Chicago Map Society: Robert A. Holland, The Mississippi River in Maps & Views: From Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico

Chicago Map Society Meeting
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Father of Waters, The Gathering of Waters, The Big Muddy, Ol’ Man River – the Mississippi is America’s main street, celebrated in history, song, story, and maps. Chicago Map Society member Bob Holland will give us a preview of his newly published book, The Mississippi River in Maps & Views.  Beginning with maps that illustrate the European discovery and exploration of the Mississippi and the subsequent colonization of the Great River’s valley, Bob will move on to the many efforts over several centuries to “pin down” the two end points of the Mississippi – source and mouth.  In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase more than doubled the size of the United States, placing the Mississippi at the young country’s western frontier.  Cartographic depictions of the Purchase were soon to appear, and we will see maps illustrating several attempts by the federal government explore and settle this newly acquired territory.  Militarily, the Mississippi River has been the key to the control of the interior of the vast continent of North America, a reality we will see clearly represented by maps of several North American conflicts.  We will also see maps that depict a time when paddle wheelers plied the country’s main commercial thoroughfare, and charts that helped maintain a navigable commercial channel in the river and protect its valley from flooding.  Finally, we’ll see a number of nineteenth-century town views that artistically record the settlement of the banks of the Mississippi.  Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

Dr. Holland is a former professor of philosophy at Hofstra University, currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Map Society, and is the author of Chicago in Maps, published by Rizzoli.