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Lot 68

With the Pathfinder’s map that “marked not only the end but the beginning of an era”—Wheat

68. FRÉMONT, J[ohn] C[harles] & [Jessie Benton 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. By Brevet Captain J. C. Frémont, of the Topographical Engineers, under the Orders of Col. J. J. Abert, Chief of the Topographical Bureau. Printed by Order of the Senate of the United States. Washington: Gales and Seaton, Printers, 1845. [Senate 174, 28th Congress, 2nd Session]. 693 [1, blank] pp., 5 lithographic maps, 22 lithographed plates (views, fossils, botany, 19 by Weber; there is a duplicate of Devil’s Gate; laid in the missing plate Hot Springs Gate, supplied from another copy), Thick 8vo, original blindstamped dark brown cloth, spine gilt-lettered. Binding with light shelf wear (particularly at corners) and light staining, intermittent light to moderate foxing (including some plates), generally a fine copy in original condition, the large map excellent, much better than usually found, with only mild browning at folds and a few clean, short splits.


[1] [Untitled emigrant route in Bear River Valley] (47 x 22.5 cm; 18-1/2 x 8-7/8 inches).

[2] Beer Springs (22.5 x 14.5 cm; 8-7/8 x 5-7/8 inches).

[3] The Great Salt-Lake (22.5 x 14.5 cm.; 8-7/8 x 5-7/8 inches).

[4] [Untitled map of the crossing of the Sierra Nevada by the South Fork of the American River] (22.5 x 64 cm; 8-7/8 x 25-1/4 inches).

[5] Map of an Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the Year 1842, Oregon & North California in the Years 1843-44 by Brevet Capt. J. C. Fremont of the Corps of Topographical Engineers under the Orders of Col. J. J. Abert, Chief of the Topographical Bureau. Lith. by E. Weber & Co., Baltimore, Md. (76.5 x 128 cm; 30-1/8 x 50-3/8 inches). Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 497; Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 21.

     First edition, the Senate issue, with the astronomical and meteorological observations omitted from the House issue and subsequent editions. Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 130-133: Cowan I, pp. 91, 269. Cowan II, p. 223. Edwards, Enduring Desert, pp. 89-90. Graff 1436. Grolier American Hundred 49. Hill, pp. 112-13. Holliday 396. Howell, California 50:88. Howes F370. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 39. Mintz, The Trail 165. Plains & Rockies IV:115:1. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, pp. 262, 271-78. Streeter Sale 3131: “Though the [large folding] map is unsigned, Lt. G. K. Warren in his Memoir, p. (45), says ‘it was drawn by Charles Preuss, whose skill in sketching topography in the field and representing it on the map has probably never been surpassed.’ Though the Oregon Trail and the Spanish Trail had been regularly used for a few years there were no dependable maps. For other parts of Frémont’s route, much of the recording of his map was new, including the whole extent of the Sierra Nevada Range, the California rivers from the American River south, and the three Colorado rivers.—TWS.” Tweney, The Washington 89 #22. Walgren, The Scallawagiana Hundred: A Selection of the Hundred Most Important Books about the Mormons and Utah 29. Zamorano 80 #39.

     Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 497 & II, pp. 194-200: “[Frémont’s report and map] changed the entire picture of the West [and] represented as important a step forward from the earlier western maps of the period as did those of Pike, Long, and Lewis and Clark in their day.... [Frémont’s map] represented trustworthy direct observation, a new, welcome, and long overdue development in the myth-encrusted cartography of the West. To Frémont and his magnificent map of his Second Expedition all praise. An altogether memorable document in the cartographic history of the West, and for it alone Frémont would deserve to be remembered in history.... This map marked not only the end but the beginning of an era.”. Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 21: “[Frémont’s] large map showing Frémont’s routes, had wide circulation and was used as a base for a number of later maps.... This volume also contains a map, on a scale of three miles to one inch, showing the entire course of the ‘Rio de los Americanos’ from the region of ‘Mountain Lake’ [Lake Tahoe] to its junction with the Sacramento, below ‘New Helvetia.’” Wheat points out that the 1845 Frémont-Preuss map served as a basis for the 1848 Frémont-Preuss map (see California 49: Forty-Nine Maps of California from the Sixteenth Century to the Present 27n).

Gary Kurutz in Volkmann Zamorano 80 catalogue:

John C. Frémont’s Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains...and to Oregon and California can only be described as one of the monumental works of Western exploration. Although preceded by mountain men and immigrants, Frémont opened the West to an entire nation. By accurately describing this vast territory from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, his government report became the vade mecum of Manifest Destiny. Its words, maps, and pictures paved the way for future waves of overlanders culminating in the flood tide of the Gold Rush. Historians from Hubert Howe Bancroft to William H. Goetzmann bestowed upon the “Pathfinder” the highest praise for his accomplishments as a scientific explorer. The celebrated savant, Alexander von Humboldt, congratulated Frémont as a geographer and explorer and Brigham Young, the great Mormon prophet, read with keen interest his description of the Salt Lake Valley and its potential as a new Zion. Frémont, as he readily acknowledged, benefited from a superb supporting cast beginning with his wife and amanuensis, Jesse Benton Frémont; his powerful father-in-law, Senator Thomas Hart Benton; and his courageous and knowledgeable scouts and scientists including Kit Carson, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Alexis Godey, and Charles Preuss. His reports and those of his later expeditions made him a national hero and a charismatic symbol of American expansionism.

      The first Frémont-led expedition of 1842, as documented in this pregnant report, did not have as its mission a trek to the Pacific Coast or California but rather concentrated on investigating the Oregon Trail as far as South Pass. Upon returning and flushed with success, this high-energy officer in the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers immediately made plans for an even more ambitious second expedition. Its purpose was to map the Oregon Trail as far as its Pacific terminus and to connect the coastal surveys made during Commander Charles Wilkes’s Great Exploring Expedition of 1841. By the fall of 1843, Frémont’s mission had achieved its Oregon objective. Greater glory, however, awaited by turning south and heading to California in search of the elusive, mythical Buenaventura River that would hopefully provide a liquid highway similar to the Columbia. Twenty-five men led by Frémont left the Columbia River area on November 25, and by December reached the Great Basin. At that point, Frémont made the crucial decision to cross the Sierra in winter thus beginning one of the most harrowing journeys in the annals of Western exploration. In January and February of 1844, with the occasional assistance of Native American guides, Frémont’s cavalcade trudged through the Sierra snow following the Truckee River, passing by Lake Tahoe, traveling near Carson Pass, and finally descending the western slope following the American River. All along, Frémont made scientific observations amid the most trying conditions. He consistently praised the courage of his half-frozen men, and from the Native Americans encountered he and his men learned to become diggers themselves by eating pine nuts, acorns, grasses, and wild onions. Finally on March 6, they made it to Sutter’s Fort and survival. Not one man died but the explorer reported: “Out of 67 horses and mules which we commenced crossing the Sierra, only 33 reached the valley of the Sacramento.” Frémont also left behind a brass canon.

      After a two week respite at Nueva Helvetia and enjoying Captain John Sutter’s generous hospitality, the expedition set out to explore the Great Central Valley of California. Frémont in his report gave a careful description of the fort, the various agricultural and manufacturing enterprises Sutter had underway, and the assortment of Americans, Europeans, and Native Americans working for him. Frémont’s narrative of the trip down the valley is a naturalist’s dream. He beautifully described the bountiful flora and fauna found along the way, recording the Latin names for each. Flocks of birds, herds of elk, fields of golden poppies, and groves of majestic oak delighted their eyes. At one point they came upon “a most beautiful spot of flower fields” and rode “along through the perfumed air.” Such poetic imagery pointed out the extraordinary potential of this verdant land. On April 15, the travel-weary Pathfinder recorded the following colorful portrayal of what his multicultural, tatterdemalion expedition looked like: “Our cavalcade made a strange and grotesque appearance...guided by a civilized Indian, attended by two wild ones from the Sierra; a Chinook from the Columbia; and our own mixture of American, French, German—all armed; four or five languages heard at once; above a hundred horses and mules, half wild; American, Spanish and Indian dresses and equipment intermingled—such was our composition.” Thereafter, the quarter-mile-long “procession,” as he called it, headed over Tehachapi Pass, through the Mojave Desert, picked up the Old Spanish Trail, and made it home, concluding an eight-month journey of over 3,500 miles. They had achieved an amazing geographic triumph and proved once and for all the nonexistence of the Buenaventura River as an east-west aqueous thoroughfare.

      The report of Frémont’s grand odyssey, with the judicious help and writing of Jesse, was transformed into a heroic epic of adventure. Published in an edition of 10,000 copies for use by the U.S. Senate, the narrative was supported by plates, scientific tables, and maps, including a magnificent rendering of the entire trip by Charles Preuss. Without question, it added immensely to the nation’s understanding of the continent and captured the public’s imagination. A New Canaan awaited settlement on the shores of the Pacific. In the near future, it would be avidly read by gold seekers. William Goetzmann, in sizing up the importance of this journey, wrote: “All in all, Frémont’s trek of 1843-44 had been a great and epic journey, one that would have secured his place in history forever had he done nothing else.” Frémont, as is well known, had many critics who resented his fame and scoffed at the title of “Pathfinder.” Bancroft, however, vigorously defended him stating that the explorer always credited those who had gone before and did not exaggerate his personal successes. The historian superbly put into context the importance of his accomplishments: “He [Frémont] mentioned over and over again the fact that the trappers or immigrants had everywhere preceded him. His task was altogether different from theirs; it was to explore scientifically a country with which they had been long familiar, but respecting which their knowledge was not available for geographical purposes. He performed his task in a manner creditable to his intelligence and energy; shirked no hardships involved in the performance; and described his achievements with all due modesty. His work was the first and a very important step in the great transcontinental surveys...and for his service as topographical engineer Frémont deserves praise.”


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