Two years before Johann David Schöpf (1752-1800) published his Beyträge … (1787), Franz Joseph Märter (1753-1827) sent letters from Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, and East-Florida to Ignaz von Born, describing plants, animals, and geological features of the newly independent states. These letters were speedily printed in Physikalische Arbeiten … in Vienna (1785). A last letter sent from the Bahamas appeared in the same periodical in 1786.
Märter's geological observations are translated and analyzed here for the first time. His descriptions of various rocks along the Schuylkill River, upstream from Philadelphia (granites, limestones, marble quarries, widespread weathered iron ores), and his interpretation of the fossiliferous sandstones in the Appalachian mountains are very similar to those by Schöpf. So are Märter's observations of shell banks, either exposed in ditches many miles from the sea, or in cliffs at Yorktown, Virginia, and Wilmington, North Carolina, as well as his description of granite and of a large coal mine near Richmond, Virginia. Finally, both travelers noticed that the rocky cliffs in the Bahamas consisted of limestone formed by Muschelsand [beachrock]. We established that Märter and Schöpf traveled together from Philadelphia to the Bahamas (November 1783 to March 1784). But neither acknowledged the influence, or at least the presence of the other, probably for political reasons.