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1885 U.S. Coast Survey Map and Chart of New York City Bay and Harbor (ref. 1887 Americas Cup Race)


Coast Chart No. 120 New York Bay and Harbor New York.
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Title:    Coast Chart No. 120 New York Bay and Harbor New York.

Description:    This is a rare U.S. Coast Survey nautical chart or maritime map of New York City, its harbor, and environs. First appearing in its completed form in 1866, this is among the first 19th century charts to depict New York City as we know it today, including Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. Adjacent Jersey City, Newark and Hoboken are also included. It offers comprehensive inland detail throughout noting street grids, parks, towns and communities. In addition to inland details, this chart contains a wealth of practical information for the mariner from oceanic depths to harbors and navigation tips on important channels. It also includes tables of light houses and beacons, tides and magnetic declination as well as detailed sailing instructions.

This particular example features interesting pencil annotation in the lower right quadrant illustrating the course of the 1887 America's Cup race between the New York Yacht Club's cutter Volunteer and the Scottish Royal Clyde Yacht Club challenger Thistle. Both ships had been recently redesigned for the race by the top shipbuilders of their era, Edward Burgess (Volunteer) and George Watson (Thistle. ). The Volunteer ultimately proved victorious, defending its title and keeping the America's Cup in the Americas.

The triangulation for this chart was prepared by J. Ferguson and E. Blunt. The topography by H. L. Whiting, S. A. Gilbert, A. M Harrison, F. W. Door, C. Rockwell and J. M E. Chan. The hydrography was accomplished by R. Wainwright and T. A. Craven. The whole was originally published in 1866 under the supervision of A. D. Bache, Superintendent of the Survey of the Coast of the United States and one of the most influential American cartographers of the 19th century. It has been updated to 1885 under the supervision of F. M. Thorn.

It is noteworthy that this present example is on thick stock and backed with linen and is not, therefore, the more common Coast Survey annual report issue, but rather an independent production intended for working mariners.


Date:    1885 (dated)

References:    Rumsey 5328.000 (1866 edition), 1234.115 (1877 edition). Phillips, 2141. LeGear, Atlases of the United States, L2307. Phillips (America), p. 492.

Cartographer:    The Office of the Coast Survey, founded in 1807 by President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of Commerce Albert Gallatin, is the oldest scientific organization in the U.S. Federal Government. Jefferson created the "Survey of the Coast," as it was then called, in response to a need for accurate navigational charts of the new nation's coasts and harbors. The spirit of the Coast Survey was defined by its first two superintendents. The first superintendent of the Coast Survey was Swiss immigrant and West Point mathematics professor Ferdinand Hassler. Under the direction of Hassler, from 1816 to 1843, the ideological and scientific foundations for the Coast Survey were established. These included using the most advanced techniques and most sophisticated equipment as well as an unstinting attention to detail. Hassler's devised a labor intensive triangulation system whereby the entire coast was divided into a series of enormous triangles. These were intern subdivided into smaller triangulation units that were then individually surveyed. Employing this exacting technique on such a massive scale had never before been attempted. Consequently Hassler and the Coast Survey under him developed a reputation for uncompromising dedication to the principles of accuracy and excellence. Unfortunately, despite being a masterful surveyor, Hassler was abrasive and politically unpopular, twice loosing congressional funding for the Coast Survey. Nonethelss, Hassler lead the Coast Survey until his death in 1843, at which time Alexander Dallas Bache, a great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, took the helm. Bache was fully dedicated to the principles established by Hassler, but proved more politically astute and successfully lobbied Congress liberally fund the endeavor. Under the leadership of A. D. Bache, the Coast Survey completed its most important work. Moreover, during his long tenure with the Coast Survey, from 1843 to 1865, Bache was a steadfast advocate of American science and navigation and in fact founded the American Academy of Sciences. Bache was succeeded by Benjamin Pierce who ran the Survey from 1867 to 1874. Pierce was in turn succeeded by Carlile Pollock Patterson who was Superintendent from 1874 to 1881. In 1878, under Patterson's superintendence, the U.S. Coast Survey was reorganized as the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (C & GS or USGS) to accommodate topographic as well as nautical surveys. Today the Coast Survey is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA. Click here for a list of rare maps from the U. S. Coast Survey.

Size:   Printed area measures 28 x 34.5 inches (71.12 x 87.63 centimeters)

Scale:    1 : 80000

Condition:    Very good. Independently issued edition backed with old linen. Some minor damage and repair along left margin, not extending onto printed area. Working sea chart with some navigational notes in pencil, could be erased at buyer's discretion.

Code:   NewYorkBay-uscs-1885 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)

Tags:    U.S. Government Map , Manhattan , Queens , Brooklyn , Bronx , Staten Island

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