• "Colby's maps of the timber lands of Maine. No. 6. (1885)." Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

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    Colby's maps of the timber lands of Maine. No. 6. (1885)
    • Date
    • 1885
    • Creator
    • Colby, George N. George N. Colby & Co.
    • Description
    • Hand colored lithographed map. Relief shown by hachures. See note field above. P1773, U.S. Atlases L1501.
    • Rights
    • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
    • Partner
    • David Rumsey

  • "Manufactures: 1890. Value of product in dollars per head of population. 343. Cotton. 344. Lumber." Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

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    Manufactures: 1890. Value of product in dollars per head of population. 343. Cotton. 344. Lumber.
    • Date
    • 1898
    • Creator
    • Gannett, Henry, 1846-1914. United States. Census Office. Julius Bien & Co.
    • Description
    • Six color lithographed maps. See note field above. Schwartz P1333; LeGear 410; P-Maps 945.
    • Rights
    • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
    • Partner
    • David Rumsey

  • "Puget Sound Lumber Co., Woodland, Cal. A Powell, manager." Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

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    Puget Sound Lumber Co., Woodland, Cal. A Powell, manager.
    • Date
    • 1879
    • Creator
    • De Pue & Company. Galloway, W. T. (William T.).
    • Description
    • Lithographed drawing with 2 ancillary views. Show buildings, windmill, carriage, wagons, train, farm animals, human figures, etc. Main view also shows train depot and C.H. Carson's box factory and planing mill. Holton property is in T. 9 N., R. 1 W, ... more
      Lithographed drawing with 2 ancillary views. Show buildings, windmill, carriage, wagons, train, farm animals, human figures, etc. Main view also shows train depot and C.H. Carson's box factory and planing mill. Holton property is in T. 9 N., R. 1 W, sec. 12, SE 1/4. See note field above. Phillips, 11503; LeGear. Atlases of the United States, L482. less
    • Rights
    • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
    • Partner
    • David Rumsey

  • "(Portraits of) Lumber dealers: Geo. H. Warren, G.W. Houghtaling, Geo. B. Judd, Charles Bean, Jacob Bean, Orange Walker, Asa Libby, Isaac Staples, Levi Butler." Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

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    (Portraits of) Lumber dealers: Geo. H. Warren, G.W. Houghtaling, Geo. B. Judd, Charles Bean, Jacob Bean, Orange Walker, Asa Libby, Isaac Staples, Levi Butler.
    • Date
    • 1874
    • Creator
    • Andreas, A. T. (Alfred Theodore), 1839-1900. Chas. Shober & Co.
    • Description
    • Nineteen lithographed views. Special ed. with three city views added, as issued. This deluxe ed. added views of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Winona. It is bound in embossed red cloth covers (green for the regular ed.) with marbled end papers. The regul... more
      Nineteen lithographed views. Special ed. with three city views added, as issued. This deluxe ed. added views of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Winona. It is bound in embossed red cloth covers (green for the regular ed.) with marbled end papers. The regular ed. was a much larger press run and was distributed to all the schools in the state. This special ed. is rare, especially with the views still present. This copy is from the collection of the former Governor of Minnesota, Elmer Andersen. Hand painted and printed in full color. Front and back covers stamped with "Illustrated historical atlas of the State of Minnesota. 1874" in gilt. P2007; Checklist of printed maps of the Middle West to 1900, 7-0857; LC United States atlases, L1901; Ristow, American maps and mapmakers, p. 433-437. Checklist of printed maps of the Middle West to 1900, 7-0857; P2007; LC United States atlases, L1901; Ristow, American maps and mapmakers, p. 433-437. less
    • Rights
    • Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
    • Partner
    • David Rumsey

The end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 marked the beginning of a new era. American colonists, having proved their strength against England, were determined to expand and increase their national wealth. As part of their push west, business prospectors and investors began to explore the American continent with an eye towards harnessing its natural treasures. The landscape, virtually overflowing with wild animals, mines and mineral deposits, countless fresh water bodies, vast expanses of forests, and potential farmland, was quickly surveyed and mapped. Investors saw these natural resources as theirs for the taking, ready to be seized, developed, and exploited for profit.

American life was literally built on timber. Its utility—for construction, heating, furniture, tools, and other everyday contrivances—made it particularly attractive to investors as the West opened up in the nineteenth century. Maps of the era reveal this fixation on identifying timber-rich lands that could be logged to fill the ever-growing need for wood by the rapidly multiplying American states.

The acquisition of land that would become the United States (including the Louisiana Purchase), along with the settler population’s increasing comfort with the continent’s geography and native populations, opened up vast tracts of land previously unimaginable to lumber companies and their employees. From the lakes region in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, to the frontier in the Mountain West, lumber appeared limitless. Settlers saw large forests as even larger dollar signs, and, like other natural resources, maps were created to show investors where their money was going and from whence their profits came.

The presence of lumberyards in major towns throughout the country indicated the widespread domestic need for wood. Local use was not the end of the story however. By the early-twentieth century, the U.S. lumber exports were supplying large markets throughout the western world, in large part due to careful mapping, burgeoning financial investment, and the growth of national infrastructure.