By: Lieut. R.S. Williamson
Date: 1853 / 1861 (published) Washington D.C.
Dimensions: 25 X 73 inches (58.5 x 185.5 cm)
This is a monumental map of California prepared with the intention of establishing railroad routes from Southern California to Washington State that would connect the western terminals of several transcontinental railroads to their eastern counterparts. The expedition and map was produced
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 presents much of the central valley and coat of California from the Mexico border to just north of San Francisco, Bodega Bay, and the Sacramento River. Delineated within are several practical railroad routes from Fort Yuma, to Martinez and San Francisco, passing through San Bernardino, Los Angeles, the southern Sierra Nevada, and Central Valley along the way. Wagon routes are also mapped within, showing the interlinks between some of the earliest settlements of California as well as the wagon route to Great Salt Lake.
Annotations within the map that describe regions being "unexplored instrumentally" can be found along the Big Sur coast and within the Mojave Desert. Another annotation describes the Great Basin as follows, "the whole of this country is filled with short ranges and isolated peaks." Topographic detail is is illustrated with fine hachures and elevation are provided throughout the map. Lastly, several Native American mountain passes, and names for rivers are provided, including Tah-ee-chay-pah Pass and Po-sun-co-la (Kern River). These were useful bits of information for any future surveying or engineering campaigns that may venture into the region and need the help of local natives to find their way around.
The Men Behind the Map
Two separate exploring parties were employed to survey the area, one led by Lieutenant Robert Stockton Williamson and another by Lieutenant John G. Parke.
Lieut. Williamson had a distinguished record serving in the American Civil War, winning two brevet promotions. When the US Army Corps of Engineers established its San Francisco District office in 1866, he was appointed as the first commander of the office. While in this position, he was responsible for engineering related to rivers and harbors along the entire Pacific coast, from Canada to Mexico, which included designing defenses.
Lieut. Parke served as chief of staff to Ambrose E. Burnside during major Civil War engagements such as Antietam, Fredericksburg and the Overland Campaign. As an engineer, he determined the boundary lines between Iowa and the Little Colorado River, surveyed routes for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, and delineated the boundary between the northwest United States and British Columbia.
Condition: This map is in A condition, professionally linen backed for preservation and presentation purposes. Some area of staining and browning of the paper are apparent, but common among folding survey maps of this sort.
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