Abel Buell

Abel Buell (1742–1822; born in Killingworth, Connecticut) was a goldsmith, jewelry designer, engraver, surveyor, type manufacturer, mint master, textile miller, and counterfeiter in the American colonies. In 1784, Buell published A New and correct Map of the United States of North America Layd down from the latest Observations and best Authorities agreeable to the Peace of 1783; it was the first map of the new United States created by an American.

Early life

As a child, Buell apprenticed with a goldsmith. By age 19, he was financially secure and married his girlfriend.


Buell gained notoriety at an early age as a counterfeiter by altering five-pound note engraving plates into larger denomination plates, and then printing the notes on a homemade printing press. He received a relatively light sentence because of his youth, and avoided serving time at the Norwich, Connecticut prison with a commutation to "town arrest". In 1765, Buell received a patent for a lapidary machine, making him the first Connecticut resident to receive a patent. After creating a ring on that machine, and presenting it to the prosecuting attorney, Buell's counterfeiting sentence was pardoned.

In 1770, Buell moved to New Haven, Connecticut and went to work for cartographer Bernard Romans. After the American Revolutionary War ended, Buell used the minting machine he had invented to print the State of Connecticut's first official pennies. By 1784, Buell cast his own typeset and published the first American-made map of the United States. The wall map measured 43 x 48 inches, was printed in four sections, and hand-applied watercolor gave the map its color. In 1800, Buell went to England on behalf of the State of Connecticut to purchase copper. While there, he gained both practical knowledge and a sum of money that allowed him, upon his return, to establish one of Connecticut's first cotton mills.


Squandering or giving away all the money he earned, Buell died in 1825 at the New Haven Almshouse. Leaving little behind, he is known mostly because of the biography researched and written by Dr. Lawrence C. Wroth.


Further reading

  • Hugo, E. Harold; Harlow, T.R. (1955). Abel Buell, a Jack of all trades, & genius extraordinary: his life and trials, Illustrated by some of his works, a chart and a writing sheet with an advertisement made from the original copies in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society. Meriden, Conn: The Timothy Press.
  • Mackall, L.L. (1930). Abel Buell, the first type cutter and caster in English America: A review. Mount Vernon, N. Y.: Privately printed.
  • Wroth, L.C. (1926). Abel Buell of Connecticut: Silversmith, Type Founder & Engraver. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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