1718 - Delisle publishes map of Louisiana

Guillaume Delisle's map of the Americas.

The French family of renowned cartographers, the Delisles, publish the third of their groundbreaking maps, "Care de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississippi,' on which they showed remarkably accurate information drawn from LaSalle's explorations, much of Spanish country as far west as the upper Rio Grande, and the Missouri reaching as far north as the Mandan Villages on the upper Missouri, which were located more by the mist of supposition based on information gathered on the lower Missouri.

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Delisle Map     The Delisle map derives much of its importance from the delineation of French and Spanish claims in the valley of the Mississippi, the Spanish possessions in Mexico, an Louisiana, at a time when Spain and France were locked in a fierce argument over what belonged to whom.  Even though Delisle was French, his map accepts the Spanish claim of discovery by DeSoto, in 1539, of the lands that are now known as Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.

         Delisle improved greatly on earlier maps, incorporating the material of earlier French cartographers with information gathered by Spanish explorers. 

         The French claim to segments of these lands was made by LaSalle a hundred and forty-five years after DeSoto's expedition.  After LaSalle was murdered by one of his own men, his brother led the survivors of the expedition overland to the mouth of the Arkansas River, then north on the Mississippi to new France.

         Thus, a see-saw battle over two thirds of the American continent began.  For the next century, rival colonial powers would vie for ownership of these rich but unknown lands.  In 1712, the French crown assumed ownership of all the land south of the Illinois River, between the English on the east and the Spanish to the west, for the purpose of opening commercial enterprises and building trade with Spanish forts in Mexico. What is most notable about Delisle's map is the depiction of the Missouri, the 'river of the West', its many tributaries, and the location of many Indian tribes along its meandering course - including the Mandan Villages in the far north.

         Naturally, Delisle stretched his country's claims to their geographical limits.  For the most part, he got away with it.  The boundaries he inscribed on this famous map would be the boundaries cited in the treaty between France and the United States, a century later, when the territory of Louisiana was transferred to the United States.