Columbia University Professor Talks About Biography of John Randel, Jr., Chief Engineer of the C & D Canal Comany April 12

The Measure of Manhattan

The Measure of Manhattan

The author of a biography about the chief engineer of the C & D Canal, John Randel, Jr. will speak at the Historical Society of Cecil County April 12 at 2:00 p.m. “An eccentric and flamboyant surveyor,” Randel was “renowned for his inventiveness” and his irascibility.

After “drafting and executing the street grid plan for Manhattan,” he took on other important engineering projects. In 1823 the accomplished surveyor was hired to oversee the building of the Canal. But after the Company dismissed him four years later, he filed a wrongful dismissal suit, collecting a staggering settlement of more than $5-million in today’s dollars.  With that, he bought a 1,000 acre estate, Randelia, in Cecil County, the New York Times notes.

Marguerite Holloway, the director of Science and Environmental Journalism at Columbia University has written for Scientific American, Discover, the New York Times, Natural History and Wired. While researching the eccentric engineer, she spent days in Cecil County, working at the Historical Society and visiting the land Randel traveled.  “I am really thrilled to be talking at the Society.  It is where my quest for Randel really took hold,” the professor remarked.  There she found newspapers, the Martinet map, and journal entries from the diary of Judge McCauley.

“The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr: Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor,” was published in 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. Illustrated with dozens of historical images and antique maps, it is an absorbing story about a fascinating man. “Marguerite Holloway offers up a well-deserved biography of the chronically aggrieved and litigious visionary,” the New York Times writes. “Professor Holloway . . . deftly weaves surviving fragments of Randel’s life . . . with a 21st century scavenger hunt by modern geographers to find the physical markers of his work.”

Date:       April 12, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.

Location:  Historical Society of Cecil County, 135 E. Main Street, Elkton, MD.

Admission: Free

Chart of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Fielding Lucas:  Source:, the David Rumsey Collection

Chart of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Fielding Lucas, 1840: Source:, the David Rumsey Collection



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