The Mapping of the Great Lakes in the Seventeenth Century

Mark Steuer

Reprinted with permission from Voyageur Magazine, The Historical Review of Brown County and Northeast Wisconsin, Spring, 1984

The author would like to express his appreciation to his wife Denise for assisting in this endeavor.

Modern cartographers have numerous sophisticated tools they use in their craft. Nearly every square foot of the earth has been surveyed, photographed, examined and reduced to maps of one form or another. This was not true even a generation ago.

This essay will examine the exploration and mapping of the Great Lakes in the seventeenth century during which the first European explorers gained and expanded their knowledge of this Inland Sea. One of these explorers was Jean Nicolet, who arrived in this area of Wisconsin in 1634, just a few years after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. A thousand miles separate Green Bay from Plymouth Rock.

The seventeenth century is divided into four major periods: 1) Precursors (pre-1600s); 2) Samuel de Champlain (1600-1635); 3) The Jesuits (1635-1673); and 4) Louis Jolliet, et al. (1673-1700).

More than a century after Christopher Columbus landed in the New World in 1492, there were no reasonably accurate travel accounts or graphic renderings of the Great Lakes region, although brave men like England's John and Sebastian Cabot (in 1497), France's Giovanni Verrazano (in 1524), and Jacques Cartier (in 1534) had followed Columbus in search of new lands and routes to the lucrative, yet distant Orient. These early discoveries by European explorers were not mapped for years because of the time and distance from Europe. Natural obstacles and intense rivalries among competing nations vying for valuable information were other barriers.

Cartier, an experienced pilot from the Norman port of St. Malo, attempted the first exploration of the Great Waterway. He reached present day Montreal in 1535 and in the following spring raised a cross with a scroll, which boldly stated "Franciscus Primus Dei Gratia Francorum Regnat". Thus, he annexed the St. Lawrence River Valley to the Crown of France, then under the rule of Francis I. 1

Maps of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and its tributaries were drawn by Cartier, Nicolas Desliens (1541), Sebastian Cabot (1544), Jean Alphonse (1545), Pierre Desceliers (1546), and Nicolas Vallard (1547).

Although Cartier had claimed the area, France did little to consolidate "New France" in the 16th century, primarily because France was embroiled in a series of devastating religious wars. Active exploration occurred only in the more temperate regions first visited by Verrazano. Exploration of the Canadian hinterland may also have ceased due to Iroquois opposition. But a few transplanted French fishermen and fur traders remained. Their accounts of great western lakes, supplemented by native tales of these areas, were passed on to European cartographers, whose maps reflected these errors and conjectures.

One of these maps was drawn by Vacapo Gastaldi of Venice (1554) who compiled a potpourri of oral information into a "mappemonde" (world map). Gastaldi was one of a host of well-meaning cartographers whose quest for accuracy often lagged behind their penchant for exaggeration.

Conjecture gave way to hope by the late 1560s with the advent of the Golden Age of Cartography. Gerhardus Mercator (Gerard Kremer) and Abraham Ortelius (Oertel) from the Netherlands, exemplified the new-found pursuit for accuracy and artistic impeccability worthy of any artisan. Mercator was a cartographer, an engraver, and a scientist. This man was a pioneer in every sense of the word. Since the time of Ptolemy, the Greek geographer, preciously few innovations in Western cartography had been developed.

Map 1: This is a portion of Sanson's updated Le Canada-Nouvelle France It was the first printed map showing each of the Great Lakes. Lake Mickigan is listed as "Lac de Puans" (Lake of the "stinking things").
Mercator had access to the compass (first designed in China, circa 1600 B.C.); the astrolabe (a medieval Arabic invention that measured the altitude of the sun or stars in order to plot a position and to tell the time); the plane table or circumferentor (which calculated angles between the three points of a triangulated survey); the way-wiser (an ingenious map wheel used to measure distances on charts); the movable type printing press (invented by Gutenberg in the 15th century with the first printed map published in 1477); and intaglio or copper-plate engraving (etched printing plates that lasted indefinitely and were easily altered for revisions, thus speeding up map production).

Mercator drew a marine chart in 1569 that portrayed the Great Lakes as accurately as could be derived from Cartier's findings in the region. Cartier had noted that "the great river running into the St. Lawrence Gulf has two large branches, the southern one of which extends south to an east and west mountain barrier." At the head of the northern branch are grouped three small lakes just west of which is a very large lake whose extent is concealed by a vignette. Beside this lake is written "hic mare est dulcium aquarium, cujus terminum ignorari Canadenses ex relatu Saguenaiensium aiunt' (this sea is of fresh water; the Canadians do not know its bounds, according to the report of the people of Saguenay)." Mare Dulce", which is now Lake Huron, can be seen on this map. This famous map was used by explorers for years to come.

Mercator is also famous for a map projection which is still used today. This projection literally flattens the spherical earth into a two-dimensional format, where converging meridian line segments (north-south) are equidistant between parallel latitude (east-west) lines. It revolutionized navigation techniques and earth measurements.

Mercator's contemporary Ortelius was a map seller and publisher whose Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theater of the World) was released in 1570. The first modern printed atlas was a "Who's Who in Cartography." It included the works of nearly 100 geographers. This book contains a map which shows lakes west of the Ottawa River (on the present day Ontario-Quebec border), connecting with the Arctic Ocean. This mistake kept alive for another century the notion of the elusive Northwest Passage which explorers would seek in vain. Other cartographers, like England's Richard Hakluyt and Cornelius Wytfliet helped spur exploration of the Hudson Bay region with their maps. Other mappers were fairly unsuccessful in showing the Great Lakes region with any degree of accuracy.

The time was now ripe for another man: Samuel de Champlain. What earlier explorers had not succeeded in doing, Samuel de Champlain accomplished. He discovered the sources of the St. Lawrence River and explored the Great Lakes. With Champlain, the period of conjecture ended and careful, scientific exploration began.3

Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) was a soldier, administrator, explorer, anthropologist, author, artist, scribe, naturalist, and cartographer-a true Renaissance man.

Where Cartier and others had erred, Champlain did not. While others traded, Champlain established colonies. While others speculated, Champlain drew maps. While others sought to remember, Champlain recorded profusely. While others took advantage of native peoples, Champlain learned their folkways and mores.

Champlain was supported by a benevolent and visionary ruler, Henry IV. Henry consolidated France into a modern state that became the preeminent power in Europe for the next 150 years.

After spending many years fighting in the religious wars in his native Brouage, learning navigation, and honing his various professional skills, Champlain set sail with his sponsor, Pierre du Gaust, Sieur de Monts, to reinforce New France in 1603. Henry IV granted trading monopolies to interested French merchants. In return, he wanted such merchants to send out at least five ships and sixty settlers a year in order to sustain and strengthen the colony.

On this trip, Champlain took Cartier's journal and then proceeded to Montreal. Here he listened to native accounts of the western lakes. Inquisitive as he was, Champlain wanted to know if these lakes consisted of saltwater, if and where rapids or falls existed, and where other geographic phenomena appeared.

Scurvy, exposure, and attacks by Indians nearly decimated the hardy little troupe. Until 1607, when French domestic problems forced the cancellation of De Monts' monopoly, Champlain explored the rugged coastlines of Acadia, New England, and eastern Quebec. Champlain was able to compile enough information to produce his exquisite map of 1607.

Back in France, Champlain pleaded with De Monts to try again. Champlain elaborated France's North American policy by arguing for: 1) enforcement of trade monopolies which would ensure success for the lucrative fur trade; 2) improvement of relations with the Indian, notably the Huron; end, 3) the pursuit of the Northwest Passage to the riches of Cathay (China). Until he died, Champlain believed this route existed.

His logic prevailed. He and De Monts were in Quebec City the following year. From this base, the Frenchmen set out to stop Iroquois raids on the fur trade, one of many battles over the next 150 years. In doing so, Champlain discovered the lake in upper New York that bears his name to this day. His comprehensive tome, Voyages, described this and many other ventures.

Although Henry IV cancelled the trade monopolies again in 1609, Champlain, a disappointed lieutenant governor at Quebec, continued to prepare for exploration of the interior by educating French youths as Indian interpreters. The era of the voyageur had begun.

Etienne Brülé (1610) was the first of these intrepid travelers. He not only travelled with the Algonquin, but lived with them for the better part of the next decade. Brule's skill as interpreter and his daring as pioneer helped him discover Lake Ontario. Soon, the voyageur Nicolas de Vignau was sent to the north to live with an Algonquin tribe on the Ottawa River.

Misfortune struck again when Henry IV was assassinated in 1611. Champlain returned to France, published his journals and drew two maps showing the extent of French knowledge of North America. Carte Geographique de la Nouvelle France (1612) shows the entire St. Lawrence River Valley with an adjoining Lake Ontario and an undetermined "Grand Lac" beyond it. Champlain portrayed Lake Ontario's length as "fifteen days of voyaging in Indian canoes".4 The area west of Montreal was drawn entirely from native accounts and various French and Indian sketch maps. This map is the first fairly accurate chart of the Atlantic Coast and the St. Lawrence River Valley. Ornate cartouches (drawings of plants, Indians, ships, sea monsters, etc.) enhanced the beauty of this chart, but not necessarily its accuracy. Yet his skill with navigational instruments and his penchant for accuracy made these maps the premier Great Lakes documents of the era.

Map 2: This portion of Fr. Vincenzo Coronelli' s Partie Occidentale du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France (1688). This was one of the first maps to show the mission of St. Francis Xavier, which had been founded by Fr. Claude Allouez, S.J. in 1669.
While in Paris, Champlain was visited by Vignau who told him he had seen Hudson Bay after sailing UD the Ottawa River. An ecstatic Champlain return ed to Quebec to verify this discovery in 1613, only to find that Vignau had deceived him. Vignau's eagerness for glory had handicapped his devotion to duty. Nonetheless, a tolerant Champlain spent the next several years exploring the Ottawa River region, eventually arriving at Lake Huron by way of Lake Nipissing. He was wounded in a battle with the Onondagas, an Iroquois ally, and complained, "The pain which I suffered in consequence of the wound in my knee was nothing in comparison with that which I endured while I was bound and pinioned on the back of one of our Savages. 5 Vignau's lack of integrity was not forgotten. He was replaced by Jean Nicolet who was sent to live with the Algonquins on the Ottawa River.

Nearly 50 years old now, Champlain made his way back to Quebec from the Lake Huron region in 1616 and left any further westward exploration to his younger hivernants (winterers), coureurs de bois (forest travelers), and to Jesuit and Recollet missionaries. Champlain's incomplete map of 1616 depicted the eastern Great Lakes for the first time. Pierre du Val finished this map in 1657.

During the next two decades Quebec grew and prospered. The fur trade was a viable enterprise. Catholic religious hegemony allowed the colony to remain undisturbed by various splinter groups. Further quests into the interior by Brülé and the Recollets gave Champlain additional information on western Lake Huron and Lake Superior (Grand Lac). Brule and fellow voyageur Grenoble eventually reached Lake Superior in the early 1620s.

It was about this time that Cardinal Richelieu, who had become the power behind a weak Louis XIII, assumed the title of Grand Master of Navigation and Commerce. In a sense, he ruled New France. The Company of New France was subsequently formed and maintained sole trading privileges. Numerous settlers, ample supplies of tools, and continual funding increased the colony's vitality. Richelieu reappointed Champlain as Governor of New France in 1629. French dominance in the region seemed assured until a band of English privateers (the Kirkes) blockaded the St. Lawrence, nearly starving the colony out. Brülé and his men came from the west, but deemed the situation hopeless. Brülé panicked and led the determined Englishmen to Quebec. Crushed by his employee's treason, Champlain surrendered the colony and gave the Kirke brothers a map which indicated French claims and discoveries. This classic map, showing all the Great Lakes, except Lake Michigan, was reproduced by Champlain in 1632 in Paris. The map was uncannily accurate with respect to latitude.

France and England settled their differences and a reinvigorated governor again took control of his colony in 1633, where his return was cheered by Frenchmen, Jean Nicolet among them. Champlain was now 66, but yearned for more knowledge of the unknown. He summed up his feelings: "Love, which I have always cherished for the exploration of New France, has made me desirous of extending more and more my travels over the country, in order, by means of its numerous rivers, lakes, and streams, to obtain at last a complete knowledge of it, and also to become acquainted with the inhabitants, with the view of bringing them to the knowledge of God.6

Champlain's friends, the Huron and the Ottawa, had contact with the Winnebago, a tribe of the Sioux nation, who the governor believed lived, or had lived, near salt water. So important did Champlain believe the Winnebago to be, that he put them on his 1632 map as "la Nation des Puans" beside a lake which empties from the north into Lake Huron. To this nation of "stinking ones" or "stinking things" Champlain sent his loyal follower Nicolet on a mission of diplomacy and exploration.

Nicolet was delegated to make a journey to the nation called People of the sea, and arrange peace between them and the Hurons, from whom they are distant about three hundred leagues Westward. He embarked in the Huron country, with seven Savages; and they passed by many small nations, both going and returning. When they arrived at their destination, they fastened two sticks in the earth, and hung gifts thereon, so as to relieve those tribes from the notion of mistaking them for enemies to be massacred. When he was two days' journey from that nation, he sent one of those Savages to bear tidings of the peace, which word was especially well received when they heard that it was a European who carried the message; they dispatched several young men to meet the Manitouiriniou-that is to say, "the wonderful man." They meet him; they escort him, and carry all his baggage. He wore a grand robe of China damask, all strewn with flowers and birds of many colors. No sooner did they perceive him than the women and children fled, at the sight of man who carried thunder in both hands-for thus they called the two pistols that he held. The news of his coming quickly spread to the places round about, and there assembled four or five thousand men. Each of the chief men made a feast for him, and at one of these banquets they served at least sixscore Beavers. The peace was concluded; he returned to the Hurons, and some time later to the three Rivers, where he continued his employment as Agent and Interpreter, to the great satisfaction of both the French and the Savages, by whom he was equally and singularly loved.7
Champlain considered Nicolet's trip to Wisconsin the crowning jewel of his long and illustrious career. Although Nicolet did not find the Northwest Passage, a new "Sea" had been discovered which was named "Lac des Puans" or "Lac des Illinois," now Lake Michigan.

On Christmas 1635, the incomparable Samuel de Champlain died, removing a powerful impulse for western exploration, which languished for many years. Moreover, Iroquoian legions assaulted French establishments and alliances in mid America.

A new chapter was opened with the arrival of larger numbers of Jesuits, interested not only in saving souls, but in extending knowledge. Before Nicolet's arrival in the Green Bay area in 1634, few clerics had ventured west of Quebec. Where voyageurs ventured, clerics began to follow. One of the Jesuits' areas of study was cartography and they drew many accurate maps.

The Jesuits began their work by compiling, drafting, and recording data for large scale maps of smaller regions. They started mapping the Huron country. In the early 1640s, the Jesuits discovered Lake Erie. Jean Boisseau (1634) drew his Description de la Nouvelle France which represented this discovery. Niagara (Onguiaahra) is mentioned for the first time on this map. By 1650, several maps contained some of the detailed information provided by these missionaries. Huron villages and Jesuit missions were distinct features on these maps.

One such map was Jean Bourdon's Nouvelle France manuscript map of 1646 which showed the location of Indian tribes in New France. A manuscript map or sketch is made by one person of areas he explored. They differ often rather obviously from printed maps which frequently include the work of several cartographers made at different times and reworked by engravers. Enough of this data survived to allow the first map (1650) depicting the complete extent of Jesuit exploration and mapping to be printed by the Royal French Geographer, Nicolas Sanson d'Abbeville, the most prominent French cartographer in the 17th century. This map is entitled Amérique Septentrionale.

Sanson's map of 1656, a masterful update of his 1650 map, is a testament to Jesuit insistence on accurate geographical compilation. This map, entitled Le Canada - Nouvelle France was the first printed map to show the five Great Lakes, although the western ends of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are left open. Part of this is shown in map 1. Sanson also followed Bourdon's example of depicting the locations of tribes by including them on his map. His 1656 map is one of the few historical records that show Indian lands before the destructive westward Iroquoian advance of the 1640s and 1650s. Sanson was a pioneer cartographer. His dedication to fine copperplate engraving, color selection, and decoration (cartouches) earned for him a professional standing that had few peers.

Other maps soon followed. Jesuit Francesco Bressani's 1657 manuscript map of New France is often thought to be the most decorative 17th century map of the area. Bressani's experiences in the Great Lakes region from 1642 to 1650 allowed him to be more perceptive than his European contemporaries. His map resembled Sanson's map, but was more accurate in areas west of Lake Huron. Bressani graphically portrayd the martyrdom of the Jesuits Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant by the Iroquois, who attempted to subdue the Algonquin peoples and their allies, especially the Jesuits. For decades after Nicolet's arrival, many fleeing Algonquin tribesmen used the shores of Wisconsin for safety from attack. Although the Iroquois tried to invade Wisconsin, they were repelled by the Huron. Ever since Champlain, who sided with the Algonquins, the Iroquois were hostile to the French. In a letter to Richelieu in 1635, Champlain mistakenly stated that a company of soldiers would take care of the Iroquois threat.

The Iroquois allied themselves with the Dutch of New York and were given firearms. The balance of power in the Indian world had shifted. Despite these threats, the Jesuits Brehauf, Raymbault, Garnier, Pijart, and Isaac Jogues went westward with their Algonquin converts. The French sent Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Medart Chouart, Sieur de Groseilliers, along with Ottawa middlemen back to Wisconsin. Twenty-eight French traders, including Adrien Jolliet and two Jesuits, accompanied these voyageurs in 1654. Sketchy records state that they visited the Green Bay area. By 1660, the first white settlement in Wisconsin was established by these men on Chequamegon Bay, near present day Ashland. They brought many furs to Montreal. Fr. René Ménard, S.J., is credited with being the first Jesuit in the northwest.

Map 3: An example of a cartouche from Fr. Vincenzo Coronelli's Partie Occidentale du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France (1688)
. Radisson was impressed with Wisconsin's flora and fauna, its wild rice, and the plethora of fish and game, including buffalo. The voyageurs favored the rugged life of the outdoorsman, and, Radisson bragged, "We were Caesars [there] being nobody to contradict us." 8

Their exploration of the Great Lakes was reflected in Fr. François du Creux's map of 1660. The complex river system of northern Ontario and Quebec was shown as well as greater detail of Lake Michigan ("Magnus Lacus Algonquinorum" - Great Lake of the Algonquins) and Lake Superior. Du Creux's map was used extensively by fur traders.

In 1642, the year Nicolet died, the Iroquois attacked Montreal. An eyewitness stated that "they came like foxes, attacked like lions, and fled like birds." "I would as soon" said another, "be besieged by hobgoblins as by the Iroquois. The one is scarcely more visible than the other."9

Cardinal Richelieu enacted a temporary peace with the Iroquois, while the Jesuits set up missions at Sault St. Marie and St. Esprit (Lake Superior), to name a few. But by the 1650s, many of the Jesuit missions in the land of the Huron were destroyed by the Iroquois. Sometime during the 1650s, Algonquin tribes (Sauk, Fox, Potawatomi, Ottawa, Mascouten, Kickapoo) found shelter in Wisconsin. Disease and war had decimated the once proud Winnebago of the region. The Potawatomi settled on Washington Island and the Huron-Ottawa settled on the islands at the mouth of Green bay. The Potawatomi then built a fortified village on the Door Peninsula. The Jesuits heard of this village (Mechingan) and desired to establish the Mission of St. Michel there. The Iroquois wanted to keep the Jesuits from getting there, however.

An Algonquin victory over the Iroquois saved New France. In 1654, the Iroquois sued for peace. The fur trade reopened and Canada reawakened to new life and hope. New frontiers lay ahead for the Europeans.

In 1661 Louis XIV assumed personal power in France. He named Jean Baptiste Colbert as his chief administrator. Under Colbert, the St. Lawrence River settlements were turned into fortified encampments. With safe passage ensured, an annual fleet of fur-bearing canoes met at Three Rivers beginning in 1665. Among the travelers was the fur trader. Nicolas Perrot, one of Wisconsin's early pioneers.

Fr. Claude Allouez, a contemporary of Perrot's, accompanied some Ottawa Indians, the middlemen in the burgeoning fur trade, on a westward trip to tell Wisconsin Indians that the French would send soldiers to ensure their protection. Under Jean Talon, one of the most energetic governors, New France continued to grow. Allouez's declaration allowed the Potawatomi and Sauk Indians to settle more securely along the shores of Green bay and Lake Michigan. By the late 1660s, Perrot set course for Wisconsin. He made allies of the Indians in the region and had several posts built to ensure French sovereignty. He spent time on Lake Superior and was persuaded by the Potawatomi to come to the Green bay area. Perrot was first received by the Potawatomi and Sauk near the Oconto River.

Jean Talon, who wanted to develop an easier route to Lake Superior, commissioned Jean Peré to do so in 1668. By 1670 he had arrived at Sault St. Marie by way of the shorter Oshawa-Lake Simcoe route in southern Ontario. This eliminated the need to take the far lengthier Ottawa River route to Lake Huron.

Perés trip was reflected in Fr. René Bréhant de Gallinée's Carte du Lac Ontario (1670), a truly magnificent chart. Talon soon sent reinforcements to Pere by way of the Ottawa River. Louis Jolliet, Adrien's younger and more famous brother, led this venture. By the time Jolliet reached the Sault, he found an established mission-house under the direction of Fr. Jacques Marquette. Another era in the history of Wisconsin was about to unfold.

Louis Jolliet, who had been born in Canada, never reached Pere on Lake Superior. Instead, he headed eastward. Another expedition led by Fr. François Dollier de Casson was moving west to establish missions. Jolliet inadvertently met Casson's expedition member, René Robert Cavelier de La Salle. Both men were soon to figure prominently in the exploration of the Mississippi River. Jolliet told Casson and La Salle, who eventually broke away from Casson's expedition, of the new route he had taken and advised Casson to start a mission for the Potawatomi at Baye des Puants. Casson was accompanied by the cartographer-priest Gallinée. Familiar with Sanson's maps, Gallinée was surprised to find fresh water at the western end of Lake Erie. The Casson expedition eventually made it to the Sault by way of Lake Huron.

Gallinée believed that Lake Huron was of immense size and called it "The fresh water sea of the Hurons" or in the Algonquin tongue, "Michigan." His map shows Lake Huron and Michigan as one expansive body of water. Gallinée showed Green bay as "Baye des Poteotamites" on his map. He was part of the first group of explorers who completed a circuit of all five Great Lakes. Casson then learned from the Jesuits at Sault Ste. Marie that Fr. Allouez had already established a mission at Green bay. Allouez had been summoned to Green bay in 1669 to make peace between some traders and the Potawatomi. In 1671 he set up the Mission of St. Francis Xavier, near what is now De Pere.

Fr. Allouez's superior, Claude Dablon, headed all northwest missions at this time. One of his missions was at St. Ignace on the Straits of Mackinac. Fr. Marquette soon headed this mission. It was Dablon who drew the much publicized Jesuit Map of 1672. Using the accurate notes of Allouez, Marquette, and others, Dablon's uncanny graphic accuracy of Lake Superior and northern portions of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is extraordinary. Not until the mid-1800s did another map come close to this one in accuracy.

This is not the place to describe the ensuing voyages of Marquette and Jolliet. Briefly, Talon was adamant about finding a land route to the western ocean, in locating a southern passage to the West Indies, and in controlling Hudson Bay. Talon's priority was the exploration of the Mississippi River and he chose the experienced voyageur and cartographer Jolliet for this venture. Dablon assigned Marquette as the chaplain for this historic trip in 1673.

The two reached the upper Mississippi by way of the Fox River, Lake Winnebago and the Wisconsin River. Marquette's manuscript map is the first to show accurately any part of the Mississippi River. Jolliet had lost all his maps and sketches in a canoe mishap. Therefore, Marquette became the chronicler for the expedition. Later Jolliet drew a map from memory, but it lacked many important details. He drew other maps of the region for the next decade or so. These maps are those of a trader's hand, not of a refined cartographer's. Cartographer Jean- Baptiste Louis Franquelin redrafted much of Jolliet's work.

Louis de Hennepin, a Franciscan friar, accompanied La Salle for the remaining stretch of the Mississippi River in 1678. New Orleans was founded in 1682. The Franciscan's account of this trip was peppered with grandiose tales of monsters and men. Nevertheless, despite its inaccuracies, Hennepin's Carte de la Nouvelle France et de la Louisiane (1683) influenced subsequent cartographers for years to come.

Other excellent maps of the Great Lakes can be attributed to Abbé Claude Bernou (1674, 1679). Bernou never came to New France; he relied on the notes of Jolliet, Franquelin, and La Salle. Franquelin's map Carte Contenant une Partie de Canada (1681) skillfully borrowed from Bressani (1657), Dablon (1672) and Jolliet. All the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi are shown on their maps. In 1681 Melchisidek Thévenot published the first printed account of Marquette's and Jolliet's discovery of the Mississippi. The name "Michigan" appears for the first time on a map of this area.

For the last 20 years of the 17th century and into the 18th century, Great Lakes mapping was influenced most by Franquelin. He became the royal cartographer at Quebec in 1686. It was his job to keep the maps of New France current. Other proteges of Franquelin were Fr. Pierre Raffeix, Vincenzo Coronelli, Hubert Jaillot, Louis de Hennepin, Pierre Mortier, and Guillaume De l' Isle. Only Champlain's early effect on Great Lakes cartography can be compared to Franquelin's later similar effect.

Coronelli, a Venetian Franciscan friar, profited most from Franquelin's maps of New France. He was the official cartographer to Louis XIV, and had access to many of the maps of the day. His fine work is reflected in his 1688 map of the Great Lakes, Par tie Occidentale du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France, which enjoyed wide circulation in Europe for years. See Map 2. An example of a cartouche appears in Map 3. Another very popular map was Del' Isle's Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France of 1703.10 11 See Map 4.

Map 4: This is a portion pf Guillaume De l'Isle' s Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France (1703). This map is considered the best one showing 17th Century knowledge of this area.
Colonial ambition, religious zeal, and scientific expertise combined to explain why Frenchmen and other Europeans employed by France dominated the mapping of North America in the 17th century. Green Bay was one focal point of these efforts.


A Milwaukee native, Mark Steuer is a cartographer with the Green Bay-Brown County Planning Commission. He coordinated the Heritage Festival's map exhibit at the Neville Public Museum.

Photos are by Nancy Sweetland

1. Louise Phelps Kellogg, The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest. (Madison, 1925), p. 19

2. Ibid, p. 36

. 3. Ibid, p. 43.

4. Ibid, p. 53.

5. Explorer Broadsheet /single-page handout), Jackdaw No. C23 "Champlain," (Grossman Publishers, Viking-Penguin Company).

6. Ibid.

7. From Jesuit Relations, quoted in Wisconsin Preseruation Bulletin, "On the trail of Jean Nicolet: 350 years of Wisconsin History, 1634-1984" (Madison, Jan./Feb. 1984), p. 5.

8. L.P. Kellogg, op. cit., p. 90.

9. Ibid, p. 113.

10. Conrad Heidenreich, "Seventeenth Century Maps of the Great Lakes: An Overview and Procedures for Analysis," Archivaria #6 (Summer, 1978), p. 103.

11. In 1671 Jean Picard established the length of a degree. This solved an important problem of mapmakers, regarding the circumference of the earth. Picard's measurement revolutionized cartography.

[Back to Library]

Page created 9/3/97