The Mason-Dixon Line wasn’t created to divide North and South, but to settle a dispute between Colonial landowners
The Mason-Dixon Line, the iconic dividing line between North and South, is an invisible line running across the backyard of many Delawareans.
Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon’s milestone markers still dot the Maryland-Delaware-Pennsylvania border more than 240 years after they completed their survey.
Jutting out of the dirt on rural roadsides, highway medians and private property, the 81 original oolitic-limestone markers and sixreplacements run like a dotted line from nearDelmar to north of Newark.
This is the eastern-most leg of the legendary line immortalized in songs and movies and “Looney Tunes” cartoons, and the only chunk that is mainly vertical.
Rewind to 1763, when Mason and Dixon docked in Philadelphia, two English astronomer-mathematicians who came highly recommended by the director of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Their task: Discern the 233-mile border between William Penn’s land and Cecilius Calvert’s.
Geodetics, the present-day science that deals with measuring the Earth, was practiced mostly by ship’s captains and astronomers then. Measurements varied so wildly that some ships’ captains believed Philadelphia was actually part of Maryland. No one had ever measured a boundary so long that the Earth’s curvature would come into play.
“Today, it’s a no-brainer,” says Brian Cannon, historic interpreter at the New Castle Courthouse Museum. “You plug into a c