The Arrowsmiths were a cartographic dynasty which operated from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth. The family business was founded by Aaron Arrowsmith (1750-1823), who was renowned for carefully prepared and meticulously updated maps, globes, and charts. He created many maps that covered multiple sheets and which were massive in total size. His spare yet exacting style was recognized around the world and mapmakers from other countries, especially the young country of the United States, sought his maps and charts as exemplars for their own work.

Aaron Arrowsmith was born in County Durham in 1750. He came to London for work around 1770, where he found employment as a surveyor for the city’s mapmakers. By 1790, he had set up his own shop which specialized in general charts. Arrowsmith had five premises in his career, most of which were located on or near Soho Square, a neighborhood the led him to rub shoulders with the likes of Joseph Banks, the naturalist, and Matthew Flinders, the hydrographer.

Through his business ties and employment at the Hydrographic Office, Arrowsmith made other important relationships with Alexander Dalrymple, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and others entities. In 1810 he became Hydrographer to the Prince of Wales and, in 1820, Hydrographer to the King.

Aaron Arrowsmith died in 1823, whereby the business and title of Hydrographer to the King passed to his sons, Aaron and Samuel, and, later, his nephew, John. Aaron Jr. (1802-1854) was a founder member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and left the family business in 1832; instead, he enrolled at Oxford to study to become a minister. Samuel (1805-1839) joined Aaron as a partner in the business and they traded together until Aaron left for the ministry. Samuel died at age 34 in 1839; his brother presided over his funeral. The remaining stock and copper plates were bought at auction by John Arrowsmith, their cousin.

John (1790-1873) operated his own independent business after his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith Sr., died. After 1839, John moved into the Soho premises of his uncle and cousins. John enjoyed considerable recognition in the geography and exploration community. Like Aaron Jr., John was a founder member of the RGS and would serve as its unofficial cartographer for 43 years. Several geographical features in Australia and Canada are named after him. He carried the title Hydrographer to Queen Victoria. He died in 1873 and the majority of his stock was eventually bought by Edward Stanford, who co-founded Stanford’s map shop, which is still open in Covent Garden, London today.


1804 - Louisiana (Louisiana Territory)

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The First American Map of Louisiana Territory Nice example of Arrowsmith & Lewis's map of Louisiana Territory, first published shortly after the completion of the Louisiana Purchase and about the time Lewis & Clark set out to explore the...


1804 - Connecticut

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Early map of the state of Connecticut, from Arrowsmith & Lewis's Atlas.


1804 - New York

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Early map of the state of New York, from Arrowsmith & Lewis's Atlas.


1804 - New Jersey

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Early map of the state of New Jersey, from Arrowsmith & Lewis's Atlas. Tanner was the engraver of the map and signed it under the title "Tanner, Sc."


1804 - Tennessee

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Early map of Tennessee, shortly after statehood. Includes counties, towns, rivers, and other features. Washington District still shown. South of the state are the United States Lands and Tennessee Company.


1804 - Virginia

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Early engraved map of Virginia, published in Philadelphia in 1804. The map shows towns, early roads and distances, early counties, mountains, rivers and other details.


1804 - North Carolina

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Early map of North Carolina. Early county names and configurations are shown. "Western Part of North Carolina continued." is shown in an inset map in the lower-left corner.


1802 - Spanish Dominions in North America

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A Fascinating Pre-Louisiana Purchase Map of Texas and the Southwest Scarce early map of Mexico, Upper California, Texas and Louisiana Territory. The map extends on the west coast from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, with a detailed account of the...


1804 - North America

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A Fascinating Pre-Louisiana Purchase Map of North America Scarce early map of North America, shortly before the Louisiana Purchase. An interesting time period, immediately preceding the reports of Alexander von Humboldt and Zebulon Pike, in the year...


1804 - British Possessions in America

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Scarce engraved map of Canada, published in Philadelphia in 1804. Shows a potential land bridge from Russia to Alaska. Speculates about the existence of the Northwest Passage.