By: Lieut. John G. Parke
Date: 1854 - 1855 / 1861 (pub.) Washington D.C.
Dimensions: 28.5 x 35 inches (72.4 x 89 cm)
This is a highly detailed early land survey map of Southern and Central California from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The work is a culmination of two years worth of surveying potential routes for a Pacific Railroad that would link all major cities and settlements along the west coast with transcontinental lines extending eastward to the Mississippi River and beyond.
What Prompted this Surveying Expedition and Map
The first edition of this map came at a time no less than 10 years after California (and much of the American Southwest) was added to the United States as per the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo (1848) that officially ended the Mexican American war. Additional interest in reaching California was sparked by the discover of gold in 1848 that prompted the mass migration of fortune seekers to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the following year of 1849.
These two events drastically increased the urgency for the United States congress to pass the Army Appropriation Act of 1853 which gave the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis the authority and funding to launch several surveying expeditions into the west, of which this map was the result.
Cartographic Details within the Map
The map extends from just north of San Francisco Bay to present-day Orange County. It includes the Channel Islands, Central Valley, western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and some cartographic makeup of the Mojave Desert. Much of the eastern portions are left entirely blank as the area was both largely unexplored and not necessary for the objective of the map. Notable towns, settlements, missions, and points of interest include Mount Diablo, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Soledad Mission, St. Margarita Mission, Morrow Rock, San Luis Obispo Mission, Santa Barbara, San Fernando Mission, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, a Navajo camp, and the sierras of Temecula, and Santa Ana.
The map also provides a number of interesting lines of travel throughout the region. The potential route for a Pacific Railroad is delineated in a solid and sometimes dashed line, that runs from the lower right corner, through Los Angeles, along the coast until moving inland through San Luis Obispo where it then follows a route very similar to that of present-day Highway 101 to Monterey Bay and back inland through San Jose. Other trails include the Spanish Trail that connects much of the southwest with Los Angeles and Santa Fe, the route of Liut. Whipple (1853) and Liut. Williamson (1853), and part of an early mail route.
The Lost Lake of Tulare
On final element of this map that cannot be overlooked, especially when considering the severity of drought in the California today is the mapping of Tulare Lake. At the time this map was made, Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Following the Civil War, much of the wetland surrounding the lake were converted into farms. The loss of the wetlands led to frequent flooding during exceptionally rainy seasons. Increased population and the need to manage this water source led to a series of dams and more diversions of water for agricultural purposes. Today the lake is no more and classified as a "dry lake." In its place is vast stretches of farms that predominantly grow wheat, alfalfa, cotton, and almonds.
Condition: This map is in A condition, linen backed for preservation and presentation purposes with some rolled folds that formed during the process, but all separations mended. Only a few areas of paper toning exist along fold lines, does not distract from the overall image and eye-appeal of the map.
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