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1852 Stansbury Map: Great Salt Lake to Fort Levenworth Route (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas)

Map of a Reconnoissance between Fort Levenworth and the Missouri River, and the Great Salt Lake in the Territory of Utah, made in 1849 and 1850 … - Main View

1852 Stansbury Map: Great Salt Lake to Fort Levenworth Route (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Kansas)


A seminal mapping of the emigrant roads west.


Map of a Reconnoissance between Fort Levenworth and the Missouri River, and the Great Salt Lake in the Territory of Utah, made in 1849 and 1850 …
  1852 (undated)     30 x 68 in (76.2 x 172.72 cm)


It had been a daring feat of exploration, succeeding where the mountain men had all failed, and by means of his map ... Stansbury had painted at least one more bold stroke into the unfinished portrait of the national landscape. - William Goetzmann
This monumental map details Stansbury's seminal 1852 trek from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to the Great Salt Lake region of Utah. It is considered to be the first accurate survey of the Great Basin and the southern Rocky Mountains, as well as a cornerstone achievement in the mapping of the American West. The first westerner to visit the Great Basin was most likely Silvestre Vélez de Escalante in the 1776, however, Escalante, who visited Utah Lake to the south, never truly laid eyes on Great Salt Lake. That honor would fall to unnamed trappers and mountain men traveling the region in search of furs and other tradable commodities. Unfortunately, few of these were literate. The first scientific expedition to this area was headed up by Fremont in 1843. Daunted by the season and climate, Fremont never circumnavigated the lake. That task fell to Howard Stansbury who, in 1849, was assigned by Congress to survey the Great Salt Lake, the Utah Valley, and the emigrant roads passing through the region. Stansbury, working with Gunnison, Carrington, and others, took about two years to complete their survey before presenting it to Congress in 1852. This map was part of that presentation.

Covering the region from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to the Great Basin, Utah, Sansbury's map is the result of a monumental feat of exploration and scientific tenacity. Includes the modern day states of Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. The detail throughout is extraordinary, identifying springs, rivers, passes, important buildings, American Indian settlements, canals, etc. Stansbury's work and this map are responsible for creating much of the region's nomenclature, but where it is not, both Mormon and American Indian names are provided. This is also one of the earliest maps to delineate the street grid of Salt Lake City.

As much as possible, Stansbury attempts to provide useful information for the traveler. He notes the campsites where his team rested and offers dates for each. Both the Emigrant Road from California (passing north of the lake) and the Road From California (Passing South of the Lake) are shown. He also provides useful notations, such as this one just to the left of Great Salt Lake
This desert consists of clay and sand impregnated with salt. When wet, it has the consistency of mortar. Lightly loaded wagons can pass between Spring Valley and Pilot Peak in the driest part of the season. Forage and water must be carried for cattle, and the journey begun in the P. M. and continued through the night. Distance between springs 70 ms.
. Stansbury also provides considerable with regard to the Rocky Mountains (Colorado and Wyoming), noting South Park, Middle Park, and North Park as well as Pikes Peak, Longs Peak, Laramie Peak, and others.

This map details the whole of Stansbury's 1849 to 1850 journey. A year after his return, it was presented in Washington and received with great acclaim. Gunnison, Stansbury's second, was commissioned to return to the region the next year in order to survey a viable route for the Pacific Railroad. In the process of completing this project, Gunnison fell afoul of the local Ute (Utah) Indians, who killed him and several other members of his party in an ambush, delaying the survey and the development of the Pacific Railroad for a number of years.

Drawn by H. Gunnison and C. Pruss. Published in 1852 as part of the Stansbury Report, which was presented to congress in that same year. The cartography of Utah and the Great Basin truly begins with this map and Wheat devotes no less than seven pages to its description. A seminal production and a must for any serious cartographic collection focusing on the Great Salt Lake or the American West.


Howard Stansbury (February 8, 1806 - April 13, 1863) was an important surveyor, cartographer, and explorer who did his most important work in Utah during the middle part of the 19th century. Born in New York City, Stansbury trained to be a Civil Engineer. Shorty after getting married to Helen Moody of Detroit in 1827, Stansbury took a position with the United States Topographical Bureau. Under that organization he surveyed the James River in 1836, and the Illinois and Kaskaskia Rivers in 1837. In 1838, he oversaw the construction of a road from Milwaukee to the Mississippi River. Later in 1838, when the U.S Corps of Topographical Engineers was created, he joined as a first Lieutenant. With the Topographical Engineers he surveyed the Great Lakes, the harbor of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and constructed Florida's Carysfort Reef Lighthouse. During the Mexican-American War he constructed fortification in the Dry Tortugas at the westernmost point on the Florida Keys. Upon achieving the rank of Captain, Stansbury received a commissioned to head a survey of the Great Basin that would ultimately become the crowning achievement of his career. His assignment was to survey the emigrant trails to California, including the Oregon Trail, as well as the Great Salt Lake, and report on the status of the growing Mormon Community in Salt Lake City. Working with J. W. Gunnison and Alfred Carrington, a Mormon scout, Stansbury produced a masterful survey of the region that had a lasting effect not only on the development of the Great Basin, but on the development of the west in general. Upon completion of his survey, Stansbury set out on the road to Washington, completing another important survey in the process. On the way, he fell off his horse, taking an injury from which he never fully recovered. Following the presentation of his report to Congress, Stansbury was charged with additional survey work around the Great Lakes. Upon the outbreak of the American Civil War, he was assigned to recruitment duties in Ohio and later Wisconsin. Shortly after starting work at this post he suffered an abrupt heart attack and passed away. He is buried in St. Paul, Minnesota. More by this mapmaker...

Charles Preuss (1803- 1854), or as he was born George Karl Ludwig Preuss, was a German born lithographer and cartographer who produced an number of important maps of the American West in the middle part of the 19th Century. Preuss was born in Hohscheid, Germany, where grew up and studied the science of Geodesy. There he also studied the art of lithography with its inventor, Aloys Snefleder. After mastering the art, he was employed with the Prussian Government as mapmaker and surveyor. In 1834 he immigrated to the United States with his wife and children. In the United States he worked at a few minor drafting positions before taking work under Ferdinand Hassler and the U.S. Coast Survey. Hassler introduced Preuss to Captain John Charles Fremont, who was then planning his landmark surveying expedition to the American West. Impressed with Preuss' work, Fremont hired him as the expedition's cartographer. Preuss seems to have been singularly unimpressed with Fremont and the American West, complaining bitterly in his journals about both. Fremont he considered "childish" and the scenery "dull" and "lackluster." Nonetheless he was convinced to participate in one expedition after another and the maps he produced, both under Fremont and under Stansbury, were among the most important maps of the region ever drafted. These include, among many others, the first map of the Oregon Trail, the first accurate mapping of the Great Salt Lake, the naming of the Golden Gate, and the first identification of the California Gold region. Preuss's maps influenced North American cartography for the next two decades. Kemble Warren who assembled Preuss' maps as well as the work of many others into his "General Map" of the American west, said of Preuss, "his skill in sketching topography in the field and in representing it on the map has never been surpassed in this country." Ultimately, despite his many successes, the admiration of his peers, and a life of adventure, Preuss seems to have suffered from chronic undiagnosed depression. In September of 1854, he hung himself from a tree limb in Washington, D.C. Learn More...


Stansbury, H. J., An Expedition to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah…, 1852.    


Very good conditon. Some damge to leftmost center where originally attached to binder - zoom. Minor toning and wear along original fold lines. Else very clean.


Francaviglia, Richard V., Mapping and Imagination in the Great Basin: A Cartographic History, page 103-4. Wheat, Carl Irving, Mapping the Transmississippi West, 1540-1861 (5 vols), 764. Cohen, P. E., Mapping the West, page 164 - 166. Goetzmann, W. H., Army Exploration in the American West: 1803-1863, page 222. Rumsey, 0950.002. Wagner, H.R. and Camp, C. L., The Plains and teh Rockies: A Critical Bibliography of Exploration, Adventure, and Travel in the American West, 1800 - 1865, 219:2. Moffat, R. M., Printed Maps of Utah to 1900: An Annotated Cartobibliography, 26.