Following the end of the Revolution a distinctly American cartography began to emerge, different in goals, subject matter, methods and aesthetics from the British maps of the late Colonial era.

Between the French and Indian War and the Revolution most important maps of the future United States were made by professionals, acting on behalf of the authorities charged with administering the British Empire in North America. Naturally these maps were designed to serve the goals of the administration: advancement of trade with the mother country, clarification of intercolonial boundaries, and defense against French and Indian encroachment. Those that were published were issued by the vertically-integrated London firms of Jefferys, Faden, Sayer & Bennett, or Dury, which boasted superb draftsmen, engravers and printers.

By contrast, the new United States possessed neither a robust government nor well-capitalized publishing firms. American mapmakers of the post-war era were generally private persons undertaking map publication as an entrepreneurial venture, almost always underfinanced and with limited institutional support. Their maps often lacked the refinement of their British predecessors, though they made up for this by providing an unprecedented depth of local detail.

Above all, the new American cartography reflected the ambition and optimism characteristic of the early Republic. Whether displaying the vast extent of the new national territory, projecting a new city in the wilderness, or advancing some major infrastructure project, it revealed how Americans sought to transform the landscape to suit their own economic and political goals.