John Melish (June 13, 1771 - 1822) was an early 19th century American writer, publisher and mapmaker based at 209 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. Many historians consider John Melish to be the first truly great American commercial cartographer and responsible for some of the most influential maps in the history of North America. Melish was born in Scotland in 1771. As a young man he apprenticed to a Glasgow cotton merchant and in this capacity visited America no less than four times between 1798 and 1809. In 1806 Melish attempted to create his own cotton important-export company based in Glasgow, Scotland and Savannah, Georgia. Unfortunately, deteriorating relations between the United States and Great Britain resulted in the 1807 trade embargo, which all but destroyed Melish's fledgling company. In 1811 Melish finally left Scotland to permanently relocate in Philadelphia. Melish had never been truly satisfied with the quality of travel writing available regarding the new republic and so, in 1812, published his own contribution to the genre. Melish based his first major publication, the cartographically rich, Travels in the United States of America in the Years 1806 & 1807, and 1809, 1810 and 1811, on the copious notes taken during his own travels as a cotton merchant. Travels enjoyed an immediate success and even caught the eye of Thomas Jefferson, then President, who sent copies of the work to friends in France and Italy. Partially in an attempt to illustrate his own travels and partly in response to a general need for good cartographic materials, Melish turned to map publishing. By 1814 he was styling himself as a "Geographer and Map Seller" and had published several independent maps, geographies and gazetteers. Melish's most important work is most likely his iconic representation of the United States first published in 1816, Map of the United States with the contiguous British and Spanish Possessions. This visionary large format map was the first American commercial map to show the United States extending from coast-to-coast in a remarkably prescient expression of the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Melish died suddenly of unknown causes in December of 1822. He is buried in Philadelphia. (Carter, E. C., Surveying the Record, pages 40 - 49. Ristow, W., American Maps and Map Makers, pages 110-115. 143, 154, 166-168, 191, 246, 281, 446. Wolfgang, M.E., "John Melish: An Early American Demographer." Pennsylvania Magazine 82 (1958): pages 65-81.)

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