1893 Map Showing the General Location of the Natural Oyster Grounds of Maryland

This map is an 1893 map of Maryland, a chart focused on the oyster fishing beds of the Chesapeake Bay and part of Chincoteague Bay. The map was published for the Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission, 1893. 

The Chesapeake Bay has long been considered one of the most productive oyster growing areas in the world. In fact, one translation of the word "Chesapeake" from the Algonquian language is “Great Shellfish Bay.” One of the early English settlers to Virginia, William Strachey, wrote in 1612 that “Oysters there be in whole banks and beds, and those of the best. I have seen some thirteen inches long" (Strachey 1953). A Swiss visitor to the Chesapeake in 1701, Francis Louis Michel, observed, “The abundance of oysters is incredible. There are whole banks of them so that the ships must avoid them. . . . They surpass those in England by far in size, indeed, they are four times as large. I often cut them in two, before I could put them into my mouth.” (Michel 1916).

By the mid 1800s it was estimated that over 17 million bushels of oysters were harvested annually from the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay alone. This was the golden age for oystering on the Chesapeake, and its oysters were internationally renowned. Canneries located in Baltimore and elsewhere along the Bay were supplying not only much of the United States but other countries as far away as Australia. However, by the 1870s, Maryland’s oyster fields were becoming severely depleted, which prompted the U.S. Government to create oyster management efforts in the forms of stricter laws and regulations. This map, which locates where oyster gathering is allowed, and by which harvesting method, is from the U.S. Government’s 1893 reports completed in that effort.

Oyster regulations are shown by color; the color blue indicates dredging areas, yellow for scraping areas, and green for tonging areas. The map also uses pink dots to show compact and scattered oyster reefs. Washington DC, Annapolis, Baltimore, and other cities and towns are labeled. This is a very informative and colorful map, showcasing one moment in the dynamic and storied history of the Maryland oyster industry.


Map is in very good condition. Paper is healthy, with only very minimal toning. Original printed color, which is particularly vivid. There are two nearly invisible, short edge tears along the left and top border that have been closed on verso with archival tape. Sheet measures 37 1/8" H x 22 1/2" W.

Map has been framed to the highest archival standards in a custom-built black and gold frame.

Framed Dimensions: 46 1/2" H x 32 3/4" W x 1 1/2" D

Related Items