by: Nicholas Schmidt
Over 250 years ago, in colonial Philadelphia, James Nevil published William Scull’s 1770 map depicting the extensive frontier of the Province of Pennsylvania. Scull was an American cartographer and officer during the Revolutionary War. The Penn brothers commissioned the map to ensure that the borders of the colony were properly documented. The brothers also wanted to detail the settled parts of the land.
Scull was chosen, not only for his acuity as a surveyor, but also for his family connections. In 1759, William’s grandfather, Nicholas Scull was commissioned by the Penns to produce a map for a similar purpose. William used his grandfather’s map, as well as his own surveys, to produce the first map of Pennsylvania to show its southern boundary based on the survey completed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
Scull’s map details some of the most notable historic sites in Pennsylvania, including Fort Pitt – the site of present-day Pittsburgh – and the city grid of Philadelphia along the Delaware River. The map also displays roads that ran between counties, paths, and buildings; all the features the Penns desired in a detailed depiction of settlement. One interesting aspect of the map is that Scull shows the location of coal throughout the province. Not only this, but he actually predicts the growth of the mining industry in western Pennsylvania.
William Scull’s map of Pennsylvania is exceedingly rare. Although many gift shops throughout present-day Pennsylvania have affordable replicas of the map available for purchase, originals can have a price tag of thousands, to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Scull, W., Dawkins, H. & Nevil, J. (1770) To the Honorable Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, Esquires, true and absolute proprietaries and Governors of the Province of Pennsylvania and the territories thereunto belonging and to the Honorable John Penn, Esquire, Lieutenant-Governor of the same, this map. Of the Province of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Printed by James Nevil. [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/74692505/.