1830 Ashmun / Finely First Map of Liberia w/ Monrovia inset

Map of the West Coast of Africa, from Sierra Leone to Cape Palmas; including the Colony of Liberia: Compiled chiefly from the surveys and observations of the Late Revd. J. Ashmun. - Main View

1830 Ashmun / Finely First Map of Liberia w/ Monrovia inset


1st map of Liberia.


Map of the West Coast of Africa, from Sierra Leone to Cape Palmas; including the Colony of Liberia: Compiled chiefly from the surveys and observations of the Late Revd. J. Ashmun.
  1830 (dated)     8.5 x 11.5 in (21.59 x 29.21 cm)     1 : 2400000


The most important early map of Liberia issued shortly after its founding. This map was published in 1830 by ardent 'Colonization' supporter Anthony Finley based upon the cartography of Jehudi Ashmun. The map depicts the west African coast from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Cape Palmas. Light red shading indicates territory claimed as Liberia by the American Colonization Society (ACS), while the darker red strip, about 150 miles, indicates regions actually under ACS control. The map is derived from cartography produced by Jehudi Ashmun, an agent of the U.S. Government and the ACS who traveled extensively throughout the region in an attempt to acquire lands and organize peaceful relations with the generally unwelcoming established tribal kingdoms.
Liberia and the American Colonization Society
In the early 19th century a controversial movement arose that advocated for the settlement of American free people of color in Africa. The American Colonization Society (ACS), as it was known, was formally established in 1816 to pursue this goal. In 1818, the ACS sent representatives to West Africa to find a suitable location for the colony, settling on the 'Pepper Coast' just south of Sierra Leone, but they were unable initially to persuade local tribal leaders to grant or sell territory. Nonetheless, plans for the colony progressed and in 1819, the ACS received 100,000 USD from Congress. On February 6, 1820, the first ship, the Elizabeth, sailed from New York to West Africa with three ACS agents and eighty-eight African American emigrants. In 1821, with support of U.S. Navy gunboat diplomacy, the colonists were finally able to secure a strip of land where Monrovia now stands. While constantly harassed by the local tribal peoples, a steady influx of emigrants from America continued to grow the colony. Jehudi Ashmun, an early leader of the ACS, traveled extensively throughout the region in 1825 and 1826, leasing, annexing, or buying tribal lands along the coast and along major rivers leading inland. Ashmun also helped to draft the Liberian constitution, which was based upon the U.S. Constitution, but with provisions that granted Americo-Liberians political power over indigenous peoples - power that they retained well into the 20th century. Liberia, although initially conceived as part of an American Empire, declared independence from the United States and the American Colonization Society in 1847.
The 'Civilizing' of Liberia
The goals of the ACS were at once racist and imperialistic. They believed that through the promotion of 'democracy' as a core virtue, they would expand the suasive sphere of American culture and trade into the 'primitive ' African continent. Ashmun and the other leaders of the ACS movement in Liberia imagined the colony as an agricultural powerhouse from which the natural resources and tribal peoples of Africa could be harnessed for American interests by the very free people of color and former slaves who had been largely rejected and rebuffed by 'white' American society. Part of that vision is evident here. With town names in the red colored 'controlled' region suggestive of North American values: Millsburg, Stockton, and of course Monrovia, after president Monroe; and town names on the periphery of the red zone, reflecting African tribal names: Teembo, Tassoo and Settra Kroo. Monrovia itself is represented via a large inset evocative of modern urbanization, laid out on a bold and ambitious grid, with churches, defensive buildings, a market, schools, trade warehouses, public gardens, and more. Large rivers are shown flowing far inland from the coast, suggesting access to the heart of Africa and its rich resources. The perspective offered by the map is clean, hopeful, and sanitized, and reveals little of the difficult situation on the ground, the rampant disease among the colonists, or the unwelcoming warlike position of the pre-existing indigenous African kingdoms.
A Curious Connection?
We find it interesting that one the founders of the ACS was named Robert Finley (1772 - 1815), a clergyman of Scottish descent based in Princeton, New Jersey, and that this map was published by Anthony Finley of Philadelphia. Both Finleys' fathers were named James Finley, and they lived reasonably close to one another (New Jersey and Philadelphia). Both Finleys were ardent supporters of the 'Colonizaton' movement. Although there is no clear relationship between Anthony Finley (1784 - 1836), Philadelphia publisher of the earliest map of Liberia, and Robert Finley, founder of the ACS, the matter may merit further research.
Publication History and Census
This map was issued in 1830. It was published by Anthony Finley and engraved by J. H. Young. Finley introduced this map as a separate map in 1830, dated as here, and again undated with the 1831 edition of his New General Atlas. The 1830 dated edition was issued for the ACS Thirteenth Annual Report of 1830. In the 1831 edition of his New General Atlas, Finley added two additional maps, Florida (plate 31) and this map of Liberia (plate 60).

This map is rare. It appeared only in one edition of Finley's atlas and the ACS Thirteenth Annual Report of 1830 is near unobtainable. This map does appear in a few institutional collections, but almost all examples appear to be digital resources based upon the same two or three physical examples.


Jehudi Ashmun (April 21, 1794 - August 26, 1828) was an American missionary, religious leader, and social reformer active in New England and Liberia in the early 19th century. Ashmun was born in Champlain, New York and attended Middelbury College and the University of Vermont. He was subsequently ordained as minister in Bangor Maine, to which he relocated for his first position, at the Bangor Theological Seminary, in 1818. Ashmun became involved with the American Colonization Society, a movement to resettle free people of color from the United States to Liberia. He moved to Liberia to support the movement in 1822, serving as de facto governor and the US. Government Agent in the region. He was instrumental in writing a constitution for Liberia that enabled African Americans to hold positions in the government. African Americans and their descendants, known as Americo-Liberians, dominated Liberian politics well into the late 20th century. Ashmun remained in Liberia until 1828 when, suffering from ill heath, probably malaria, he returned to the United States, dying shortly thereafter. More by this mapmaker...

Anthony Finley (August 25, 1784 - June 9, 1836) was an American book and map publisher based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Finley was born in Philadelphia in 1874. He opened a bookshop and publishing house at the Northeast corner of Fourth and Chestnut Street, Philadelphia in 1809. His earliest known catalog, listing botanical, medical and other scientific works, appeared in 1811. His first maps, engraved for Daniel Edward Clarke’s Travels in Various Countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa also appear in 1811. His first atlas, the Atlas Classica, was published in 1818. He soon thereafter published the more significant A New American Atlas and the New General Atlas…, both going through several editions from 1824 to 1834. Although most of Finley's cartographic material was borrowed from European sources, his atlases were much admired and favorably reviewed. In addition to his work as a printer, Finley ran unsuccessfully on the 1818 Democratic ticket for Philadelphia Common Council. He was a founding officer of the Philadelphia Apprentices’ Library, and a member of both the American Sunday-School Union and the Franklin Institute. He was also an ardent supporter of the American Colonization Society, an organization dedication to returning free people of color to Africa - which led to the founding of Liberia. Much of his wealth was dedicated to supporting this cause. Finley was active as a publisher until his 1836 death, apparently of a 'lingering illness.' Shortly thereafter advertisements began appearing for his map business and plates, most of which were acquired by Samuel Augustus Mitchell. Learn More...

James Hamilton Young (December 18, 1792 - c. 1870) was a Scottish-American draughtsman, engraver, and cartographer active in Philadelphia during the first half of the 19th century. Young was born in Avondale, Lanark, Scotland and emigrated to the United States sometime before 1817. Young was a pioneer in American steel plate engraving, a process superior to copper plate engraving due to the increased durability of steel. His earliest known maps date to about 1817, when Young was 25. At the time he was partnered with William Kneass (1780 - 1840), as Kneass, Young and Company, an imprint that was active from 1817 to 1820. He then partnered with with George Delleker, publishing under the imprint of Young and Delleker, active from 1822 to 1823. Young engraved for numerous cartographic publishers in the Philadelphia area, including Anthony Finley, Charles Varle, and Samuel Augustus Mitchell, among others. His most significant work includes maps engraved for Anthony Finley and later Samuel Augustus Mitchell. Mitchell proved to be Young's most significant collaborator. The pair published numerous maps from about 1831 well into the 1860s. Young retired sometime in the mid to late 1860s. In 1840 he registered a patent for an improved system of setting up typography for printing. ˆˆ Learn More...


The American Repository, and Colonial Journal, March 1830, Vol VL, No. 1.    


Very good. Some toning and offsetting. A couple of minor split repairs. Lower right corner repaired and reinforced.


OCLC 44702900. Rumsey 0285.060. Library of Congress, G8882.C6 1830 .A8.