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AUCTION 22

 

Oversize Maps of the Upper Missouri River in 1872—Limited to 250 Copies



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491.     ROBERTS, Thomas P[aschall]. Report of a Reconnaissance of the Missouri River in 1872, by Thomas P. Roberts, Assistant Engineer N.P.R.R. Printed for the Use of the Engineer Department, U.S.A. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1875. [1-4], [2, errata leaf], [5] 6-56 pp., 10 folded lithograph maps, plans, and plates, all but one folding and including 3 oversize maps at end (see below and consult web site for complete plate list). 8vo (23.2 x 15 cm), original brown cloth, gilt lettering on spine. Light shelf wear and a few minor spots and stains to binding, interior very fine. The three folding maps at end are fine except for a few clean splits at folds (no losses) and one old cello tape repair to blank margin of one map. 1888 ownership inscription of Homer P. Ritter in pencil on front pastedown and in blue pencil on title. Ritter (1855-1919) was for many years an officer of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic survey and a member of the Mississippi River Commission.

Folded maps (all on two joined sheets):

Reconnaissance of the Upper Missouri River from Three Forks to Fort Benton, Mon. Ter. by Tho’s P. Roberts 1872. [scale on printed slip pasted to map] Published by Authority of the Hon. Secretary of War, in the Office of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army. 1875. (In 3 Sheets.) Sheet No. 1. [below lower right neat line] The Graphic Co. Photo.-Lith. 39 & 41 Park Place, N.Y. Neat line to neat line: 118.5 x 54 cm; overall sheet size: 127 x 60.5 cm. Locations noted for open rolling country, rapids, gulches, creeks, islands, named hills and bluffs with elevations. Gallatin City is located with routes to Helena and Bozeman. Number 1 stamped on verso. A few clean splits at folds, no losses, one minor spot, one short tear at blank margins, otherwise fine.

Reconnaissance of the Upper Missouri River from Three Forks to Fort Benton, Mon. Ter. by Tho’s P. Roberts 1872. [scale on printed slip pasted to map] Published by Authority of the Hon. Secretary of War, in the Office of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army. 1875. (In 3 Sheets.) Sheet No. 2. [below lower right neat line] The Graphic Co. Photo. Lith. 39 & 41 Park Place, N.Y. Neat line to neat line: 117 x 54.5 cm; overall sheet size: 128 x 61 cm. Located are the Belt Mountains with elevations, pine timber, rolling open plains, canyons, ditches, natural bridges, gold mines, islands and rapids. Number 2 stamped on verso. A few clean splits at folds (no losses), very light offsetting at lower portion, otherwise fine. Detached.

Reconnaissance of the Upper Missouri River from Three Forks to Fort Benton, Mon. Ter. by Tho’s P. Roberts 1872. [scale on printed slip pasted to map] Published by Authority of the Hon. Secretary of War, in the Office of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army. 1875. (In 3 Sheets.) Sheet No. 3. [below lower right neat line] The Graphic Co. Photo-Lith. 39 & 41 Park Place, N.Y. Neat line to neat line: 123 x 54.5 cm; overall sheet size: 129.7 x 60.7 cm. Located are ravines breaking from plains to river, bluffs, Great Falls and other falls, rapids, ripples, creeks, Fort Benton, grasslands, etc. Number 3 stamped on verso. A few clean splits at folds, no losses.

     First edition. According to a printed letter on title verso, only 250 copies of the report were published. OCLC locates 7 copies in the U.S. and one in Berlin. Hasse, Reports of Explorations Printed in the Documents of the United States Government, p. 68. Sabin 71925. Not in Wheat or other standard sources.

     The present work documents the 1872 survey of the Upper Missouri River in Montana conducted by civil engineer Thomas P. Roberts, who was tasked with surveying and reporting upon the navigational potential of the Upper Missouri River for light steamboats and conducting a partial survey of the Great Falls area for a proposed narrow-gauge railroad. Part I consists of Roberts’ journal entries from departure on a 24-foot steamer from Sioux City, Iowa, on April 27, 1872, to arrival at Fort Benton, Montana, on June 1, 1872, followed by sections on “General and Comparative Description of Missouri River” (includes table of steamboat arrivals at Fort Benton from 1859 to 1872), “The Present and Future Necessity for the Improvement of the Missouri River,” and “The Radical Improvement of the Lower or Sandy Portion of the Missouri River.” Part II contains Roberts’ journal entries from Three Forks to Fort Benton, beginning July 27, to August 12, 1872, followed by essays on “Practicability of Plans for the Improvement of the Navigation of the Upper Missouri,” “Business Prospects” (with itemized estimation of the cost of narrow gauge), “Drainage Areas, Rain-Fall, and Discharge of the Upper Missouri, Compared with the Upper Ohio, &c.,” and “Profile of River Latitudes, Etc.”

     The text contains observations on natural history (including buffalo), geographical features, forts, and Native Americans. Roberts’ references to the Lewis and Clark expedition are noteworthy since Roberts’ party covered some of the same ground. For instance, Roberts notes an eagle in a nest in the remains of an old cottonwood on an island near Black Eagle Falls:

Among the branches still remaining is a black eagle’s nest. When I first approached the place, riding, and appearing on the bluff above it, an old eagle sailed out directly toward me and soared immediately over my head, so close that I became alarmed for the safety of my hat. After a moment’s survey it lighted on a jutting rock within a hundred feet of me, where it remained until one of the men coming up discharged a pistol at it before I could stop him. He missed the eagle. As I had a good opportunity to judge the age of this bird, his feathers being soiled, torn and otherwise old looking, I came to the conclusion that probably he was the same eagle, whose nest in the same position, on the same island, was seen by Lewis and Clark in 1805…. The sight of this eagle was to me one of the most peculiarly pleasant incident of our reconnaissance.

     Thomas P. Roberts (1843-1924) joined his father William Milnor Roberts in Brazil in 1863, where he was employed as an engineer on the Dom Pedro II Railway. In 1866 he was appointed principal assistant engineer on the U.S. project for improvement of the Ohio River. In 1870 Roberts served as assistant engineer of the Montana Division of the Northern Pacific Railroad and made the first examination of the route finally adopted through the Rocky Mountains for that road and examined and made the present report upon the navigability of the upper Missouri river. Subsequently he worked for the U.S. government on surveys of the upper Monongahela river in West Virginia, as chief engineer of the Pittsburg Southern Railroad, and as supervisor of construction for various other southern roads. Later he was engaged by the Monongahela Navigation Company and investigated new systems of steamboat navigation. For further information and details, consult web site.

($1,000-2,000)

Sold. Hammer: $1,200.00; Price Realized: $1,440.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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