Publication: We Are One

May 2015
ISBN 978-0-89073-134-9
(soft cover)
50 pp., 20 color illus.

We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence. An exhibition organized by the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center from the Special Collections of the Boston Public Library, May 2, 2015. – November 29, 2015

By Ronald Grim, Stephanie Cyr, and Allison Lange

We Are One maps the American road to independence. It explores the tumultuous events that led thirteen colonies to join to forge a new nation. The exhibition takes its title from Benjamin Franklin’s early design for a note of American currency containing the phrase “We Are One.” This presaged the words “E Pluribus Unum” found on the seal of the United States (adopted in 1782) and on all U.S. coins.

Using geographic and cartographic perspectives, the exhibition traces the American story from the strife of the French and Indian War to the creation of a new national government and the founding of Washington, D.C., as its home. Exhibited maps and graphics show America’s early status as a British possession: thirteen colonies in a larger trans-Atlantic empire. During and after the French and Indian War, protection of those thirteen colonies exhausted Britain economically and politically and led Parliament to pass unpopular taxes and restrictions on her American colonial subjects. The Stamp Act, the Tea Tax, and limits on colonial trade and industry incited protests and riots in Boston, as contemporaneous portrayals in the exhibition show.

When tensions between Britain and her American colonies erupted into war, British cartographers and other witnesses depicted military campaigns, battles, and their settings. These maps, drawings, and military artifacts bring the struggle for independence to life.

Finally, We Are One shows how, in the aftermath of the Revolution, America took stock of her new geography with surveys and maps. During this period, the Founders struggled to craft a new national government that would confederate thirteen colonies with different economic interests and cultures. European maps reflect their success by recognizing America’s triumphant new status of nationhood and her expanding territory.

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