MASON, Charles (1728-1786) and Jeremiah DIXON (d.1777), surveyors. Manuscript map, entitled "A Plan of the West Line or Parallel of Latitude which is the Boundary between the Provinces of Maryland and Pensylvania," neatly signed by the surveyors "Cha: Mason" and "Jere: Dixon" in ink below the decorative cartouche, [drawn in Philadelphia, 26 December 1767-29 February 1768].
Manuscript map on a single long sheet (9¼ to 10¾ x 75¾ in.), consisting of six sections of heavy laid paper neatly joined together and backed with linen (evidently at an early date), the map finely drawn with pen and brush in black ink over light pencil, with a ink ruled double frame; large legends "THE PROVINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA" and "THE PROVINCE OF MARYLAND" in bold letters (½ in. in height) above and below the section of terrain depicted on either side of the boundary line; numerous smaller legends on the map denoting rivers (including the Susquehana, Big Elk Creek, Potomac, Antietam Creek, Monongahela, etc.), forests, mountain ranges of the Allegheny region, Indian trails (one labeled "Indian War Path"), roads (including "G: Braddock's Road"), settlements and homesteads shown in careful detail; natural features of the terrain including forests, mountain ranges, swamps, clearings and creeks carefully rendered by the artist. The easternmost section features a compass rose, a scale of miles and a very fine ornamental scrollwork cartouche, embellished with large branching trees rendered in stippled brushwork, with title neatly lettered in different letter styles.
CONDITION: Two small vertical cracks where once folded (at milestone 55 and 160); traces of worming slightly affecting small area at foot of cartouche, a tiny area between milestones 140 and 145 and blank areas in western portion; scattered light surface abrasion and minor soiling, slight show-through of the adhesive used in mounting to linen, but OTHERWISE IN EXCELLENT CONDITION, neatly matted, in a fine gilt-wood frame.
THE ORIGINAL 1768 MASON-DIXON MANUSCRIPT SURVEY, ESTABLISHING A BOUNDARY WHICH BECAME THE HISTORIC MASON-DIXON LINE: "A SYMBOL DIFFERENTIATING TWO POLITICAL DIVISIONS, TWO DEFINITE STATES OF MIND WHICH HAVE EXISTED IN THE NATION FROM THE BEGINNING OF ITS SETTLEMENT" (WROTH)
The original Mason-Dixon survey map of the Maryland Pennsylvania boundary was created as part of the settlement of one of the longest-running boundary disputes in American history, between William Penn (whose Charter was granted in 1681) and Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore, proprietor of Maryland. Despite efforts of the Privy Council to effect a resolution, their dispute over the exact boundaries of their respective colonial lands simmered for nearly a century, with conferences, lawsuits, temporary agreements and armed standoffs. Finally, a settlement stipulating a complete survey of the boundary was decreed in 1750 by the Lord Chancellor of the Court of Chancery. After further delays two young English surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, sailed for America, with their surveying instruments, in September 1763. Their contract with the Penn family and Lord Baltimore, signed on 4 August 1763, rather optimistically called for them to complete the entire survey in one month! First, Mason and Dixon surveyed the border between the Three Lower Counties (present Delaware) and Maryland, then undertook the far more demanding task of surveying the extensive west line, which ran over the rugged Allegheny Mountains and through miles of heavily forested, roadless wilderness terrain, the traversing of which necessitated Indian guides and teams of axmen to laboriously clear sightlines. The boundaries established by their survey were formally ratified by the Commissioners on 9 November 1768, and the two surveyors returned to England.
THE HISTORICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE MASON-DIXON LINE
The line surveyed by Mason and Dixon, carefully marked at intervals by granite stone markers, came to signify much more than a simple boundary line between two colonies, two different civil states. Their line would, in time, be transformed by historical circumstances into a line of demarcation between two profoundly differing cultures, symbolizing a deep division in the nation's very psyche. The Mason and Dixon line, writes Genevieve Blatt, was "a fact...direct and true in terms of latitude and longitude, a phenomenon with which geographers would have to deal during long centuries to come. Yet more than that, and altogether without the intention of the two surveyors,...it had become an historical fact. North of it would be North; south of it would be South. Paradoxically, despite the solidity of its essence as fact, it would become symbol. In its actual extent it never exceeded 233 miles...Figuratively it would become an imaginary line, with many a dip and rise, bend and curve, sweeping across the continental United States, dividing that vast country sentimentally, dividing it in social customs and political purposes, into North and South" (Blatt, in H. B. Cummings, The Mason and Dixon Line, 1763-1963, Harrisburg 1962, p. v).
More than half a century after its completion, during the bitter Congressional debates of 1819-20 over the extension of slavery into the developing territories, the Mason-Dixon survey line was chosen as a cartographical convenience to designate the boundary between slave and free states and territories. In this form it was embodied in the Missouri Compromise. To the original west line of Mason and Dixon depicted here was connected the line formed by the Ohio River from its intersection with the Pennsylvania border to its mouth, thence westward at 36o 30' N. Lat., with the exception of Missouri itself. Slavery was prohibited from all the territories north of the line. In the process, by some accounts, the name of an obscure British astronomer and surveyor, Dixon, was transformed into "Dixie," the popular name for an entire cultural milieu and geographical region. The Mason-Dixon Line had taken on far-reaching significance, becoming "something more than a boundary between two political divisions," Laurence Wroth has observed; "it was in fact, a symbol differentiating two cultures, two definite states of mind which have existed in the nation from the beginning of its settlement" (John Carter Brown Library, Annual Report, 1942-1943, pp. 23-27). See Walters Art Gallery, The World Encompassed: An Exhibition of the History of Maps, Baltimore,1952, nos. 251 and 254.
THE MASON-DIXON SURVEY
The area depicted by this remarkable map is a strip of land six miles wide, bisected by the so-called West Line, latitude 39o 43'18", which authoritatively established the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania as agreed in the court settlement between the proprietors of Maryland and Pennsylvania. The line began at a point 15 miles south of the southernmost point of the city of Philadelphia (in Mile Creek Hundred, New Castle County) and then ran undeviatingly west across the Allegheny Mountains to a terminus exactly 233 miles, 13 chains and 68 links westward, just beyond the west bank of the third crossing of Dunkard Creek. Due to the unwillingness of Mason's and Dixon's Indian guides to proceed any further, the last 36 miles of the west line boundary could not be surveyed and are shown featureless on the map. The running of this West Line was officially ordered by the Commissioners of the respective provinces on June 18, 1765, and required fully two and a half years to survey, until December 26, 1767. It is clear from the minute books of the Commissioners and letters of the surveyors that Mason and Dixon were heavily dependent upon the Indians of the Iroquois or Six Nations (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Senecas, Cayugas and Tuscaroras), through whose lands the line passed and who were employed variously as guides, hunters, guards, axemen and laborers. On September 29, 1767, 26 of the Indian axemen refused to go beyond the Monongahela (mile 220) for fear of the Shawnees and Delawares, and on October 22, 1767, the surveyors reported to the Commissioners: "on the 9th Inst. we crossed a War Path (used by the Six Nations to go against their Enemies the Cheroques) [shown between milestones 225 and 230], there we were informed by the Chief of our Indians that he was come to the Extent of his Commission from the Six Nations to go with us on the Line; and that he would not proceed one step farther." These difficulties reflected increasing opposition on the part of the Indian tribes to burgeoning European settlement on lands not ceded by treaty. The Indians lodged formal protests with Governor Pitt, and in March 1768, Benjamin Chew, the Penn family's representative, headed a delegation which traveled to Fort Pitt to negotiate a new treaty with the Shawnees and Delwares, signed on May 24, 1768, long after the surveyors' had stopped work. Not until 1784 did a joint Virginia-Pennsylvania survey complete and mark the final 36 miles of the West Line (that final survey is mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to John Page, see lot 26).
The minute books of the Boundary Commissioners (in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) record, on December 26, 1767, formal instructions to the two surveyors to prepare the map: "You are with all possible dispatch to draw and make out from your Minute Books an Exact and true Plan and Survey of the Boundary Lines...giving in such Plan, the most exact and certain Descriptions, you are to sign and deliver the same either to the Commissioners of Pennsylvania or Maryland..." Two maps were prepared; one depicting the western boundary, the other the eastern boundary between Maryland and the Three Lower Counties (Delaware). The completed drawings were delivered to Richard Peters of the Pennsylvania commissioners on 29 January 1768.
Dixon, an experienced surveyor, is probably responsible for most of the actual drawing, including the cartouche, although it is possible that he was assisted by a local artist. The details of topographical features, buildings, Indian trails and watercourses were supplied from the surveyors' carefully-kept minute books. From Mason's and Dixon's manuscript maps is derived the famous engraved map published by Robert Kennedy at Philadelphia in 1768 (see Streeter Sale 973). One copy of the 200 engraved copies was dissected onto a large sheet and became the official Commissioners' copy, certifying the completion of the survey (see Christie's catalogue of items from the Chew family papers, 1 April 1982, lot 41). The surveyor's original drawing of the eastern boundary is in the Princeton University Library. The map of the West Line was long thought to have been lost, but was rediscovered in January 1963,
as recounted by Nicholas Wainwright: "...while Benjamin Chew and the author were comparing a copy of the [engraved] map with a long strip map of the western line only, a strip signed under its cartouche by Mason and Dixon, Mr. Chew noticed that the cartouche on the strip map differed from that on the other copy. It was soon realized that the strip, despite its superficial appearance of being an engraving, was actually a manuscript. On Jan. 15 this map was compared at Princeton with the other manuscript part signed by the surveyors. There was no doubt in any of the viewers' minds that both were drawn by the same hand, probably that of Charles [sic] Dixon. The Princeton part of the manuscript map was acquired by the family of its donor in 1864. No doubt, Benjamin Chew, 3rd gave a set to another friend, not realizing that...the Eastern section was part of the original manuscript." (Wainwright, "Tale of a Runaway Cape: The Penn-Baltimore Agreement of 1732," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol.87 (July 1963), p. 288). See also Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 16 (1995), pp. 97-99.
1. Benjamin Chew (1722-1810), of Philadelphia, named in 1750 by Thomas and William Penn as Pennsylvania Commissioner for the settlement of the Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary dispute; later Pennsylvania Attorney General (1755-1769), Recorder of Philadelphia, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania and Register-General (sale, along with key items from the Chew Family Papers, Christie's, 1 April 1982, lot 23).
2. Malcolm S. Forbes.