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1857 U. S. Coast Survey Map or Chart of the Rappahannock River Entrance, Virginia


Preliminary Chart of Rappahannock River Virginia from Entrance to Deep Creek.
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Title:    Preliminary Chart of Rappahannock River Virginia from Entrance to Deep Creek.

Description:    This is an attractive hand colored example of the 1857 U. S. Coast Survey nautical chart or maritime map of the Rappahannock River, Virginia. The map focuses on the southern part of the Rappahannock River from where it enters into the Chesapeake Bay, and covers its course from Deep Creek to the Chesapeake, including Urbana, the Corrotoman River and the Piankatank River. The chart offers countless depth soundings in feet and several navigational notes, but little inland detail. However, it does identify the town of Urbana on the western shore along with other smaller settlements, farms and roadways.

The Rappahannock River, which extends westward into Virginia from the southern part of the Chesapeake Bay, was an important trade artery and boundary since the early colonial period. Shortly after this map was produced the Rappahannock would become a major point of contention in the American Civil War, with the Union controlling its northern shores and the Confederacy, it's southern.

The triangulation for this chart was accomplished by E. Blunt, J. Farley, and Captain W.R. Palmer. The Topography is the work of John Seib and I. Hull Adams. The Hydrography was completed by a party under the command of S. P. Lee, J. J. Almay and R. Wainwright. The whole was compiled under the supervision of A. D. Bache, one of the most influential American cartographers of the 19th century. This chart represents plate no. 20 in B. Peirce's 1857 Report of the Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey.


Date:    1857 (dated)

Source:    Bache, A. D., Report of the Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, (Washington) 1857.

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 17.5 x 29.5 inches (44.45 x 74.93 centimeters)

Scale:    1 : 60000

Condition:    Very good. Minor wear and toning along original fold lines. Professionally flattened and backed with archival tissue.

Code:   RappahannockRiverEntr-uscs-1857 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)

Tags:    U.S. Government Map , Rappahannock River , American Civil War

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