Pirates and Pioneers

Cabbages and Kings

Twas in the good year 1717 when that evil pirate, Captain Bellame sailed north from the West Indies to pass the winter in the more comfortable shipping lanes off Newfoundland. Near Martha's Vineyard he impressed a Yankee fisherman to pilot his ship past Long Island. The new skipper, apparently unhappy, ran the ships aground on Norsett Barr during a storm.

All that remains of Bellame and his crew is on one of the 70,000 maps which form Widener's collection. On a chart drawn by a Boston cartographer rests this conclusion: ". . . I came through with a whale boat being ordered bye Government to look after Pirate Ship Whido Bellame Commandr. . . cast away 26 of April 1717 where I buried One Hundred and Two Men Drowned." An occasional doubloon from Bellame's hoard is still washed up on the sands.

The Widener maps bear the tales of adventurers and explorers as well as that of modern explorers. A colonial expedition led by Filson charted parts of Kentucky after George Clark quieted the Shawnee. The map displays Daniel Boone's comment: "an exceeding good performance." Another early American map, drawn by John Smith in 1614, locates and names Plymouth Rock six years before the Pilgrims "found" it.

A valuable addition to the collection came in 1879 when the librarian discovered a package behind a board in old Gore Hall which contained the hand-drawn plans of British Revolutionary fortifications. Included is "A sketch of the Battle of Germantown 4th October 1777 where the rebels were repulsed." A short time later the red coated cartographer hid his maps and retreated.

The Map Room's stock of American charts is complemented by the more modern collection of the Institute of Geographical Studies. Twentieth century surveyors, colonial mapmakers, as well as ancient French, Italian and Korean cartographers all contribute toward making the room in Widener worthy of a rainy afternoon visit. Those who are neither scholars nor tourists will enjoy the colored pictures.