Joshua Fry, another Albemarle adventurer, was born in England, educated at Oxford, and taught mathematics at William and Mary College. Around 1740 he settled on the Hardware River south of Charlottesville and became a planter and prominent resident of Albemarle County. His friend and fellow landowner Peter Jefferson was of Welsh descent. Although he lacked formal education, he was well read and became a skilled surveyor and mapmaker. These two men were among the first residents of this frontier area of Virginia. They held a number of public officesmany of which involved surveying.
In 1750, the Board of Trade and Plantations in England authorized the acting governor to appoint the most proper and best qualified surveyors to complete a new map. Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson were commissioned to carry out this order. Although completed in 1751, their map, often referred to as the Fry-Jefferson map, was not published until Thomas Jefferys of London issued it in 1754.
The first edition of this map represents a portion of the Middle Atlantic colonies from the Eastern seaboard to the Ohio River. It accurately depicts the settled parts of Virginia and is the first map to show the Appalachian Mountains running in the correct direction. The area to the west of the mountains contains several errors: Lake Erie is erroneously located two hundred miles further south than it belongs and the Ohio River is distorted. The map shown here is one of four copies extant. Both the British and French consulted the map during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. The map went through several editions, the last published in 1794. Thomas Jefferson used the Fry-Jefferson map in drawing his map for Notes on the State of Virginia.
Thomas Jeffersons avid interest in geography and cartography was evident in his lifelong quest for information about Virginia and the western regions of North America. Much of his knowledge of and enthusiasm for maps probably came from his associations with his father, his tutor Reverend James Maury, and other members of the Loyal Company. Like his elders, Jefferson was a practicing surveyor. More importantly, he amassed a collection of 350 atlases and books on geography-related topics and over one hundred printed and manuscript maps. Although he never traveled west of Warm Springs, Virginia, he is generally believed to be the most knowledgeable person of his time on the geography of the western part of North America.
Despite his breadth of knowledge and talents as a writer, Jefferson published only one book during his lifetimeNotes on the State of Virginia. This work began as a response to a detailed questionnaire on the conditions of North America sent by the French Legation in 1780 to all the former British colonies. Jefferson expanded his response over several years into a compendium on the natural history and geographical, social, political, and economic characteristics of Virginia and other parts of America. Although Jefferson apparently never intended to publish this material, he did circulate a few privately printed copies to selected individuals, which led to an unauthorized and inaccurate French translation in 1785. Jefferson finally approved the official release of the book in French and English editions in 1787. He continued to rework the manuscript until 1814 but never issued a revised version.
Jefferson consulted three maps in preparing the map for Notes on the Statethe map co-authored by his father, a map by Thomas Hutchins published in 1778, and a map of Pennsylvania by William Scull published in 1770. Jefferson added A Map of the Country between Albemarle Sound, and Lake Erie to Notes on the State of Virginia and also issued the map separately.