Thesis ID: CBB001567382

Imaginary Lines, Real Power: Surveyors and Land Speculation in the Mid-Atlantic Borderlands, 1681--1800 (2012)


Gallo, Marcus Terran (Author)

University of California, Davis
Taylor, Alan
Cadden, Joan
Smolenski, John
Cadden, Joan
Smolenski, John

Publication Date: 2012
Edition Details: Advisor: Taylor, Alan; Committee Members: Smolenski, John, Cadden, Joan.
Physical Details: 261 pp.
Language: English

This study examines the interplay between surveying and land speculation in early Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. Early American governments adopted surveying techniques developed in the British Isles that promised to impose order by erasing native land claims and overwriting a geometric grid on the landscape. Because courts recognized surveys as evidence of permanent land ownership, settlers owed their allegiance to the governments who issued their surveys. In areas where the government could exercise a monopoly on violence, surveys could establish clear borders and regulate land distribution. The Pennsylvania government tasked surveyors with allocating frontier land thickly and evenly, so that no gaps in settlement occurred. In return, surveyors received modest fees paid by the settlers. Although governments used surveys to enhance their power, establishing a corps of surveyors to oversee land sales also had unintended consequences. As Pennsylvania extended its control deep into the backcountry, it became increasingly reliant on the integrity of deputy surveyors who operated almost without oversight. By contracting themselves to speculators, these men could undermine the province's orderly land sales. After the American Revolution, when Pennsylvania's state government placed millions of acres of frontier land on the market at one time, many surveyors chose to hire themselves out to wealthy patrons as land agents and stewards. In this way, men from humble origins made fortunes for themselves by helping to direct much of the state's landed property into the hands of a privileged few. These men served as models for later surveyor-speculators who dominated land sales and politics across the Midwest.


Description Cited in Dissertation Abstracts International-A 74/03(E), Sep 2013. Proquest Document ID: 1234550675.

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Authors & Contributors
Julie Laplante
Hidalgo, Alex
Moore, Deirdre
Grace Karskens
Cobb, Charles R.
MacDowell, Laurel Sefton
Social Studies of Science
Science in Context
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Environment and History
Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick
University Press of Florida
University of Texas Press
University of New Hampshire
UBC Press
Pickering & Chatto
Indigenous peoples; indigeneity
Land settlement
Science and politics
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Science and culture
Penn, Thomas
Baudin, Nicolas
Acosta, José de
Time Periods
18th century
17th century
19th century
16th century
20th century
Early modern
Great Britain

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