Home / History Center Home / History Players / Joseph Nicollet

Joseph Nicollet

Joseph Nicollet

Joseph Nicollet
(1786-1843)

When you meet Joseph Nicollet, you will get to hear all about his travels throughout Minnesota in the 1830s and the maps he created from those expeditions. Look for Joseph and his map and be sure to ask him about those infamous Minnesota mosquitoes.

Joseph Nicollet, scientist, geographer and mathematician, was born in Savoy, France, in 1786 and arrived in the United States in 1832. He visited many Eastern cities and in 1836 traveled to the area that would become known as Minnesota. He led three expeditions through this region. In 1836-1837, he went up the Mississippi to Lake Itasca and then along the St. Croix River. In 1838, he traveled from Fort Snelling to the Pipestone quarries, and in 1839, he led an expedition across the breadth of land between the Missouri and upper Mississippi rivers.

Nicollet left Minnesota in 1839 for Washington, D.C. He hoped to return to this area, but was plagued by ill health and died in Washington in 1843. His journeys resulted in the influential book, Map of the Hydrographical Basin of the Upper Mississippi, which was a remarkably accurate record of an area more than half the size of Europe. His journals also tell us that he learned much from the inhabitants of this region, particularly the Dakota and Ojibwe.