Map of the North-West Territory of the Province of Canada Help

Series F 443-6

Map of the North-West Territory of the Province of Canada

About these records

Map of the North-West Territory of the Province of Canada
Dates of Creation
Physical Description

1 map

Sub-series forms part of

F 443 David Thompson fonds

Scope and Content

Series consists of a map based on survey data compiled during David Thompson's twenty years of travel and exploration in the fur trade.

The Northwest Company, of which Thompson was a partner, commissioned the map; however, Thompson had been planning for its creation years before he left the Hudson's Bay Company. Thompson's astronomical observations, made using only a ship's sextant and other rudimentary tools, remained among the most scientifically trusted measurements of that region until the early twentieth century.

The 'Great Map' depicts what are now western Canada and the northwestern United States, beginning at the southeastern tip of Lake Superior and westward across Canada from northwestern Ontario to the Pacific Ocean, as well as various portions of Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. In addition to landmarks and bodies of water, Thompson also identified all seventy-eight of the Northwest Company's trading posts on the map.

The full title of the map reads as follows: "Map of the North-West Territory of the Province of Canada from actual Survey during the years 1792-1812. This map made for the North West Company in 1813 and 1814 and delivered to the Honorable William McGillivray then agent Embraces the Region lying between 45 and 60 degrees North Latitude and 84 and 124 degrees West Longitude comprising the Survey's and Discoveries of 20 years namely the Discovery and Survey of the Oregon Territory to the Pacific Ocean the Survey of the Athabasca Lake Slave River and Lake from which flows Mackenzie's River to the Arctic Sea by Mr. Philip Turner the Route of Alexander Mackenzie in 1792 down part of Fraser's river together with the Survey of this River to the Pacific Ocean by the late John Stuart of the North-West Company by David Thompson Astronomer and Surveyor."

Drafted by Thompson at his home in Terrebonne, Lower Canada beginning in 1813, the map was requested by William McGillivray, head of the Northwest Company, in the spring of 1814, one year earlier than Thompson's original deadline for completion. Thompson completed the map in June 1814 and it hung in the Great Hall of the Northwest Company headquarters at Fort William. He completed a more accurate version of the map in 1814 immediately following the delivery of the first, also for the Northwest Company. It is unknown whether the second drawing replaced the first in the Great Hall.

Although documentation about this particular copy of the map is scarce, it is believed to have been Thompson's personal copy of the updated 1814 version. It was probably this version of the map, in addition to a further one created in 1817, that Thompson sent to England in a failed attempt to have it published. Thompson was not recognized for the map's creation until many years after his death.

Restrictions on Access
Access is limited due to the risk posed by light exposure. For detailed research, please request a reference copy in the Special Collections Reading Room.
Terms For Use and Reproduction
This map is in the public domain. There are no restrictions on reproduction for research and private study. For use other than research and private study, please submit a Request for Permission to Publish, Exhibit or Broadcast Form.
Associated Material

An untitled version of the map is available at The National Archives, UK in London under the reference code FO 925/4622. It is documented as having been sent by Thompson to the British Foreign Office in December 1843 via the British consul in New York.

A version of the map is also housed at the British Library in London, accessed as [Oregon, British Columbia, Washington], ca. 1815 (code Add. MS. 27363, ff. A-D).

A later version of the map [date unknown] is available digitally in four sections on the Champlain Society's Digital Collections site. Visit and enter the Digital Collections page. This map was included in the jacket of the 1916 version of Thompson's Narrative.

Related Material

Journal No. 28a (see Series F 443-1) was kept by Thompson during the period the map was conceived and drawn. This item is available on microfilm reel MS 4427.

Former Codes


Finding Aid
No finding aid is available for this series.

How to order these records

From our Reading Rooms

A full-size copy of this map can be viewed in the Reading Room. For research purposes there are reference copies available. Consult a Reference Archivist for more information.

Scroll up to "Finding Aid" for more information about any available finding aids or listings.

By Microfilm Interloan
This material is not available through Interloan.