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234-Year-Old Map Donated to Isle a la Cache Museum

Map enthusiast Joe Kubal of Naperville recently donated a 1783 French map of Canada and the Great Lakes area to the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville.

The map shows the region where French fur traders were active in the 18th century, which is a topic celebrated at the museum with its fur trader motif and exhibits. Kubal, who is a member of the Chicago Map Society, started collecting maps 30 years ago when he met George Ritzlin, owner of Evanston-based Antique Maps and Prints. Kubal said he knew the map would fit in perfectly at Isle a la Cache Museum, which is located at 501 E. 135th St. 

“This is one of my favorite maps,” he said. “It has a lot of historic value."

The hand-colored map is an updated version of a drawing originally created in 1703 by French cartographer Guillaume De L'Isle, Ritzlin said in an email.

"It went through a number of editions," Ritzlin wrote. "J. Dezauche issued a revised version in 1783 which used the name 'Etats Unis" (United States) for the recently independent former British colonies."

Ritzlin added that De L'Isle was considered one of the finest mapmakers of his era because he was very skilled in evaluating information that came to him from explorers and others who had visited faraway lands.

"This was at a time when much of the world was little known," Ritzlin added. "He was fortunate to have many sources on our region as the French controlled much of the northeastern North America. Reports came back from missionaries, traders, governmental officials and travelers to the area."

Chris Gutmann, facility supervisor for Isle a la Cache, said the map is now on display and it's a wonderful addition to the museum.

"Ever since I met Joe, he has been a dedicated supporter of forest preserves. The map he donated shows many of the prime trading grounds for the fur trade era," Gutmann said. "And it's in remarkable shape for how old it is. It's neat to see how North America was thought to look back then."

The map can be viewed during Isle a la Cache Museum hours, which are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday noon-4 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays.

This 1783 French map of Canada and the Great Lakes region was recently donated to the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville. (Photo courtesy of George Ritzlin)