Archive for the ‘Rare & Antique Maps’ Category

The Proposed Routes of the Pacific Railroad in Antique Maps

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Johnson's 1866 Map of the Southwest

Johnson's 1866 Map of the Southwest

Many mid 19th century maps of the American west show several “proposed routes” for a transcontinental Pacific Railroad. The challenge was in finding a practical and economical route through or around the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Sierra Nevada Range. The development of the Pacific Railroad was fraught with challenges relating to slavery, politics, geography and gigantic egos. The powers at the time were keenly aware of the wealth and prosperity that would follow the Railroad. The powerful Illinois senator Stephan Douglas who famously lost his presidential bid to Abraham Lincoln advocated for a northern route via Chicago. On the other side of the debate, Mississippi plantation owner and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis advocated for a southern route from Vicksburg Mississippi roughly following the 32nd parallel. Other powers advocated for a extreme northerly route roughly following the Canadian border and terminating near Seattle, Washington. Still others pushed for a more central route. In 1853 the government ordered several expeditions and eventually five potential routes were surveyed:

  1. The Stevens Route: Governor Isaac Stevens was a brave, handsome, and egotistical West Point valedictorian with a distinguished military record in the Mexican American War. He was a fierce advocate of Franklin Pierce’s presidential campaign and following the victorious election, was awarded for his support by being named Governor of the newly created Washington Territory. As a veteran of the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Survey, Stevens was keenly aware of the pressing need of a transcontinental railroad to unite the rapidly expanding nation. As he traveled westward toward Olympia, Washington, the seat of this territorial government, Stevens surveyed what he believed was the best and most practical route for the Pacific Railroad. Starting from St. Paul Minnesota, Stevens surveyed and proposed a route that roughly followed 47th – 49th parallels westward to terminated at the Puget Sound. He boasted that the harsh winter conditions of the northern territories would “not present the slightest impediment to the passage of railroad trains”. To this the expedition’s naturalist George Stuckley responded, responded, “A road might be built over the tops of the Himalayan mountains – but no reasonable man would undertake it.” Though the Stevens route appears on many early maps, it was not seriously entertained by any respective party other than Stevens himself. Following Steven’s death in 1862 during the Civil War Battle of Chantilly, the campaign for a far northern route lost it only champion and consequently its momentum.
  2. The Whipple Route: Amiel Weeks Whipple was an American Military Engineer, West Point graduate, and U.S. Coast Survey veteran. Whipple was commissioned to explore a possible route for the transcontinental Pacific Railway along the 35th Parallel. Leaving from Fort Smith, Arkansas, Whipple surveyed a route that passed through modern day Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona before crossing the Mojave Desert and terminating at San Bernardino. Despite Whipple’s assertion that, “there is not a doubt remaining that for construction of a railway the route we have passed over is not only practicable but in many respects eminently advantageous,” this route never attained popularity due to lack of serious support by the political luminaries of the period. Like Stevens, Whipple died while serving as Brigadier General in the Civil War.
  3. The Parke-Pope Route: An extreme southerly route for the Pacific Railroad running along the 32nd parallel and terminating in San Diego was always a strong contender. Under the Presidency of Franklin Pierce and advocated by Jefferson Davis, the feasibility of this route strongly influenced the Gadsden Purchase. The route was finally surveyed by Lieutenant John G. Parke and Captain John Pope. Starting from opposite extremes Parke and Pope worked toward each other and finally met near El Paso. Parke, starting from San Diego surveyed a route that roughly corresponded to the southern U.S. Mail route, passing south of the Salton Basin and crossing the Colorado River at Fort Yuma then heading east to Tucson and Fort Fillmore, and onwards to El Paso. Pope Started at Fort Belknap, Texas, crossed the Staked Plain and the Guadeloupe Mountain to meet Park near El Paso. Though highly feasible and supported by powerful government leaders, the outbreak of the American Civil War and the comparative poverty of the Confederacy put a halt to plans for the southernmost route. However, years after the fact, in 1877, this railroad, called the Southern Pacific, did materialize.
    1855 Gunnison-Beckwith Survey

    1855 Gunnison-Beckwith Survey

  4. The Gunnison Route: In 1853 the Corps of Topographic Engineers was commissioned by Congress to identify a central route. Led by Captain John W. Gunnison, with Lieutenant E. G. Beckwith as his assistant commander, the expedition set off on May 3rd of 1953 from St. Louis, Missouri. The expedition roughly followed the 38th parallel and the route traversed by “The Pathfinder” John Fremont in the 1830s. Gunnison pushed the expedition through Kansas and Colorado well into the land claimed by the Ute Nation. Near Lake Sevier Gunnison’s camp was attacked by Ute Warriors who believed that a transcontinental railroad would infringe upon their sovereignty. Gunnison and most of his men were killed. Gunnison’s wife advocated the belief that the Ute Warriors were encouraged by Bringham Young and several militant Mormon settlers in the region. Having camped elsewhere, Gunnison’s second E.G. Beckwith, took command of the remaining expedition and retreated to Salt Lake City, where they spent the winter.
  5. The Beckwith Route: E. G. Beckwith, continuing westward from Salt Lake City in 1854, surveyed a route across the Great Basin, passing south of the Mud Lakes, to the Sierra Nevada Mountains which he crossed at “Beckwith’s Pass” thus descending into the Sacramento Valley. Beckwith composed a series of reports on this proposed route ultimately offering three variants. The northernmost route crosses the Green River near Black’s Fork and continues past Fort Bridger (now Wyoming) and along the Weber River to Ogden City where it turns south. The middle route leaves the Wasatch Mountains via Timpanogas Canyon. The southernmost route runs westward from the Oquirrh Mountains. The northernmost route, which was advocated by Beckwith in his report, was chosen and it is roughly along this path that the transcontinental railroad was eventually built.

Following the expeditions the decision regarding ultimate route of the Pacific Railroad was deadlocked in congress between the southern states, who preferred the Parke-Pope route, and the northern states, who advocated for a central route. The issue was finally decided by the outbreak of the American Civil War. The Confederacy, lacking the finances and industry of the north, was not in a position to pursue their dream of a southerly Pacific Railroad. The Union on the other hand quickly pushed forward with their plans for a railroad roughly along the Gunnison-Beckwith route. The Pacific Railroad officially opened in 1867.

Related Maps:

http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/GreenRiverSaltLake-davis-1855

http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/NEKADK-johnson-1862

http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/CANMUT-johnson-1862

http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/Southwest-johnson-1866

http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/WAORIDMT-colton-1866

REF: Golay, M. and Bowman, J. S., North American Exploration, p. 371-2.

Antique Map of the Week – Kircher’s 1665 Map of the World

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

1665 Kircher Map of the World

1665 Kircher Map of the World

Entitled Tabula Geographico-Hydrographica Motus Oceani, Currentes, Abyssos, Montes Igniuomus in Universo Orbe Indicans Notat Haec Fig. Abyssos Montes Vulcanios, this is an exceptionally interesting map of the world by the scholar Athanasius Kircher. This is most likely the first world map to depict the oceans currents. Shows the entire world in accordance with Kircher’s hydro-geographic theory that tides and currents are caused by water moving to and from a massive subterranean ocean. Kircher postulated that water entered and exited the subterranean ocean via a number of great abysses situated around the globe. This map expounds on Kircher’s theories by noting the abysses and the currents they create as well as the locations of the world’s known volcanoes. Between the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, Kircher theorized massive tunnels and a complex interchange of water flows. These tunnels are noted most particularly between the Black and Caspian Sea and between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

Other areas of interest – Antarctica is shown along the southern part of the map. In the North a great open northwest passage is depicted running all the way across the map. Shows New Guinea and a suggestion of Australia attached to the “Australsis Incognita” mainland. Africa is shown with considerably greater accuracy than many maps drawn hundreds of years later – particularly with regard to Niger and Nile River Systems. North America and South America are both wildly malformed, indicating a relatively sketchy knowledge of the continent. Korea is shown as an Island and Japan appears as only a single island.

For more information: http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/GeoHydro-kircher-1665

Lacus Aquae Dulces or Lake Apalachy – The Great Sweet Water Lake of the Southeast

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

The 1606 Mercator Map of the Southeast

The 1606 Mercator Map of the Southeast - this map was the first place Le Moyne's fresh water lake north of Florida and established the precident of mapping in there for the next 100 years.

1564 Le Monye Map of Florida

1564 Le Monye Map of Florida

Lacus Aquae Dulces – Many students of rare maps of the American southeast will notice a large lake or inland sea of this name or something similar roughly located in what is today Georgia or South Carolina. This curious geographic feature, first seen in Le Moyne’s map of Florida drawn in 1565, persisted until the early 18th century. In later maps it was associated with the Apalache Indians and the Apalache (Appellation) Mountain Range where it was consequently renamed Lake Apalache. With a nearly 200 year history, Lacus Aquae Dulces is one of the more interesting and enduring errors in the early mapping of North America.

Detail of Le Moyne's Map of Florida

Detail of Le Moyne's Map of Florida

The curious story of this lake begins with Jacques Le Moyne who was was part of an ill fated French Huguenot effort to colonize the mainland of North America in the mid 16th century. Le Moyne was commissioned to sketch the local inhabitants and map as much of the land as possible. In his short time in the New World, Le Moyne’s important map of Florida is a impressive achievement. Despite a few irregularities and a pronounced longitudinal distortion, it is a remarkably accurate. For our purposes we need to focus on the Lacus Auqae Dulces, which Le Moyne locates in central Florida as the source of the River May or today’s St. John’s River. Le Moyne maps the River May with a rough approximation of accuracy as an inverted V flowing north from Lake George, the true and original Lacus Aquae Dulces, and then in a southwesterly direction into the Atlantic.

1671 Ogilby's Map of Virginia & Carolina

1671 Ogilby's Map of Virginia & Carolina

Actual Course of the River May or St. John River

Actual Course of the River May or St. John River

Back in Europe most cartographers followed Le Moyne’s model until the 1606 Hondius edition of Mercator’s Atlas in which the lake and the river were transposed far to the north. How and why this happened is something of a mystery, but we can speculate. We know that many maps of this region made in the 16th and 17th century frequently placed latitude lines up to 20 degrees to the north. These errors can be associated with magnetic variation, temperature issues associated with isothermal lines, and navigational errors related to the erroneous confusion of the star Asfick with Polaris. While Le Moyne

Actual Course of the Savannah River

Actual Course of the Savannah River

correctly located the mouth of the River May at 30 degrees of Latitude, Hondius maps it between 31 and 32 degrees. This led to a misassociation of the River May with the Savannah River. Thus, while the River May dips southward, the Savannah River heads almost directly NW into the Appellation Mountains, forming the modern southern border of South Carolina. Hondius, no doubt taking his cue from navigators who rarely trekked inland, therefore rerouted the May River to flow from the northwest. Without an accurate picture if the interior, Hondius followed Le Moyne’s example and translocated the great freshwater lake to the north. The influence of the Mercator-Hondius firm was so pronounced in Europe that most subsequent cartographers followed their lead. Lactus Aquae Dulces appeared in maps by Jansson, Laet, Janszoon, Blaeu, Allard, Ogilby, Speed, Homann and others well into the 18th century. In the 1670s the German explorer John Lederer, probably the first European to actually enter this region, claims to have actually seen and sampled the water of this mysterious lake, which he called Ashley. While Lederer’s claim is undoubtedly false, as the lake does not exist, it is unclear why he chose to lie. Quite possible Lederer’s motivation was merely to validate an enhance the importance of his own discoveries. Around 1730 surveyors and other frontiersmen exploring the region added to the cartographic corpus and, failing to identify a major lake in this region, influenced its removal from most subsequent maps.

True, David O., “Some Early Maps Relating to Florida”, Imago Mundi, Vol. 11 (1954), pp. 73-84.
Cumming, W. P., “Geographical Misconceptions of the Southeast in the Cartography of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”, The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Nov., 1938), pp. 476-492.

Laguna de los Xarayes in Rare Maps

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
The Lake of Xarayes

The Lake of Xarayes

The Laguna de los Xaraies is a large and mysterious lake that appeared in maps of South America from about 1600 to 1850. The Laguna, located near Matte Grosso, was often associated with the gateway to the Amazon, legends of El Dorado, and the Earthly Paradise.

The Xarayes, a corruption of “Xaraiés” meaning “Masters of the River”, were an indigenous people occupying what is today parts of Brazil’s Matte Grosso and the Pantanal. When Spanish and Portuguese explorers first navigated up the Paraguay River, as always in search of El Dorado, they encountered the vast Pantanal flood plain at the height of its annual inundation. Understandably misinterpreting the flood plain as a gigantic inland sea, they named it after the local inhabitants, the Xaraies. The Laguna de los Xarayes almost immediately began to appear on early maps of the region and, at the same time, almost immediately took on a legendary aspect. Later missionaries and chroniclers, particularly Díaz de Guzmán, imagined an island in this lake and curiously described it as an “Island of Paradise,”

…an island [of the Paraguay River] more than ten leagues [56 km] long, two or three [11-16 km] wide. A very mild land rich in a thousand types of wild fruit, among them grapes, pears and olives: the Indians created plantations throughout, and throughout the year sow and reap with no difference in winter or summer, … are the Indians of that island are of good will and are friends to the Spaniards; Orejón they call

A view of the Pantanal.

A view of the Pantanal.


them, and they have their ears pierced in which are wheels of wood … which occupy the entire hole. They live in round houses, not as a village, but each apart though keep up with each other in much peace and friendship. They called of old to this island paradise Terrenal by its abundance and wonderful qualities.

To this north of this wonderful “Island of Paradise” appeared the “Puerto de los Reyes” which was considered by many to be a gateway to the Amazon and the Kingdom of El Dorado. Sadly, later explorers, in addition to being disappointed by the absence of an El Dorado, also discovered that the Paraguay River does not connect to the Amazon system.

Introduction – Blogging on Cartographic Curiosities and on Life as an Antique & Rare Map Dealer

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Welcome to my antique map blog. I am, obviously, a rare map enthusiast. I am also the owner of Geographicus Rare and Antique Maps, a mostly online antique map gallery specializing in rare and vintage maps of the 15th through the 19th centuries. Possibly the best aspect of being an antique map dealer is the opportunity to explore and study my individual offerings. I am proud that my rare map listings at, www.geographicus.com, are among the most detailed and thoroughly researched studies of our individual offerings available anywhere.

Quite frequently, while preparing this research on some seemingly minor map element, I make a discovery that leads to a whirlwind of research and mass of data that, though it enriches my antique map offerings, overflows the coffers of that humble venue. I have started this blog in order to provide an outlet for these interesting rare map studies. Thank you for reading.

You may also enjoy our research oriented antique map archive: www.geographicus-archive.com