This section of our website was created by a researcher who has retired. These pages are not maintained.
Water Ways West: The 1772 Map
This website has been created through the joint effort of the New York State Museum and the New York State Library.
Almost everyone knows how the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 provided a connection for boats and barges between Albany, on the Hudson, and Buffalo on Lake Erie, thus creating a passageway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes that revolutionized American transportation.
But two hundred years ago, decades before the Erie Canal was even begun, a network of natural and artificial waterways, including our first true canals, connected the port at Albany with the Great Lakes at Oswego, a more direct route (see map below).
This inland navigation corridor was developed on the backbone of a system of streams, lakes and rivers that had provided access across the region since prehistoric times, thanks to the fortunate geography of Upstate New York. There were few portages in this corridor, making it the best pathway west for the developing nation, since the St. Lawrence River was not at that time under American control.
The best map on which to examine this ancient waterway corridor is one created in 1772 by British cartographer Thomas Kitchin. The purpose of this website is to make this map readily available to researchers and students of American transportation history and New York State geography.
The original from which this digital version has been created is in the collections of the New York State Library, engraved for Thomas Mante, The History of the Late War in North America, London, 1772. The digital version provided on this website was created by a direct scan of the original and a reduction to 16 colors, with the variation in background colors associated with the paper medium of the map reduced to one color, leaving the inkwork of the engraving intact. This reduces file sizes and load times, but preserves all the details of the original map.
Enlargements of map areas: