I am told that there are people who do not care for maps, and I find it hard to believe. -- Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island)

Martenet's 1885 Wall Map of Maryland

Much has been written about the county maps and atlases popular in the second half of the 19th century.* They were popular when first issued, and remain so among historians and genealogists for their unique glimpse at period geography.

This firm played a part in that activity, and although it has remained silent on the topic for the last 100 or so years, we felt we could add something to the conversation from the perspective of the producers of those maps. We've not seen much discussion elsewhere about how the maps were made, technically, or how they were promoted, so we'll introduce materials heretofore "behind the veil" and hopefully advance the understanding of the art.

A Sideline
As has been pointed out elsewhere on this site, these maps were not the focus of the firm; they were but a sideline for an entrepreneur seeking to broaden his sources of income. In that, we must assume he was successful, because he followed the first effort with others, ultimately culminating in the 1885 Wall Map of Maryland.

Cecil County Circular
(Click to enlarge)

Poolesville notes
(Click to enlarge)
In all, the firm produced a 74-page Maryland Atlas and at least 9 published county and state-wide maps, some of which had periodic updates until 1904 when the Baltimore Fire refocused the firm onto its core competencies. Additionally, printed circulars in 1867 offered for sale maps of three other counties, Queen Anne's, Washington, and Frederick, but no copies have been found. And at least two maps of Baltimore City were published by others, based on the firm's work. There are no in-house records documenting when the mapmaking began, but Martenet himself wrote that he started during the panic of 1857, a period when normal business trailed off. The first map was that of Cecil County, for which he solicited subscriptions to hedge his financial bet (see circular at left).

Unfortunately, most of the background material for the maps was lost in the Great Baltimore Fire of February 7-8, 1904. Enough remains, however, to gain some insight into the enterprise.

The maps were partially funded by using subscriptions—money advanced to the firm by landowners or tenants who wished to guarantee that their house (and, more importantly, their name) appeared on the final product. Vanity is a powerful motivator. Some areas were more susceptible to that weakness than others. J.D. Rhodes, one of the surveyors measuring Montgomery County, noted that Poolesville was a "shabby place, not one subscriber."

*[See Maryland Geological Survey: General Reports Volume Two. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1898, pp. 442-447; Papenfuse, Edward C. and Joseph M. Coale III. The Maryland State Archives Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, 1608-1908. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003, pp.113-154.]

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