenton on November 7, 1850.2

We have not received the official proceedings; but learn that the attendance of delegates was thin, and that little was done…  A resolution was passed

…to procure the engraving of an old map of the Inlet, for circulation. Funds were raised for that purpose.

Whether that was in reference to the Wimble map or an old manuscript map is not stated. However, progress was made towards the reprinting of the Wimble map.3

Hon. David Outlaw reported, that he had received, of the committee appointed at the Edenton convention [Messrs. Hathaway and Wood] the sum of $196, and that he had placed the amount in the hands of Professor Bache4, to have Wimble’s Map of N.C. Lithographed, and that the work would soon be completed, and distributed.

At that point, the trail turns cold. Did Alexander Bache succeed in having a lithographic facsimile printed? Highly probable. There are definitely very old lithographic facsimiles (including one in the State Archives that is cataloged as an original 1738 printed map, plus two additional copies in the Archives that are reportedly identical to the above). Although these were likely produced circa 1851 under the supervision of Bache, proof of such has not been located.  No printing records, payment records, or delivery records pertaining to a circa 1851 lithograph have been located. This project was likely a small print run, not intended as a commercial venture, but simply to provide a relatively small group of politicians and engineers greater access to this scarce map.  Unfortunately, the oldest facsimile (by appearance) of Wimble’s map has no lithographer’s imprint, date, location, or other information other than what was on the original map.

Was Collins’s copy returned to him? Doubtful; no further mention of it has been found. According to an expert5 on the topic, the cheapest and also most accurate method of transferring a printed map to lithography in the mid 19th Century would have resulted in severe damage, if not outright destruction, of the original. One might wonder if Collins was aware of this beforehand.

In the unlikely event that Collins’s original Wimble map wasn’t destroyed, did the U.S. Coast Survey department keep it? The mention of Wimble’s map in possession of Coast Survey engineers in Wilmington in the early 20th Century raises hope that the copy owned by Josiah Collins III might have survived, but I suspect the probability is greater that it was a lithograph.

Obviously, the original copies have plate marks and were printed on 18th Century paper, but these features are never commented upon. Therefore, late 19th Century (and subsequent) references to surviving copies of Wimble’s chart are generally too vague to determine whether they refer to originals or facsimiles.

The following newspaper clippings offer teasing tidbits of information.

The Wilmington Sun (Wilmington, North Carolina) · 17 Jan 1879, Fri · Page 4
The Newbern Nut Shell… has found a man who has found a map of all this part of Carolina when there was no State in existence. The map was presented to Mr. Reid Whitford by Dr. William Little, of Raleigh, and, says the Nut Shell, “though old and peculiar in many points, is a thorough and correct map of the Eastern portion of North Carolina. It is headed, “To His Grace Thomas Hollis Pelham…” Just beneath the heading, the following inscription shows the age of the map: “Engraved and published according to act of Parliament Anno 1738.”

Kinston Journal (Kinston, North Carolina) · 17 Jul 1879, Thu · Page 3
Mr. J. S. Midyette owns a very ancient map of Eastern North Carolina, made in 1738 by James Wimble of Boston and dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle….

Wimble’s map was mentioned twice in 1879. One was presented (shown or gifted?) to Mr. Reid Whitford by Dr. William Little, of Raleigh. It doesn’t state that Dr. William Little actually owned the map, so one must make an assumption that he did. The other mention in 1879 clearly states that a copy was owned by J. S. Midyette.  One would like to assume, less than 30 years after the presumed lithographic reprint by Bache, that the “ancient map” was an original copy. Current location of these copies? Unknown.

The Farmer and Mechanic (Raleigh, North Carolina) · 9 Aug 1898, Tue · Page 4
Your correspondent was shown today a map of North Carolina engraved and published according to act of Parliament A. D. 1738. This map, notwithstanding its great age, is in an excellent state of preservation, and is wonderfully accurate. It is dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle in the following words…  …“JAMES WIMBLE.”

The Morning Post (Raleigh, North Carolina) · 21 Sep 1905, Thu · Page 8
HISTORICAL RE-PRINTS
Col. Grimes Authorized to do Important Historical Work
The North Carolina historical commission has authorized Col. J. Bryan Grimes, secretary of state, to reprint “Brickell’s History of North Carolina” from an original volume published in Dublin, Ireland, as far back as 1735, also “Oldmixon’s History of North Carolina,” “Archdale’s History of North Carolina,”  “Chapters from Chalmers’ Political Annals and History of the Revolution of the American Colonies.”

In fitting places of the text matter there will also be reproduced fine and rare old maps, among them that by Lawson, in 1797; H. Moll’s, in 1730; Brickell’s, in 1735; Wimble’s Coast Chart, in 1738…  The printing and binding will be done here and the maps will be sent to Philadelphia for engraving.

The maps of Moll, Bowen and Brickell were obtained in Europe, and that of Wimble was loaned by Mr. S. F. Burbank of the United States engineering corps, and contains the locations of the homes of the principal residents.

The commission decided to make these reprints in order that such valuable references can be put within reach of the students of the history of the state, the original matter being inaccessible.

The Wilmington Messenger (Wilmington, North Carolina) · 21 Sep 1905, Thu · Page 5
RARE MAP OF THE N. C. COAST
Old Engraving, Made for the King of England, Sent to Raleigh From Wilmington
(Special to The Messenger)
Raleigh, N. C.  September 20.—Secretary of State Grimes received from S. F. Burbank, of the United States engineer corps at Wilmington a rare map made by James Wimble in 1738, showing the coast of North Carolina. The map was made for the King of England. It is very large and well engraved, and shows the residence of every planter of the colony at that date. Only three other copies of it are known of by Secretary Grimes. The late Hon. George Davis, of Wilmington, owned one, and the others are held by W. D. [sic, should be W. B.] Rodman, of Charlotte, and the library of congress. The map is to be engraved, in the same size, by the historical commission. It will be in in reprint of histories of North Carolina by Brickell, Oldmixon and others. In the volume will be maps of H. Marr [sic], 1730; Emanuel Bowen, 1735, and Brickell in 1735.

The Brickell book was reprinted in 1911, but that seems to be the extent of the historical commission’s progress on this intended project.6

The Western Sentinel (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) · 5 Oct 1920, Tue · Page 6
UNIQUE MAP NORTH CAROLINA COAST
Drawing Made in 1738 While This State Was Still a Colony of England
Wilmington, Oct 3—What is probably the first map of much accuracy ever made of
coast of North Carolina is in the office of Major J. R. D. Mattheson, local district army engineer, and to preserve the old drawing that is unique it has been framed and placed upon the wall of Maj. Mattheson’s office that it may be inspected by callers. The drawing is 182 years old, having been made in the year 1738, while this state was still a colony of England. The map was prepared by one John [sic] Wimble.

Probably one of the most interesting features of the drawing is the title, which is enshrouded in a mass of ink handwork that is a credit to the drawer. The title reads as follows: “To his grace, Thomas Hollis Pelham, duke of Newcastle… By your most humble, most dutiful and most obedient servant, James Wimble.”

The Cape Fear river showing the location of the towns of Wilmington and Brunswick is very prominent, and plantations are shown along the river bearing the names of persons who were foremost in local history of a century and a half past. Another interesting feature is that which is now known as New Inlet is not shown, the storm which broke thru occurring many years after the map was prepared.

The Independent (Elizabeth City, North Carolina) · 5 Jun 1936, Fri · Page 8
(Below a sketch of a portion of the map) COUNTLESS theories have been advanced and thousands of words written regarding the origin of the name Kitty Hawk, but this old map, drawn in 1738 by one James Wimble, tells more in one word about the origin of the name than thousands of words would tell. This map clearly shows that the section now known as Kitty Hawk was known as Chickahauk two hundred years ago. What Chickahauk may have meant in the Indian language is not known today. The map or chart shown above is drawn from a section of a chart of His Majesty’s Province of North Carolina, drawn by one James Wimble for “His Grace, Thomas Hollis Pelham, Duke of Newcastle…” This old chart was discovered recently by Frank Stick.

Frank Stick was the father of noted Outer Banks historian, David Stick. The latter was instrumental in the founding of the Outer Banks History Center in Manteo, NC, now one of three repositories of the State Archives of North Carolina. Where did Frank Stick discover it? Did he acquire it and, if so, what happened to it? No Wimble map is listed in the collection catalog of the OBHC.

The End.

Well, not really. This is a work in progress… actually, it’s just a work… ok, it’s just a pile of notes. I have not been able to make any substantial progress, so I thought I’d throw this out on the internet and hope people with knowledge on the subject will share via the “What’s on your mind?” comment box below. We welcome any corrections or any knowledge about James Wimble or his map, including location of any original copies not mentioned above, and any information on the 19th Century lithographic facsimile. The map by James Wimble is on our list of Rare Maps of North Carolina.

Additional reading:
Wimble’s Maps and the Colonial Cartography of the North Carolina Coast by William P. Cumming
North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 46 Issue 2, April 1969, p157-170
https://www.jstor.org/stable/23518113

The Turbulent Life of Captain James Wimble by William P. Cumming
North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 46 Issue 1, January 1969, p1-18
https://www.jstor.org/stable/23517928

References

  1. The Old North State (Elizabeth City, North Carolina) · 30 Mar 1850, Sat · Page 1; accessed on line, https://newscomwc.newspapers.com/clip/95917751/18500330-theoldnorthstate-elizcity-wimbl/
  2. The Democratic Pioneer (Elizabeth City, North Carolina) · 12 Nov 1850, Tue · Page 2; accessed on line, https://newscomwc.newspapers.com/clip/96028324/18501112-thedemocraticpioneer-p2-elizcit/
  3. North State Whig (Washington, North Carolina) · 4 Jun 1851, Wed · Page 2; accessed on line, https://newscomwc.newspapers.com/clip/96983184/18510604-northstatewhig-washington-wimbl/
  4. Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, was an 1825 graduate (first in his class) from West Point. Although Bache served in this capacity as a civilian, the Coast Survey utilized engineers from the Army and Navy.
  5. Personal communication from cartographic history scholar and author, Ashley Baynton-Williams.
  6. I am indebted to Bob Anthony, former curator of the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill (and walking Encyclopedia of North Carolina) for this information.

What's on your mind?