Lesson Plan

John Smith's Masterpiece and Copyright Nightmare

Captain John Smith's map of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay

Virginia / Discovered and Discribed by Captayn John Smith, 1606; graven by William Hole.

Archives Research Services Map Collection. Library of Virginia.

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Subject:
American Indian History and Culture, Colonial History, Education, Geography, History, Landscapes
Duration:
1-2 Days
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
Virginia Standards of Learning

Overview

From the Library of Virginia: Virginia Memory

The Age of Exploration ushered in the age of maps. Some maps became so important to travelers that many copies were made of them. These map copies were especially useful to the explorers and settlers of the New World. One such map was Captain John Smith's map of Virginia. Its importance and accuracy (for that time period) also made it one of the most copied maps.

Objective(s)

 Students will be able to:

  • discuss the importance of Captain John Smith's map of Virginia
  • develop map reading skills and vocabulary

Background

From the Library of Virginia:  Virginia Memory

Historical Information:

This Lesson Plan was created by Penny Anderson, a teacher at Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg and one of the Library of Virginia's 2010 Brown Research Teacher Fellows.

The Age of Exploration ushered in the age of maps. European explorers needed maps to follow and some created their own as new lands were explored. Some maps became so important to travelers that many copies were made of them. These map copies, known asderivatives, were especially useful to the explorers and settlers of the New World. One such influential map was Captain John Smith's map of Virginia. Its importance and accuracy (for that time period) also made it one of the most copied maps. Since there were no copyright laws in effect in the seventeenth century, map derivatives were common. However, John Smith could be proud that his map, which displays the expertise of his research and cartographic skills, would be the object of influence throughout the settling of the American colonies.

Captain John Smith was part of the first permanent English settlement in America. He arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, and almost immediately set out to survey the mouth of the James River and the Chesapeake Bay area. He began his three-month field survey in 1608. His map Virginia / Discouered and Described by Captayn John Smith, is the earliest published map of the Chesapeake region to represent the early Virginia colony with relative accuracy. The map shows the location of Jamestown, as well as the American Indian villages Smith studied along the shores. The orientation of his map is with north to the right of the compass rose and many native- and English-named features are recorded. In the upper-left corner of the map is a cartouche representing the council of Chief Powhatan with the label "Powhatan Held this state and fashion when Capt. Smith was delivered to him prisoner, 1607." In the upper-right corner is a detailed image of an American Indian observed in the upper Chesapeake and the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers. The image is labeled "The Sasquesahanougs are a Gyant-like people and thus atyred (attired)." It shows a large figure arrayed in animal skins, beadwork, and embellishments holding a longbow in one hand and a club in the other.

Smith's map also shows details of the coastlines of the inlets, rivers, and major tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. He marked his exploration points with crosses and filled in the landscape with different types of trees found on the landscape and the topographic features he saw. He also depicted hunting parties with bows and arrows hunting forest deer. One of the most intriguing features on Smith's map is the location of American Indian settlements shown with the names of the nations and tribes. This is most likely the first written recording of indigenous languages in the American colonies. The spatial distribution of mid-Atlantic Indians is also shown in the location points and depictions of the dwellings of the Indian chiefs and the "ordinary houses."

Smith's map quickly became the most influential map of the time. It showed volumes of geographic information of the region on a single parchment: physical landscape, topography, vegetation, the regional watershed, cultural landscape, languages, housing, and human-environmental interaction. Many explorers and settlers used Smith's map to entice people to make the voyage from England and settle in Virginia. Because of its geographic and cultural importance, it was soon copied by many other cartographers. Some well-known map derivatives are by Jodocus Hondius Jr., Pieter van den Keere, and Willem Blaeu. Although other early surveys of the Chesapeake region and Virginia peninsulas were completed, Smith's map remains the earliest and, arguably, best source of European studies of the Indian language, habits, and geography of Virginia.

Materials

Handouts:

Smith, John, (1580-1631). Virginia / Discovered and Discribed by Captayn John Smith, 1606. Graven by William Hole. G3880 1624 .S5 Voorhees Collection. Archives Research Services Map Collection. Library of Virginia. 

Virginia / Discovered and Discribed by Captayn John Smith.

Blank Venn Diagram

Procedure

Extensions

Use the Smith map scale to measure distance between places, tribes, and rivers, etc. (one league was about three miles). Use other maps and scales to practice distance.

Compare John Smith's map with any of the Smith derivatives (i.e., Hondius's Nova Virginiae Tabula) and observe the similarities and differences between them (languages, place-names, map tools, etc.).


Additional Resources

Related Links

Vocabulary

• absolute location—the actual location of a point on the earth's surface, usually in terms of latitude and longitude coordinates or a physical address of a place
• cardinal directions—the directions of north, east, south, and west
• cartouche—the ornamental or decorative framing of inscriptions, titles, symbols, and other relevant information on a map
• compass rose—a symbol that shows direction (north, east, south, and west) on a map
• derivative—a copy or modification of an original work
• headwater—the area at the source of a river
• indigenous—native to place
• map—a drawing that shows what places look like from above and where they are located
• map legend—a list of shapes and symbols used on a map and an explanation of what each one represents
• map scale—a map tool used to measure distance between locations
• orientation—direction in relation to a point on the compass
• peninsula—land surrounded by water on three sides
• region—a place that has common characteristics that are different from the characteristics of the surrounding areas
• relative location—a concept described by using terms that show connections between two places, such as next to, near, or bordering
• symbol—a picture or thing that represents something else
• title—the name or kind of map
• tributary—a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or river