On Chatham’s Main Street, past the bustling strips of gift shops and restaurants, there lies a treasure trove of history. With an unassuming buttercup yellow exterior, the Maps of Antiquity shop seems to creak under the weight of thousands of maps. Some maps are yellowed and cracked with age, some carefully restored and framed. Some hang on every wall of the two-room shop, while the majority—organized by locale and vintage—sit in dozens of print racks, begging to be flipped through.
Looking at the history of Cape Cod and the Islands through a cartographic lens
The building once housed a thriving antique business run by Danielle Jeanloz and her husband, Bob Zaremba. But after purchasing the collection from the former Maps of Antiquity in West Barnstable, acquiring another 6,000 to 8,000 vintage maps from Amherst Antiquarian Maps, and adding numerous smaller purchases, Zaremba and Jeanloz have become experts in antique maps with the catalog to match.
New England maps comprise at least half of the couple’s 15,000-plus collection of originals and reproductions, and 10 to 15 percent are specific to the Cape and Islands. Each map in the shop is both a work of art and a historic record, from cartography of Cape Cod and the Islands dating back as far as the 1700s, to maps of places as distant as mainland China with vintages as early as the 16th century. Aficionados and history buffs be warned: you may find it difficult not to spend endless hours perusing the collection. “Maps are very connecting,” shares Jeanloz. “People start talking about what the map means to them, whether it’s family or history or an experience, and before we know it, we create a relationship with people that we don’t know well.”
On the following pages, Zaremba and Jeanloz discuss the historic context and significance of four different maps of the Cape and Islands spanning the mid-18th to early 20th centuries. Produced by well-known cartographers, these maps transport the viewer to years past and provide a perfectly preserved glimpse into the history of the Cape and Islands.
Carte de la Nouvelle Angleterre
Created by Jacques Nicholas Bellin, the French mapmaker associated with explorer James Cook’s voyages—the Carte de la Nouvelle Angleterre is one of the earliest maps of New England. The ornate frame around the map’s title—termed a cartouche—is a stylistic staple of European mapmakers, according to Jeanloz, and the overall aesthetic of the map speaks to the artistic flair many early maps featured since, as there were few map design standards in the days of kings and explorer voyages.
Studying this early map provides insight into the interesting geographic aspects of New England that were of interest in the mid-1700s. “At this time, Cape Cod was really more of an obstacle than a destination,” Zaremba says. The rivers on this map are oversized, representing their significance in transportation during this period, and the mountain ranges—which made travel west of the Appalachian Range very difficult—are heavily stylized. Close inspection reveals the process used to make the map: the image carved into a copper or steel plate, then inked and stamped on thin, fabric-like laid paper. Most maps were made for books and were folded down the center, Zaremba says. As a result, the ink from the Appalachian Range transferred to the opposite side of this map, appearing as a faint reflection in the Atlantic Ocean.
Barnstable County Tax Map
In the 1850s, Massachusetts met the federal government’s requirement to keep a public record of property ownership by making county tax maps—designed as wall maps with rods along the tops and bottoms—that included the names of all property owners. Henry F. Walling, the cartographer behind the map opposite, produced a large number of historic New England maps through his map and printing business. Walling and his ilk would sell advertising spots on their maps to local businesses; each business received a copy of the map and was included in the map’s list of businesses. This specific copy of the tax map, which Zaremba and Jeanloz bought from a church in Yarmouth, has a noteworthy history of its own. “It was actually a gift from Henry Walling to the head of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, which was the major federal agency making charts,” Zaremba says. “There’s a little dedication at the bottom that says, ‘Professor AD Bach Superintendent of US Coast Survey with the Compliments of H F Walling.’”
Made in 1858, this map captures a physical landscape that has changed over the years. The most obvious difference is the absence of the Cape Cod Canal, which was constructed more than 50 years after the map was printed. Long since eroded away, Billingsgate Island is shown off the coast of Wellfleet, complete with its lighthouse. The railroad stops in Barnstable Village, though it was later built to run all the way to Provincetown. The map also features engravings of landscapes, town buildings, and ships as well as some of the notable shoals to aid in navigation.
Nautical Chart C, from the Elizabeth Islands to Chatham
With the Cape’s rich maritime history, nautical charts have long been an essential part of life on the ocean. Zaremba says the federal government took charge of creating chart maps in the 1840s because of its responsibility for establishing lighthouses and Humane Societies—the shacks staffed by vigilant townsfolk that would rescue shipwrecked mariners caught between lighthouses. In addition to federal chart makers, locals took part in charting the waters. The maker of this map, George Eldridge, was a Chatham native. Born into a long line of fishermen, Eldridge was injured as an adolescent. Unable to carry on his family’s fishing legacy, he decided to make nautical charts since he thought the federal charts lacked key details that traveling fishermen needed. Eldridge frequently included folksy designs and useful notes on his chart maps: for example, to the northeast of Sandy Neck, Eldridge noted “this bar is liable to change,” and he scrawled the words “Fishing Grounds” over the area north of North Dennis.
This nautical chart is one of a series that Eldridge produced chronicling the region between Long Island Sound and Maine. “The Eldridge maps were made in association with the Eldridge tide book that [many boaters] still carry with them,” Zaremba says, nothing that the tide book contains a table that tells the reader what the tide will be at any time during the year. Eldridge also sold smaller maps and books that shared crucial information for mariners arriving in a new port, such as how they would go about entering the harbor, mooring their ship, and where to make necessary repairs.
The 1930s saw an upsurge of tourist maps. Part of this phenomenon was because Cape Cod had begun its evolution into a tourist destination, and part of this was because artists on the Cape began making and selling tourist maps as a way to earn some extra income. “These maps were basically addressing the interest that people vacationing had in taking something from the local place back with them,” Zaremba says. “These [tourist maps] are a little bit advertising and a little bit tapping into the mystique of what Cape Cod is all about.”
Created by Walter M. Gaffney, this particular tourist map features each town rendered in its own color, making it easy for vacationers to recognize the different towns and show their vacation destinations to their friends at home. The detailing on this map includes an elaborate border of crabs, seashells, the Mayflower shown near Truro, ships, and a whale in surrounding waters, while gulls survey the scene. The map also notes each town’s population in both 1890 and 1930, revealing a countywide increase of 2,000 people over 40 years. Amidst the details of this antique map, this was a harbinger of things to come.
Ashley Owen is a freelance writer and former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life Publications.
Maps of Antiquity: Both Land and Sea Through July 15
The Captain Bangs Hallet House in Yarmouthport hosts an exhibit of Cape and Islands maps from Maps of Antiquity. Charles Adams, president of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth, asked Zaremba and Jeanloz to put together the exhibit because, he says, antique maps are essential to preserving the historical nature of Cape Cod. “Early maps educate people [and help] to preserve the heritage of [places like] the town of Yarmouth and Cape Cod as a whole,” he says. “Mapping was very important, especially for maritime use . . . Maps give you such information as what houses existed at that particular time as well as what certain important objects of the day were.” The house is located on Strawberry Lane Common, just off of Route 6A in Yarmouthport. Visit www.hsoy.org or call (508) 362-3021 for more information.