Earliest Chicago Maps

Rewriting the Earliest Cartographic History of the Heartland of North America

The Jacques Marquette Map
is not an
Authentic 17th Century Document

A map was discovered into history in 1844. It was immediately heralded as the long-lost map by Jacques Marquette. This, in spite of one's observation that there had never been, in the first place, a claim that there was a lost Marquette map, waiting to come to light. But this one popped up.

Francis Borgia Steck (Marquette Legends, 1959) struck a dour blow to the map's credibility, as based on the absence on the map of Marquette's own mission, St. Francis Xavier, at Green Bay. See below.

This current author's work stands on the shoulders of Steck. He said that fifty to seventy-five years would need to pass before the public would be obliged to appreciate his discoveries.

It need be said that this brief paper is exclusively concentrated on the map. There are various other Marquette Legend documents, from the 1670-80s and 1840s that can also anticipate tortured demise under the drawn-out time and patience taken for careful scrutiny.

This Marquette Map first appearing online was thru the efforts of the current writer. It was about 20 years ago, consequent to material having been studied for several years. The version in the link above is a sepia rendered version, less muddy in appearance than the most common image. The image in J.G. Shea (Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley, 1852) is most crisp to the zoomed view, but, as posted by the current author years ago, had to have the sides cropped for reproduction purposed.

In 2005 I presented my three point Marquette Map Hoax Thesis to the Chicago Map Society. The following year I presented it to the Conference on Illinois History, in Springfield, Illinois. The thesis is simple.

1. Marquette had no map-making training,

2. Marquette is associated with no other maps, and yet,

3. Marquette drew this map with the accurately delineated Illinois River, with its three-sides-of-an-octagon shape. This was nearly a century-and-a-half in anticipation of any historical cartographer.

If someone never had any training in map making, and was associated with no other maps, could they draw a map with an accurately depicted three-side Illinois River nearly a century-and-a-half earlier than scores of the most highly esteemed world-class cartographers?

Three basic problems casting doubt on the 1673-74 origin of the Marquette map, and its authorship by Marquette.

A. Detail of Illinois River on Marquette Map, above left, with three sides of an octagon contour. Above right, John Melish Map of 1818 with three sided contour. Apparently, Melish was the first to draw this shape on a printed map. The current author perused 70-80 Illinois maps to identify the earliest instance of this three-sided contour of the Illinois River.

B. Detail comparison of Marquette Map, left, with 1703 Delisle, right. The apparent earliest "elbowing out" of the Mississippi in map history was on Delisle's. This is further evidence the Marquette Map was not made by Marquette. As a side note, but without further comment here, the faux Marquette has the point of the elbow at the 39th degree of latitude, Delisle's is at the 40th.

C. As a dictate of simple reason, there should be a place name, St. Francis Xavier, on Marquette's Map, left. It was the mission (founded 1671) Marquette was supposedly staying at when he drew the map in 1673-74. Steck pointed out this incongruity in Marquettte Legends. As an additional clarification, Marquette's Map (left) reveals that where there should be St. Francis Xavier, there is instead, the Indian tribe, P8TE8TAMI (Potawatomi). The inverted "v"'shapes above that name, indicating dwellings. Opposite this, in association with dwellings of its own, is the tribal name Outagami.


Brief Notes:

As stated above, the map, with two other documents, is claimed to have been discovered into history in 1844. Felix Martin, the presiding Jesuit in Canada, in 1844 learned of and retrieved the map and the two other Marquette-related "precious" documents from certain nurse/nuns at a hospital in Quebec.

Not easily mentally sorted, there were (1.) the map, (2) a three part document, the first part of which was divided into 10 chapters claiming to be the "long lost" extended account of a Marquette 1673 Mississippi expedition, and (3) a diary/journal/account of Marquettte's interrupted southward sojourn to the Illinois Indians.

As the story goes, these "precious documents" had been entrusted for their safe keeping with the hospital personnel in 1800. But the "story" does not work out well for anything less than a whimsical denouement. As Martin himself wrote, in a seemingly off-the-cuff list of the documents to a fellow Jesuit in 1845, the determinedly most "precious" documents among the three were "two detailed and autographed biographies of the illustrious Iroquois virgin, Catherine Tegahkouita." No Marquette documents to be found. Years ago, by way of the current author's email communications with the helpful and friendly Jesuit archivist in Canada, he learned there was neither a record/inventory of the documents deposited with the hospital personnel in 1800, nor of those claimed to have been retrieved by Felix Martin in 1844. Martin, with plausible deniability, never mentioned how they found their way into his library.