ARGO is a collaborative digital history project spearheaded by the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon and the Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center at the Boston Public Library. While you can find maps from both institutions on this site, ARGO also showcases maps from partner institutions who have generously given permission to include items from their collections in the portal. Read more about each institution below, and see what new institutions will be added to the site soon!
Richard H. Brown is a collector of maps pertaining to the American Revolutionary War era. Approximately 300 maps from his collection, containing a number of rare printed maps and unique manuscript maps, have been digitized and are included in this digital collection. A number of his maps are illustrated in a recent publication that he co-authored with Paul Cohen, Revolution: Mapping the Road to America’s Independence, 1755-1783 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2015). Richard is a member of the Board of Directors of the Leventhal Map & Education Center. The map collection is permanently housed at George Washington’s Mount Vernon in the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
Download an article about the background of this collection:
Richard Brown, "Discovering Revolutionary War Maps," The Portolan 108 (Fall 2020): 51–63.
In the collection now:
Founded in 1812 by Revolutionary War patriot and printer Isaiah Thomas, the American Antiquarian Society is both a learned society and a major independent research library. The AAS library today houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music, and graphic arts material printed through 1876 in what is now the United States, as well as manuscripts and a substantial collection of secondary texts, bibliographies, and digital resources and reference works related to all aspects of American history and culture before the twentieth century.
Of the approximately 10,000 maps in the AAS collection, 560 are dated 1750-1800, from which we selected approximately 140 items. Most of these are printed maps of eastern North America and the West Indies not duplicated in the Leventhal Map Center collection, as well as a smaller number of manuscript maps of local Massachusetts interest, all dated during the last half of the 18th century.
Founded in 1807, the Boston Athenæum is one of the oldest and most distinguished independent libraries and cultural institutions in the United States. In creating the Boston Athenæum, their purpose was to form "an establishment similar to that of the Athenæum and Lyceum of Liverpool in Great Britain; combining the advantages of a public library [and] containing the great works of learning and science in all languages." The new Athenæum flourished in culture-starved Boston and, as it voraciously acquired books, art, and artifacts, it grew rapidly. For nearly half a century the Athenæum was the unchallenged center of intellectual life in Boston, and by 1851, had become one of the largest libraries in the United States. Today its collections comprise over half a million volumes, with particular strengths in Boston history, New England state and local history, biography, English and American literature, and the fine and decorative arts.
The Boston Athenæum’s cartographic collection includes 3,000 maps and 600 atlases, but at the time of establishing this partnership only a small number had been digitized. Our selection of digital images includes two manuscript maps and 14 printed maps dating from 1750 to the first decade of the 19th century. These maps are not duplicated in the Leventhal Map Center’s collection.
The British Museum's Department of Printed Books was founded in 1753, the year of the foundation of the Museum itself. Over the intervening two hundred years, the library of the British Museum had grown into one of the largest in the world, sustained by its privilege of legal deposit whereby it was entitled to a copy of most items printed in the United Kingdom - not only books and periodicals, but newspapers, maps and printed music. The British Library was established in 1972 as a national center for reference, study and bibliographical and other information services, in relation both to scientific and technological matters and to the humanities.
The British Library has one of the largest collections of maps, plans and topographical views in the world, numbering some 4.5 million, with a chronological spread of over 2,000 years. Our selection of approximately 350 digital images consists mainly of manuscript maps related to eastern North America and the West Indies during the American Revolutionary War era. These maps were selected primarily from the King George III Topographical Collection, but were supplemented from other 18th century collections of manuscript maps held by the British Library.
The Harvard Map Collection, founded in 1818, is the oldest map collection in the United States. It houses one of the largest collections of maps, atlases and digital data in North America. The collection has grown to include ca. 400,000 maps, more than 6,000 atlases, and several thousand reference books. Topographic maps, city plans, nautical charts, and thematic maps comprise this excellent research collection representing all chronological periods and significant map makers. The Map Collection also has a strong commitment to digital resources and manages the collections of the Harvard Geospatial Library.
While the Harvard Map Collection holds approximately 2,000 maps dating from the 1750-1800 time period, only a small number of maps (61) pertaining to the American Revolution have been digitized. From these digital files, we have selected approximately 30 printed maps related to the Revolutionary War, dated from 1775-1795. These maps are not duplicated in the collections of the Leventhal Map Center.
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. The Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress provides cartographic and geographic information for all parts of the world to the Congress, Federal agencies, state and local governments, the scholarly community, and to the general public. It is the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world, numbering over 5.2 million maps, including 80,000 atlases, 25,000 geospatial datasets, 6,000 reference works, numerous globes and three-dimensional plastic relief models, and a large number of cartographic materials in other formats.
Currently, this selection of digital images includes more than 600 maps providing geographic coverage of eastern North America or the West Indies during the American Revolutionary War era. The selected images include most of the manuscript maps from this time period, as well as printed nautical charts of the Maritime Provinces and New England published in The Atlantic Neptune, that supplement charts already part of the Leventhal Map Center collection. The Library of Congress’ entire collection of Revolutionary War era maps, which numbers over 2,150 items, is described in Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies, 1750-1789, compiled by John P. Sellers and Patricia Molen Van Ee (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1981).
Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society is an invaluable resource for American history, life, and culture. Its extraordinary collections tell the story of America through millions of rare and unique documents, artifacts, and irreplaceable national treasures. As the nation’s first historical society, the MHS strives to enhance the understanding of our nation’s past and its connection to the present, demonstrating that history is not just a series of events that happened to individuals long ago but is integral to the fabric of our daily lives. Its collections are accessible to anyone with an interest in American history. Beyond research, the MHS offers many ways for the public to enjoy its collections including engaging programs, thought-provoking exhibitions, publications, seminars, and teacher workshops.
The holdings of the MHS include about 5,000 maps. Approximately 350 are dated in the 17th and 18th centuries. Of these, we selected 15 printed maps related to the Revolutionary War era that are not found in the Leventhal Map Center collection.
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical is the oldest museum in New York City. New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
The Society’s library is one of the oldest and most distinguished in the United States containing millions of items within interrelated collections of books, pamphlets, maps, atlases, newspapers, broadsides, music sheets, manuscripts, prints, photographs and architectural drawings. It is one of only sixteen libraries in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association.
Digital images of approximately 25 maps, both printed and manuscript, from the N-YHS map holdings are included in this digital collection. These items were featured in the N-YHS exhibition, “Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence,” which originated at the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library and was remounted at the N-YHS with these additional items from November 3, 2017 to March 11, 2018.
The New York Public Library has been an essential provider of free books, information, ideas, and education for all New Yorkers for more than 100 years. Founded in 1895, NYPL is the nation’s largest public library system, featuring a unique combination of 88 neighborhood branches and four scholarly research centers, bringing together an extraordinary richness of resources and opportunities available to all. The map collection, which was founded in 1898 holds more than 433,000 sheet maps and 20,000 books and atlases, making it the largest map collection in a public library.
The catalog for the NYPL map collection indicated at the time of establishing this digital partnership that there were about 875 entries for maps of North America, dated from 1733-1807. Approximately 225 of these have been digitized, from which we selected 120 maps related to the American Revolutionary War era. Most of these are printed maps dated from 1750 to the first decade of the 19th century. The selection includes maps of North America, individual colonies, and New York City and vicinity. These maps are not among the holdings of the Leventhal Map Center.
The Newberry, open to the public without charge, is an independent research library dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, especially in the humanities. The Newberry acquires and preserves a broad array of special collections research materials relating to the civilizations of Europe and the Americas. It promotes and provides for their effective use, fostering research, teaching, publication, and life-long learning, as well as civic engagement. In service to its diverse community, the Newberry encourages intellectual pursuit in an atmosphere of free inquiry and sustains the highest standards of collection preservation, bibliographic access, and reader services.
The Newberry Library’s extensive cartographic and travel collections include more than 2,500 manuscript maps and manuscript reproductions. The current selection of digital images, which was confined to several important manuscript collections, consists of approximately 50 maps related to North America during the first half of the 18th century and the American Revolutionary War era. Most of these are manuscript maps dated from 1717 to the 1790s, along with a few mid-19th century tracings of earlier maps.
The Sidney R. Knafel Map Collection is history itself in the form of a unique collection of atlases, maps, and globes dating from 1434 well into the 19th century. Many of these rare objects and documents are the subject of a 1992 book, Shedding the Veil: Mapping the European Discovery of America and the World by Thomas Suárez, and comprised in that year as an exhibit at the Addison Gallery on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts, to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing in the New World.
The collection was given to Phillips Academy in December 2011 by Sidney Knafel, class of 1948, in honor of the 18-year tenure leadership of Barbara Chase as she stepped away from the Headship and he from his role as Charter member of the Board of Trustees. Mr. Knafel collected the items as a personal passion inspired by looking out over the Atlantic from Martha's Vineyard and imagining how this land must have struck those Europeans who arrived half a millennium ago.
At Mr. Knafel's request, the collection will be on continual display within the teaching spaces of the Academy to be used as classroom tools for students. Digitization affords opportunities for teachers and students to work freely with the collection at the highest resolution so that images of globes, atlases, and renderings of coastal New England and New France at various stages of exploration and incorporation by Europeans can be examined closely. This selection of digital images consists of almost 90 items, including 50 maps of the world, the Western Hemisphere, and New England that are dated before 1750, and an additional 20 that are relevant to the American Revolutionary War era.