Mapping the Tours of President James Monroe, 1817-1819

Authors: Jacqueline Gallagher*, University of Mary Washington
Topics: Historical Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Geography Education
Keywords: James Monroe, historical mapping, qualitative GIS
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Through mapping each of three tours made by President James Monroe, it is possible to compare the sites he visited, the people he met and how he traveled. Ostensibly, his tours were those of a private citizen with the intention of inspecting existing and potential fortifications after the war of 1812. His travels quickly became those of a celebrity, marking the first time most citizens had seen a president. Sites of public interest were visited; parades, speeches, and dinners followed, and thousands of people came out to greet Monroe. Considered dangerously modern at the time, Monroe frequently traveled by steamboat; he also covered hundreds of miles on horseback and in carriages, often relatively quickly.

Different groups of students helped extract data from Volume 1 of The Papers of James Monroe, learning to assess primary source documents and find historical locations with varying degrees of accuracy. Two story maps showing Monroe’s travels were created to accompany two museum exhibits at their one hundred year anniversary. The tours were rather different, perhaps a result of Monroe’s experience as president but also for personal reasons.

This paper highlights comparisons between Monroe’s tours and explores how student groups found and mapped the data and then interacted with it – increasing their understanding of historical geography of the US and ways in which it was traversed. Themes include museum studies, primary source documents and learning through maps.

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