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John Melish

John Melish (1771-1822) was a Scottish mapmaker and publisher who published some of the best maps in early America. He settled in Philadelphia in 1811 and began work on developing atlases.

Melish began to work on a map of the United States in 1815. The next year, he sent Thomas Jefferson the product of his labors, soliciting the former president's opinions. Jefferson responded with strong encouragement and suggested several corrections. Jefferson placed a copy of Melish's map (1816 Geographical Description of the United States) in the Entrance Hall.

Primary Source References[1]

1816 November 23. (John Melish to Jefferson). "I have the pleasure of presenting you with a Copy of my new map and Description of the United States and Contiguous Countries, which I respectfully submit to your attention...It will give me pleasure to have your opinion of the present work..."[2]

1816 December 31. (Jefferson to John Melish). "It is handsomely executed and on a well chosen scale; giving a luminous view of the comparative possessions of different powers in our America. It is on account of the value I set on it that I will make some suggestions."[3]


  1. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  2. Library of Congress.
  3. Letterpress copy available at Library of Congress.

Further Sources


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