Mapping the Ohio Country: Re-enactor to Discuss Colonial Map Making – OHIO University Libraries

On Thursday, October 23rd at 2pm the Ohio University Libraries’ Diversity Committee will host their Fall 2014 speaker. Tony Holbrook, 18th century re-enactor and surveyor, will speak about Colonial-era cartography and surveying.

This year, Ohio University celebrates the 200th anniversary of the first university library. Among the items in the first collection were tools used for surveying. Colonial surveyors—Re-enactor Tony Holbrook stands in a tent in Revolutionary-era costume.  including those who laid out the plot that would eventually become Ohio University— measured the land by walking it with a compass and a metal chain. Their measurements were astonishingly accurate.  Those same techniques had been used just a few years before, in the Revolutionary War, by the group General Washington commissioned as The Department of the Geographer to the Army. Their job was to lay out the roads for troop movement from battle to battle, and to map the enemies’ position.

Holbrook will demonstrate and explain surveying as it was done in the late 18th and early 19th century.  Be prepared to discover the measure of the land in chains, rods, and inches, using both original and reproduction 18th century instruments, maps, & costumes. Along with his presentation, Holbrook will also demonstrate Colonial-era surveying and  map drafting tools and maps, engineering techniques, and share stories about the people and the time when America was just beginning.

Holbrook has been a re-enactor with the 18th century living history community since 1987, specializing in the 1750-1807 era. As a re-enactor, Holbrook has portrayed a variety of historic personas, including a Private in Rogers’ Rangers (from the French and Indian War), a Captain in the Ohio County Militia and a crew member with the St. Charles Discovery Expedition that celebrated the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s expedition trip to the Pacific and return to St. Louis.

More recently, Holbrook has turned his attention and research to those involved in the Revolutionary-era Geographer’s Department which existed from 1777-1783. Members of this department served as both surveyors and map-makers to General George Washington’s American Army. The recreated unit attends Revolutionary War re-enacting events several times a year, kitted out as soldiers and militia members doing their work with tools and techniques of the period.

Instructional librarian Sherri Saines, a member of the re-enacting unit will accompany Holbrook. The presentation will be in Alden Library 319.

Date: Thursday, October 23

Time: 2-3 p.m.

Place: Alden 319 (Friends of the Library Room)


Photo courtesy of Tony Holbrook. Used by permission.