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This 19th-Century Map Shows that Beaver Dams are Built to Last


Lewis Henry Morgan did not like the way beavers looked. “The animal has a ratlike appearance about the head and neck,” he wrote in 1868, “and the smallness of the eyes and ears renders its physiognomy dull and uninteresting.”

But whatever he thought of their faces, Morgan came to admire beavers’ industriousness. A lawyer by trade, state senator for New York, and, in his spare time, independent anthropologist and biologist, Morgan arrived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the late 1850s as a director for the Marquette and Ontonagon Railroad. There he spent several years studying the beavers that lived around the area now known as Ishpeming and eventually published a book of his observations, The American Beaver and His Works, in 1868. Inside each copy was a fold-out map of a roughly 50-square-mile chunk of land that showed rail lines, settlements, mines, streams that Morgan fished and the 64 beaver dams and resulting ponds that he studied.

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Source:  Matt Soniak, Atlas Obscura, January 11, 2016


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