Michigan State University

We Were Almost Michigania

Kathleen Weessies

de Vaugondi, Etat Unis, 1785

This French-made map from 1785 was the first to bear forms of the word “Michigan” applied to a land area.  It was also one of the first to recognize the fledgling country by its chosen name, United States, here in the French, Etats-Unis.

Of the suggested names for 10 new states to be made of the Northwest Territory, only two came close to being adopted:  Michigania and Illinoia.*  

Additionally, a lake off the Mississippi River near today’s Memphis is called “Lac des Meichigamia.”  Nearby a line marks the supposed path of Ferdinand de Soto’s party more than 240 years previously in 1541 when he found the Mississippi River.

*The other names, all suggested by Thomas Jefferson, were Silvania, Chersonesus, Arsenistpia, Metropotamia, Saratoga, Washington, Polypotamia, and Pelisypia.

This map was a generous gift of Ron Dietz.  It will be on display in the MSU Map Library through November 11, 2018.  It is also available online here: https://lib.msu.edu/branches/map/NAJPEGs/100-c-A-1785/


Etats-Unis de l'Amérique Septentrionale avec les Isles Royale, de Terre Neuve, de St. Jean, l'Acadie & c. Supplement a l’Atlas de M. Robert de Vaugondi. Published in Paris by Chez Boudet, Imprimeur du Roi, in 1785.


Bibliography of the Printed Maps of Michigan, 1804-1880. By Louis Charles Karpinski and William Lee Jenks. Published in Lansing, Michigan by the Michigan Historical Commission in 1931. Entry CIII

New England in Early Printed Maps 1513-1800: An Annotated Carto-bibliography.  By Barbara B. McCorkle. Published in Providence, Rhode Island by The John Carter Brown Library in 2001. Entry 785.5.

Maps and Charts of North America and the West Indies 1750-1789.  By John R. Sellers and Patricia Molen Van Ee. Published in Washington DC by the Library of Congress in 1981. Entry 761.


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