A "SCHOOLGIRL MAP" WITH SIGNIFICANT ASSOCIATION (MANUSCRIPT SCHOOL MAP.) Beecher, Catharine. This New Map of the United Statesis respectfully presented to Mrs. R. Foote by her affectionate grandaughter C. Beecher. Manuscript map in ink and watercolor on wove paper. 16 1/2x20 3/4 inches sheet size; mounted to acidic board, stains and aged varnish, small abrasions with minor losses. [Litchfield, CT, circa 1814-1816]
"Students in the early republic commonly stitched, drew, and painted maps of their states, nation, and world as part of their educations. Map drawing and geography were regarded as particularly appropriate subjects for girls, both as a pathway to literacy and as a means of demonstrating accomplishment. Many young girls exposed to map work in their own educations went on to become teachers themselves and carried these practices with them into an ever-growing national network of female academies and seminaries" (Susan Schulten, Map Drawing, Graphic Literacy, and Pedagogy in the Early Republic; History of Education Quarterly, volume 57, issue 2).
Geography was an essential subject at Sarah Pierce's Litchfield Female Academy where in 1814 a fourteen-year-old Catharine Beecher was a standout student. Ms. Pierce incorporated the practice of map-drawing as part of the young girls' education and proof to the quote above, Beecher established her own school, Hartford Female Seminary, in 1823. Naturally as part of her curriculum Beecher continued the emphasis on first-hand learning through cartographic artistry.
With the present map we see an adolescent Beecher consulting and replicating a fine contemporary source: "An Improved Map of the United States" published quite locally in Cheshire, CT in 1813 by Shelton and Kensett. Her work here is a faithful copy of that map, delivering greater detail and precision than we commonly see in surviving examples of similar work. This personal map project was a seed of tradition: each next-generation student a branch on the school-age map-drawing tree. The teenage Catharine, doubtless proud of her work, presented the map to her maternal grandmother Roxanna (Ward) Foote.