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Map Exercise Tips

Here are some tips to help you with your Map Exercises! Scroll down to see them all.

How can I see a close-up of the map?

When you first click on a map link, the map may be large for an instant then suddenly go small. To see the larger size map, simply position your mouse over the image on your screen. Instead of an arrow or pointing finger, you should see what looks like a magnifying glass (see symbol below). Click again and the map will reach its full size. Scroll from left to right and/or from top to bottom to see the map details.

mouse magnifier icon

How can I see the entire large map without scrolling?

If you right click while your mouse is positioned over the on-screen map, a menu will pop up that includes the option to "Save Picture As." Use this option to save the map to your computer hard drive, then open it in Windows Explorer or an image editing software program such as Photoshop and print the map on a piece of paper. You can then examine the printed map without the need to scroll.

Which way is which?

Almost all modern maps are positioned with North at the top, South at the bottom, East to the right, and West to the left but some older maps are positioned differently. Sometimes North is to the right (or some other direction), particularly if the map or chart was drawn by a seventeenth century European who positioned the coast of America as it might be viewed when approaching from the sea. To make sure that users of these maps knew which way was north, the cartographer (mapmaker) employed a device called a "Compass Rose." Here are two examples:

Nova Belgica et Anglica
On this map of the New England coast, North is to the right, which means that West is at the top.

Compass Rose
Close-up of the compass rose, with a "fleur de lis" or spearhead indicating North.

Virginia
North is also to the right on this map of "Virginia."

Compass Rose
Close-up of the compass rose, with a "fleur de lis" or spearhead indicating North.

New York City elevated train map
On this later map of Manhattan Island (New York), North is likewise to the right.

Compass Arrow
Close-up of the map arrow, similar to a compass rose, indicating North.

The answer (or help with the answer) is not necessarily on the map itself.

Many maps come with a key or "legend" that tells what the symbols on the map represent. Maps can also include explanatory text or charts or graphs that provide important information. Don't overlook these things when trying to find the answers to your exercises. Here are some examples.

1765 cantonment of British troops
This 1765 map uses certain symbols to indicate the location and number of British troops stationed in North America.

Cantonment legend
A legend or key on the right-hand side of the map shows what each symbol stands for. It should be obvious, even if you didn't know the actual strength of a regiment, that it contains more soldiers than a company, and a company more than a half company or detachment, owing to the size of the symbols used.

French-British naval battle map
This 1781 map illustrates what happened during an important naval battle between French and British forces off the coast of Virginia, using letters of the alphabet to identify ship positions at various times during the battle.

Battle map key
A key on the side of the map explains what each letter of the alphabet stands for. At the bottom, there is also important information regarding the strength of each fleet.

Foreign-born population
This 1880 map uses various shades of black, white and gray to illustrate the density of foreign-born population in the United States.

Foreign born population chart
This bar graph on one side of the map also shows the density of foreign-born population in the United States and might, for all practical purposes, be easier to use than the map itself, or contain detailed information that cannot be easily acertained by looking at the map.

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