A Map of America between Latitudes 40 and 70 North and Longitudes 45 and 180 West...
Published 1801, London
Size: 17.3" X 30.5"
A rare and immensely important map that depicts the first overland journey across the North American continent by an explorer of European descent, Alexander Mackenzie. Mackenzie, a partner in the famous fur trading firm the North West Company, embarked on the expedition to find a route to the Pacific following Peter Pond’s theory, a colleague of his in the North West Company, that an internal water route existed from Cook’s Inlet on the Pacific Northwest to Great Slave Lake. The search for a viable fur trading route across the continent to the Pacific had become more practical and of concern to the North West Company following the end of the American Revolution in 1789 and the establishment of a border between the United States and British North America in the traditional fur trading basin South of the Great Lakes. The North West Company thus supported Mackenzie’s quest to put to test Peter Pond’s theory that the river from the Great Slave Lake would lead to Cook’s Inlet in the Pacific and thus offer a viable Northwest Passage for this fur trading concern. His exploits, although personally disappointing for Mackenzie in initially reaching the Pacific via this river system in 1789, further proved that no internal waterway through the continent existed that would act as a long sought after and coveted Northwest passage. Mackenzie’s A Map of America was published in his seminal work Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence, through the Continent of America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans… in 1801 and helped pave the way for future western explorations.
MacKenzie’s map depict his two routes which are highlighted in colour and are derived from Arrowsmith’s three sheet map of North America.
The first route draws the 1789 route from the Lake of the Hills and Fort Chipewyan on Lake Anthabasca to Whale Island in the Arctic Ocean. Although Mackenzie’s intention was to reach the Pacific, he had in fact found a route to the Arctic Ocean via a river that would come to be named after him.
His disappointment at his inability to reach the Pacific Ocean led him to explore his second route in 1793. This second route entailed a journey from the Fort York on the Peace River across the continental divide and to a yet discovered Fraser River. From the Fraser River, Mackenzie then made his way to the Blackwater River and then onto the Bella Coola River to finally reach the Pacific Ocean on July 22nd 1793, some six weeks after George Vancouver’s own naval reconnaissance of the region.
MacKenzie’s exploits were of such geo-political importance that it is believed that it helped instigate the Lewis and Clark expeditions in 1804-06 so as to counter any British claims to the Pacific Northwest. Yet, the route that Mackenzie had found would prove uneconomical for North West Company and was thus abandoned. As no viable western route to the Pacific existed, Mackenzie proposed to his fellow shareholders that the company be amalgamated with their competitor, the Hudson’s Bay Company. Although his suggestion of amalgamation between competitor in the fur trade was initially put aside, it’s consumption would eventually take place in 1821, a year after his death.