Rooted in Mapmaking


From the president.

I’m a big believer in remembering where you came from and honoring your predecessors. I’m a “student of the game,” as they say in sports, both in my personal and professional lives. I love to see the connection of generations, whether it’s with my extended family, my favorite Pittsburgh sports teams, or in our own company.

Gannett Fleming A Heritage of Maps

In 1915 Farley Gannett started our firm, Gannett Fleming, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The first assignment was to study flood control problems on Mill Creek, near Erie, Pennsylvania. As a result, we were asked to design and construct a large conduit to move excess flows to Lake Erie. The first project required the creation of a survey map of the area. Fortunately, creating maps was something the Gannetts were very familiar with.

Henry Gannett the Father of American Mapmaking

Farley was the son of Henry Gannett, also known as the “Father of American Mapmaking.” After graduating from Harvard in 1869, Henry embarked on a career in surveying and mapmaking. In 1879 he successfully lobbied to bring the mapping functions of the United States government under one agency, which became the United States Geological Survey (USGS). At the USGS, Henry was the chief geographer of the 1880 census. He came up with the idea of “enumeration districts” and laid out over 2,000 of them across the country. These districts were regarded as the beginning of topographic mapping in the U.S. He would later serve as the chief geographer of the 1890 and 1900 census as well.

His achievements did not stop there. With a love for nature, he became a founding member of the National Geographic Society. He served in various positions within the organization, including as president.

August 24th is Henry’s birthday. We celebrate this day in remembrance of our history, to inspire future geographers, and to salute the Father of American Mapmaking.

Happy birthday, Henry!