Exhibitions

Mapping activities by the United States government were constrained by the strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution which prevailed before the Civil War. The division of responsibility between the Federal and state governments followed a simple formula: if the states could undertake a given activity, it was their responsibility to do so, whether or not they chose to do so. This situation had a profound effect on governmental mapping activities. Because individual states were clearly capable of surveying their own territories, they were held to be responsible for topographical mapping. Some states, such as Massachusetts in the 1840s, did make detailed topographical maps, but most did not. For its part, the Federal government mapped the Public Domain, the Western lands which had yet to be organized into states. Exhibited here, as an example, is one of the maps from J. C. Frémont’s 1845 report of his expeditions to determine a route for a transcontinental railroad [item 35]. On the other hand, the mapping of the entire coast was clearly beyond the capability of individual states, so that responsibility fell to the Federal government. After a hesitant start, the U.S. Coast Survey developed into a large agency that worked within all the coastal states [items 36-38].

Map of an Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842 and to Oregon & North California in the Years 1843-44

John Charles Frémont (American, 1813-1890)
Map of an Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842 and to Oregon & North California in the Years 1843-44
Engraving transferred to lithograph, hand-colored, 77.5cm x 129.5cm
From: J. C. Frémont, Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the Years 1843-’44 (Washington, DC: Gales and Seaton, 1845), insert.
Osher Collection

13161.0001
Coast Survey Charts Published

United States Coast Survey (Federal agency, first founded 1807)
Coast Survey Charts Published
Letterpress, 58.0cm x 20.5cm
Washington, DC, 1853
Found with: Sketches Accompanying the Annual Report of the Superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, 1851, House Executive Document 26, 32d Congress, 2d session (Washington, DC, 1851).
Gift of Roger S. Baskes

12379.0001
Sketch A. Illustrating the Progress of the Eastern Section of the Survey of the Coast in 1845

United States Coast Survey (Federal agency, first founded 1807)
Sketch A. Illustrating the Progress of the Eastern Section of the Survey of the Coast in 1845
Engraving transferred to lithograph, 32.0cm x 27.0cm
In: Report from the Secretary of the Treasury, Communicating a Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey . . . 1845, Senate Document 13, 29th Congress, 1st session (Washington, DC, 1845), between 32 and 33.
Gift of Roger S. Baskes

14273.0001
York River Harbor Maine

United States Coast Survey (Federal agency, first founded 1807)
York River Harbor Maine
Lithograph, hand-colored, 32.5cm x 40.5cm
Washington, DC, 1854
OML Collections

12143.0001
General Geological Map of Wisconsin 1881

The Civil War intensified the constitutional division between the Federal and state governments. In reaction to this, Congress took an increasingly active role after the war in activities which infringed state autonomy. The changing balance of authority and responsibility had significant cartographic results. Immediately after the war, several Northern states petitioned Congress for technical help in correcting existing cadastral and other surveys so as to make accurate topographic base maps for geological purposes. In 1871, Congress authorized the U.S. Coast Survey to provide that help. The result was a series of ten surveys made by state residents who were trained, equipped, funded, and supervised by the Coast Survey. A professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, for example, undertook several seasons of fieldwork between 1874 and 1891 for a triangulation intended to provide geometrical control for the state’s geological map [items 39-40]. The surveys did not prove to be effective, so in 1895 the Coast Survey disbanded the few still in operation. Thereafter, the Coast Survey acted directly within the states.

Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (state agency, 1871-1879)
Thomas Crowder Chamberlain (American, 1843-1928)
General Geological Map of Wisconsin 1881
Colored lithograph, 70.5cm x 58.5cm
From: T. C. Chamberlain et al., Atlas of the Geological Survey of Wisconsin (Madison, WI: Commissioners of Public Printing, [1877-1882]), plate 1
On loan from a private collection. Reproduced by permission.

Triangulation in Wisconsin to 1879, inclusive

United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (federal agency, first founded 1807)
Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey (state agency, 1871-1879)
John Eugene Davies (American, 1839-1900)
Triangulation in Wisconsin to 1879, inclusive
Lithograph, 60.5cm x 73.0cm
From: T. C. Chamberlain et al., Atlas of the Geological Survey of Wisconsin (Madison, WI: Commissioners of Public Printing, [1877-1882]), plate 42
On loan from a private collection. Reproduced by permission.

[Title page]From Atlas of Massachusetts From Topographical Surveys made in Co-operation by the United States Geological Survey and the Commissioners of the Commonwealth, 1884-1888

Established in 1879, the U.S. Geological Survey was initially constrained to function solely within the Public Domain. Its second director, John Wesley Powell, had a much larger vision and pushed Congress to approve a national geological map (1882); Powell then established a program to create a national topographical survey to provide the basis for that map. Constitutional constraints required that this survey was implemented through cooperative agreements with each state. The first state to work with the Federal government in this regard was Massachusetts. A special commission was established to organize the state’s side of the work, which entailed a certain amount of detailed surveying and funding half the overall cost. The survey itself ran from 1884 to 1888 and the “preliminary edition” of the topographical atlas was published in 1890 [items 41-44]. In 1925, in line with the ongoing realignment of state and Federal power, Congress changed the ground rules for topographical surveying: henceforth, the U.S. Geological Survey could initiate a survey of a state, although Federal-state cooperation was still preferred.

United States Geological Survey (Federal agency, founded 1879)
Topographical Survey Commission, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (state agency, 1884-1890)
[Title page]
From Atlas of Massachusetts From Topographical Surveys made in Co-operation by the United States Geological Survey and the Commissioners of the Commonwealth, 1884-1888, preliminary edition (Boston: Topographical Survey Commission, 1890)
Lithograph, 46.0cm x 35.5cm
Osher Collection

3382.0001
Index Map of the 54 Atlas Sheets of the Topographical Map of Massachusetts

United States Geological Survey (Federal agency, founded 1879)
Topographical Survey Commission, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (state agency, 1884-1890)
Index Map of the 54 Atlas Sheets of the Topographical Map of Massachusetts
From Atlas of Massachusetts From Topographical Surveys made in Co-operation by the United States Geological Survey and the Commissioners of the Commonwealth, 1884-1888, preliminary edition (Boston: Topographical Survey Commission, 1890)
Lithograph, 31.0cm x 49.5cm
Osher Collection

3382.0001
Massachusetts–Vermont Hawley Sheet

United States Geological Survey (Federal agency, founded 1879)
Topographical Survey Commission, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (state agency, 1884-1890)
Sheet 7: Massachusetts–Vermont Hawley Sheet
From Atlas of Massachusetts From Topographical Surveys made in Co-operation by the United States Geological Survey and the Commissioners of the Commonwealth, 1884-1888, preliminary edition (Boston: Topographical Survey Commission, 1890)
Engravings transferred to colored lithograph, 48.0cm x 33.0cm
Osher Collection

3382.0001
Massachusetts Barnstable Sheet

United States Geological Survey (Federal agency, founded 1879)
Topographical Survey Commission, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (state agency, 1884-1890)
Sheet 48: Massachusetts Barnstable Sheet
From Atlas of Massachusetts From Topographical Surveys made in Co-operation by the United States Geological Survey and the Commissioners of the Commonwealth, 1884-1888, preliminary edition (Boston: Topographical Survey Commission, 1890)
Engravings transferred to colored lithograph, 48.5cm x 33.0cm
Osher Collection

3382.0001
Maine Portland Quadrangle

The joint responsibility for topographical mapping extended to the printing plates. When, after 1950, the U.S. Geological Survey superceded its old 1:62,500 series, prepared on copper plates, with the newer 1:24,000 series, prepared photo-mechanically, the agency divested itself of its thousands of copper printing plates, it dutifully turned the plates over to the respective states for disposal. One set of plates, for the Portland Quadrangle, was eventually donated to the Osher Map Library [items 45-46].

United States Geological Survey (Federal agency, founded 1879)
Maine Portland Quadrangle
Engravings transferred to color lithograph, 44.0cm x 3.0cm
Washington, DC 1916/1923
OML Collections

Maine Portland Quadrangle Copper plate

United States Geological Survey (Federal agency, founded 1879)
Maine Portland Quadrangle
Copper plate (cultural features, for printing in black), 53.5cm x 43.0cm
Washington, DC, 1916/1929
OML Collections