Dorothy Sloan -- Books


October 26, 2007

Canada-U.S. Border Finally Set

5. [ATLAS]. NORTH AMERICAN BOUNDARY COMMISSION (1872-1876). Joint Maps of the Northern Boundary of the United States, from the Lake of the Woods to the Summit of the Rocky Mountains. United States Northern Boundary Commission, Archibald Campbell, Esq., Commissioner. W. J. Twining, Capt. of Engrs. U.S.A. Chief Astronomer. Her Majesty’s North American Boundary Commission, D.R. Cameron, Maj. Royal Art. Commissioner S. Anderson, Capt. Royal Engrs. Chief Astronomer [lithograph pictorial title on tinted ground with illustration of Chief Mountain in present Glacier National Park, Montana]. [Washington: Government Printing Office, 1878]. 26 leaves (lithographs on tinted grounds): Pictorial title, index map leaf, 24 leaves of maps numbered I to XXIV showing the U.S.-Canada boundary line as it was established by the Joint Commission (each sheet 40.2 x 59 cm). Oblong folio (40.8 x 60 cm), original dark brown roan over brown lithograph boards with title in black on upper cover. Spine about perished and extremities snagged (but present), binding generally worn with some moderate water stains, lettering faded. Title page with moderate crease through center, index map has a light crease through center. The maps are clean and fine. Two contemporary printed paper library bookplates of Seymour Library Association, one of which records that the book was a gift to them by the U.S. Department of State in September 1879. Small contemporary ink stamp of Seymour again on title page in blank gutter margin. Contemporary printed label reading “Not to be Taken from the Library Rooms” on the upper cover.

            First edition. Howell 52:64. Phillips, Atlases 1264. Winsor, Narrative and Critical History of America, Vol. 7, pp. 54-55. This very scarce atlas supplements the official reports of the Commission’s work. One official report appeared as Reports upon the Survey of the Boundary between the Territory of the United States and the Possessions of Great Britain (1878), which contained the entire series of maps on seven folded sheets (Hasse, Reports of Explorations Printed in the Documents of the United States Government, p. 58 & Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, Vol. 5, Part 1, pp. 166-167 & #1878). A more minor report was W. J. Twining’s, which appeared in 1877, 44th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document 41 (Hasse, Reports of Explorations Printed in the Documents of the United States Government, p. 58). Finally, George Mercer Dawson published his Report on the Geology and Resources of the Region in the Vicinity of the Forty-Ninth Parallel, from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. With Lists of Plants and Animals Collected, and Notes on the Fossils (Montreal & New York, 1875).

            This series of large-scale (one inch equals two miles), highly detailed maps documents the Canada-U.S. border from Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota to the summit of the Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide. They are not to be confused with the seven sheets that appeared in the official government report, which had a scale of only one inch to eight miles, and which were issued folded into the report (see Wheat #1878). The present maps are on heavier paper and could not have been folded without severe damage. The amazingly detailed maps in the present atlas are superb examples of lithography in the service of science and art. They show not only large features of the landscape the two Commissions traversed, but also smaller features such as trading posts, forts, reservations, trails, wagon roads, and routes of exploration, including Twining (1869-1873), F. V. Greene (1873-74), and C. L. Doolittle (1874). The handsome lithograph of a pillar featured on the title page was called Kings Peak by the British, whereas Lewis and Clark named it Tower Mountain. The present name of Chief Mountain was adopted in the late 1800s from the original Blackfeet, who considered the mountain sacred and called it Old Chief or The Mountain-of-the-Chief. This majestic landmark is in Glacier National Park, Montana. Chief Mountain is located on Map XXIV in the atlas.

            As called for by the Oregon Treaty of 1846 (Treaty of Washington), the boundary between Canada and the U.S. was set at the 49th parallel. The initial work on this border was done between 1857 and 1861, when surveyors completed the line from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Continental Divide. The work, which was stopped because of the Civil War, was resumed over a decade later by a second Commission, which finished its work in 1875, resulting in the longest international boundary formed by a continuous curve and the longest undefended boundary in the world. This second survey ran the boundary from Lake of the Woods in Minnesota to the terminus of the previous survey and defined the boundaries of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana. One of the curious features of the survey maps in this atlas is that they were prepared by Commissions who each worked on their respective sides of the 49th parallel.

            On the British side, Captain D.R. Cameron was named as Commissioner, Lieutenant Samuel Anderson was assigned as Chief Astronomer, Lieutenant Albany Featherstonhaugh was his First Assistant, and William F. King was Sub-Assistant Astronomer. On the U.S. side Archibald Campbell was named Commissioner and W. J. Twining was Chief Astronomer. The Commission has been referred to by a variety of names: the British North American Boundary Commission, the Northern Boundary Commission, the United States Northern Boundary Commission, and the American North-West Boundary Commission. The area they surveyed is marked today by a continuous twenty-foot-wide swath cut completely across the country along the 49th parallel. Despite a few adjustments made in modern times, the Commission’s survey has proven accurate. This survey, along with the survey that marked the Mexican-U.S. border, finally determined all the borders of the lower forty-eight states and was the zenith of military surveying in the nineteenth century. See Frank N. Schubert, Vanguard of Expansion: Army Engineers in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1819-1879 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Army, Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1980). ($600-1,200)

“Engravers who well understood their art, and their maps are outstanding”-Wheat

Auction 21 Abstracts

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Map showing the Continental Divide

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Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2007