Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

United States of America flag

Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Herman Moll (German, British 1654-1732)
ca. 1715
United Kingdom: England: London
paper; engraving on laid paper; outline hand-colored
Plate mark: 23 in x 38 1/4 in; 58.42 cm x 97.155 cm
The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd., Philadelphia; to the Fine Arts Committee through purchase
Credit Line
Funds donated by Mrs. Alexander O. Vietor
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number

Object Essay

Herman Moll was a German who established a map-publishing house in London about the year 1700. He was a proponent of the exploration and development of foreign lands for British investment and created maps to advance these goals. A picture on the left side of this map shows a codfish factory prospering in the north country. Above it, a lovely baroque cartouche is flanked by images of noble natives, with sugarcane, gold, textiles, tobacco, and furs, all under a prominent British coat of arms. The map refutes French claims to North America by showing the British boundaries west of the Appalachian Mountains.1Schwartz and Ehrenberg, 140.

The geography is based primarily on the best French sources of the time. The sinusoidal projection is taken from Nicolas Sanson’s earlier experiments at showing the midregions of continents to best advantage. Information on the Mississippi River system is obviously derived from Guillaume Delisle’s famous maps of New France, which first placed that river on its proper meridian in 1703. The map is one of the more prominent works to show California as an island, a misconception that persisted for more than a hundred years.2Ronald Vere Tooley, “California as an Island,” in The Mapping of America (London: Holland Press, 1980), 130. In the Gulf of Mexico a dotted line traces the route of the Spanish galleons from Vera Cruz to Havana and from Havana to Spain. The ten inset plans of harbors in the lower left corner attest to the many fine and thriving harbors in North America and the West Indies in the early eighteenth century.

Donald H. Cresswell 

Excerpted from Jonathan L. Fairbanks. Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State. New York: Rizzoli, 2003.