Exploring Charting Texas Online

By Marketing and Communications | 10-26-2022

COLLEGE STATION, TX (October 2022) - The Libraries is proud to announce the launch of our online version of “Charting Texas” exhibition. Visit tx.ag/ChartingTexasOnline to explore 500 years of Texas history through maps. The online exhibit has interactive features that allow you to zoom in on the parts of the maps that capture your curiosity. You may also explore “Charting Texas” in-person at Cushing Memorial Library & Archive until December 9th, 2022. 


Jewel of the Collection

The jewel of our collection is Stephen F. Austin’s Map of Texas With Parts of the Adjoining States, 1830. This map was acquired through the generosity of several donors including a lead gift by the Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp ’72, members of the 2018 Board of Regents, and Bonnie and Otway Denny ’71. 

Austin’s landmark map was the first map of Texas to be printed in the United States. It depicts natural landmarks and man-made features while also acting as an advertising tool to draw settlers to Texas. At the time of printing, Austin’s map was the most accurate depiction of the Texas river system. During the 1800s, maps were typically cut-up and backed with canvas for durability. The Libraries’ copy is one of the few in existence that is still fully intact.


The Interior Lines of Texas

Take a look at a Texas map that shows the county lines. In the east, you will see counties with irregular, shapes that usually follow natural boundaries of the land, like rivers. As you move west, the counties start to become rectangular. Curator Anton duPlessis notes that during the settlement of Texas “survey methods changed, that is when we started getting the sections and blocks and the counties are all squares….rivers aren’t the natural boundaries anymore between counties.” 

The map from Colton’s Atlas of America: Illustrating the Physical and Political Geography of North and South America and the West India Islands 1856 was created around the time of the shift. On the map, you can see mostly irregularly-shaped counties with a few rectangular shapes beginning to appear. The areas left blank on the map did not yet have counties. Counties continued to be established in west Texas until the last one, Loving County, in 1931. 


The Politics of a Name

Another point of interest about the maps is the politics of names and political boundaries. As Curator duPlessis said “the physical details are dead-on, but the political boundaries are not.” The events of the Texas Revolution occurred in 1835-1836, where-in Texas established itself as an independent country. However, there is a time lapse before that independence is acknowledged in maps produced by other countries. For example, the 1840 version of mapmaker Brué’s Nouvelle Carte Du Mexique, Due Texas Et D’Une Partie Des Etats Limitrophes is the first French map to use “Texas” in the title. Even then, the map shows different political boundaries than what the Republic of Texas claimed. This trend of other countries redefining the boundaries of Texas can be found in other maps of the period. Investigate closely, and you will find that there are instances where the names of rivers and towns are changed or in some cases omitted. 


The Varied Shapes of Texas

An additional way to explore the maps is to examine how the shape of Texas has changed over time. Six flags have flown over Texas, and each of these flag bearers had an opinion about and a map for the shape of Texas. Shapes that you can examine include the heart (see maps Lapie 1838 and Radefeld 1845)and the stove-pipe (see maps Mitchell 1846 and Wyld 1850). 


Discover Texas History

Explore 500 years of Texas history online at tx.ag/ChartingTexasOnline or visit Cushing Library in person Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 





For more information about this exhibition, please contact Anton duPlessis at duplessis@library.tamu.edu.


For press inquiries, please contact Ivy Mestrovic, Texas A&M Libraries; 979.458.2420 or imestrovic@library.tamu.edu.



About the Texas A&M Universities Libraries

Comprised of five unique libraries, the Texas A&M University Libraries is a hub of resources, spaces and persons supporting the success of research, learning and teaching at Texas A&M. Our priorities are to advance student success and to be a partner in innovative research while providing a respectful physical and digital home to all students, staff, faculty and researchers. To learn more visit library.tamu.edu.