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1639 Map of the Northeast—Historical Map

Historical maps tell us about the geography of different places. They also show what people knew about those places at the time the maps were made. This map shows what a Dutch mapmaker thought part of North America looked like in 1639.


Primary Source

There is a map from 1639 that shows the area from New England to Virginia.

Source: Library of Congress.


Background

Today, there are countless maps of the Americas. This was not true 500 years ago. Before the 1500s, most Europeans, Africans, and Asians did not know that the Americas existed. After European explorers saw this land, mapmakers drew maps of it. Mapmakers used information from explorers to make their maps. The locations and distances recorded by explorers were not exact. Mapmakers did the best they could with the information given to them.

Look at the map shown above. A Dutch mapmaker named Joan Vinckeboons (YOH ahn VINK uh bones) created it in 1639. The labels are in Dutch. Vinckeboons was a mapmaker for the West India Company, from the Netherlands. This company of merchants started Dutch colonies in the Americas.