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Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University
Rare Books - Exhibits
Ben A. & Sylvia S. Smith American Geography & Social Studies Education Collection


Virtually all of the early American geographers were formerly British citizens. Influences on their geographic publications came largely from Europe and from information published by travelers. Geographic content regarding Europe, Asia, and Africa had an obvious European bias. Similar biases influenced the content information for North and South America.

Although geography was taught as a separate subject in most schools, geography did not develop into a formal discipline until the demise of Samuel Goodrich, Alexander von Humbolt, and Karl Ritter, all of whom died in 1859. Although the works of these men created a solid groundwork for the study of geography, they did not provide the foundation for a clearly unified field.

Illustrations and maps in early geography books were created with the use of wood block printing and later with the use of steel engravings. Very few of the earliest geography texts contain color illustrations or maps.

Morse, 1798

Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), An Abridgment of the American Gazetteer (Boston: Thomas and Andrews), 1798.
Spec / In-Process

Often referred to as the "father" of American geography, Jedidiah Morse was the first American citizen to produce a geography text for an American audience. To help the sales of his first text in 1784 (just one year after the Treaty of Paris, which officially recognized the United States of America as an independent nation), Morse conducted market research to learn what elements within his text needed revision to make it more appealing to the buying public.

Morse, 1805

Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826), The American Universal Geography (Boston: J. T. Buckingham, for Thomas and Andrews), 1805.
Spec / G121 / .M878 / 1805

Another Morse Publication which closely resembles gazetteers published in Great Britain.

Dwight, 1817

Nathaniel Dwight (1770-1831), A System of Universal Geography, for Common Schools: In Which Europe is Divided According to the Late Act of the Congress at Vienna (Northampton: Simeon Butler), 1817.
Spec / G131 / .D992 / 1817

First edition published in 1795. This edition represents the most recent changes in Europe as a result of Napoleon Bonaparte's conquests and subsequent losses. Note the changes of the various kingdoms of Italy at the bottom of page 67. Also note Dwight's strong anti-Catholic bias in the question immediately preceeding this. Dwight was trained as a minister and began publishing geography books after noting that "Geography was but little attended to in the early years of childhood." (preface, p. [i])

Adams, 1823

Daniel Adams (1773-1864), Geography; or, A Description of the World (Boston: Lincoln & Edmands), 1823. 8th edition (1st edition published in 1816)
Spec / In-Process

Olney, 1843

Jesse Olney (1798-1872), A Practical System of Modern Geography (New York: Binson, Pratt & Company), 1843. 40th edition (1st edition published in 1829)
Spec / In-Process

Parley, 1847

Peter Parley (1793-1860), Peter Parley's Geography for Beginners (New York: Huntington and Savage), 1847.
Spec / In-Process

This title was first printed in 1844. Parley's works were extremely influential in American classrooms. He published 26 geography textbooks as well as books on geology, history, and social studies. Parley sold over 12 million textbooks and at least one of his titles remained in print until 1912.

Women in Geography

The work of numerous women is evident in American geography education since its beginnings. Among the earliest geographers in the U.S. are Susanna Hazwell Rawson (1810), Emma Willard (1836), Sarah Sophie Cornell. Works by Emma Willard, S. S. Cornell, Mary Hall, Vernon Quinn, and Mary Smith are included in this exhibit.

Willard, 1836

Emma Hart Willard (1787-1870), Ancient Geography, as Connected with Chronology and Preparatory to the Study of Ancient History (Hartford, CT: John Beach), 1836. 7th edition (1st edition published in 1823)
Spec / In-Process

The frontispiece map is a curious representation of the various ancient civilizations charted as if they were tributaries of the Amazon River.