Thursday, May 13, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday- James Wilson, America’s first Globe Maker


A Wilson Terrestrial Globe

James Wilson was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire on March 15, 1765. His father was a farmer, and James was an apprentice to a blacksmith. He had little formal education. In 1796 he removed to Bradford, Vermont and taught himself cartography. To make up for a lack of education, he bought a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. At Dartmouth College he saw a pair of English globes, and became interested in producing his own. He began by turning solid blocks of wood, and covering them with maps. He was not satisfied with the results until he learned the art of fine copper engraving with Amos Doolittle.

Wilson’s first 13” globes were sold for $50 in 1813 in Boston, a luxury item for the time. His mass production began in 1815 in Albany, New York. His best globes were those created in 1826 from new engravings, and came in three sizes. His celestial globes showed the stars and planets, and his terrestrial globes showed the continents, cities and rivers.


A Wilson Celestial Globe

James Wilson died in 1835. His sons, John and Samuel Wilson, continued with the globe business in Albany. One of James Wilson’s original terrestrial globes is in the Harvard University Map collection.

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Family Tree Information:

Generation 1: Alexander Wilson, born in 1659 probably in Londonderry, Ireland. He fought in the siege of Londonderry in 1688/9 and came to America in 1719. He died on 4 March 1752 in what is now Windham, New Hampshire.

Generation 2: James Wilson, born about 1680 and emigrated from Londonderry, Northern Ireland to Londonderry, New Hampshire, died in Londonderry 12 June 1772 aged 70 years; married Janet Taggart, who died 12 January 1800, aged 97 years. Thirteen children (Agnes, George, Alexander, James, Mary, Jeanette, John, Samuel, Annis, Margaret, Eleanor, Samuel and George).

Generation 3: James Wilson, born 15 May 1733 in Londonderry, died 1843 in Bradford, Vermont; married 1 June 1758 in Londonderry to Eleanor Hopkins, born 1738, died 1822 in Bradford, Vermont, daughter of Robert Hopkins and Elenor Wilson. Nine children (Robert, Martha, James, Janet, David, Agnes, Elenor, Samuel and Betsey).

Generation 4: James Wilson, born 15 March 1765 in Londonderry, died on 26 March 1855 on the Upper Plain, Bradford, Vermont, aged 92 years; married first to Molly Highland of Londonderry, one son; married second to Sarah Donalson, ten children; married third Agnes McDuffee of Bradford, Vermont, three daughters.

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For more information:
The History of Londonderry, edited by Edward L. Parker, Boston, 1851, pages 251-254.

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Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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