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  • A513 - Lake Superior
SKU: A513

A513 - Lake Superior

£234.20Price

As interesting and beautiful in its simplicity as Joseph Bouchette's map is, it is the story behind it which gives it the colour and reference it deserves: First of all, as large as the map is it simply cannot convey the vastness of the country it depicts, nor the beauty and harshness which confronted those who worked and lived there at this time.

  • 1797

The author of the original survey which was the basis for the map presented here is David Thompson who was born in Westminster, England, April 30, 1770.

 

Age fourteen, he was apprenticed as a clerk to the Hudson’s Bay Company and arrived at Churchill Factory on Hudson Bay in September of 1784. His first two years were spent on the shores of Hudson Bay at the Churchill and York factories before being stationed at several posts on the Saskatchewan River (see Heritage Charts A509).

 

Thompson left the Hudson Bay company in 1797 and made the move to their competitors the North West Company of Canada. Thompson’s first assignment was to determine the longitude and latitude of the North West Company posts affected by the Jay Treaty of 1794 [2]. It is therefore more than likely that the map presented here by Joseph Bouchette is just that map.

 

North West Company trading-posts are clearly marked across the map. The thin red line would seem to indicate the route Thompson followed in the making of his survey. In 10 months he and his team had mapped about 4,000 miles. The only problem we have with the information on the map compared to that available, in some abundance, by book and internet, is the date on this version of the map: It is known that Thompson did not leave the Hudson Bay Company until 23rd May 1797. He therefore could not have completed his original survey for in time for Bouchette to have copied it in 1797, unless he had already completed the survey and took it with him when he left the employment of the Hudson Bay Company.

 

If indeed Thompson only finished his survey in 1798 from Grand Portage, through Lake Winnipeg, to the headwaters of the Assiniboine and Mississippi rivers, as well as two sides of Lake Superior, having only started in November of the previous year, the information would not have bee available for Bouchette until later in 1798 at the earliest. Unless of course the key information from Thompson's survey had bee available to Bouchette earlier.

 

Three other points of interest on the map as drawn are worth noting; Firstly, the near total absence of any indigenous place names, with the single exception of Pt of 'Keewenaw', and the 'Michipicoton' River. Clearly a working map for the Company, not one for political correctness. Secondly, the omission of the Island, known today as Isle Royal, which can only suggest that it was of no interest to the North West Company at the time. Finally, in addition to the marking of all of the NW Company posts, of which there would appear to be thirteen, the map also marks all of the 'portages' (note 3). Something important to know when most of all furs and other 'produce' had to be transported by canoe. It may well be that the map presented is indeed a copy of Thompsons work but it is an even later copy than Bouchette's (less than complete) copy, made for the NW Company with Reference to Bouchette. That the (original) of this map is part of the Admiralty holdings confirms the authenticity of it. There is always of course the possibility that the map has the correct date on it and it is the historians, biographers and the internet have got it wrong! As an explorer and surveyor Thompson was did more than anyone to open-up western Canada. Between 1792 and 1812 he had explored and mapped the country west of Hudson Bay and Lake Superior, across the Rocky Mountains to the source of the Columbia River, and followed the length of the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.

 

Whatever the truth behind the making of this historical map it serves as an excellent example of how important it is when viewing such material to look closely and investigate, especially when considering the humanity and struggle which undoubtedly went into the making of such surveys.

 

[1]. History of David Thompson’s Travels with Pictures by Ned Eddings. Click here to view

[2]. The Jay Treaty required the North West Company to respect the boundary set by the Treaty of Versailles following the American Revolution. Enforcing the treaty was difficult because the precise location of the forty-ninth parallel was unclear.

[3]. 'Portage'or 'portaging': The practice of carrying water craft or cargo over land, either around an obstacle in a river, or between two bodies of water.

Size of Original
h24.5" x w43.5"
Author

Joseph Bouchette

Date
1797

A513 - Lake Superior

A513

As interesting and beautiful in its simplicity as Joseph Bouchette's map is, it is the story behind it which gives it the colour and reference it deserves: First of all, as large as the map is it simply cannot convey the vastness of the country it depicts, nor the beauty and harshness which confronted those who worked and lived there at this time.

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