Dorothy Sloan -- Books

Copyright 2000- by Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books Inc. for all materials on this site. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.


October 26, 2007

“Frémont’s and Preuss’ greatest contributions to the development of the West”-Goetzmann

118. [MAP]. PREUSS, Charles. Topographical Map of the Road from Missouri to Oregon Commencing at the Mouth of the Kansas in the Missouri River, and Ending at the Mouth of the Wallah Wallah in the Columbia. In VII Sections. Section I [-VII]. From the Field Notes and Journal of Capt. J. C. Frémont, and from Sketches and Notes Made on the Ground by his assistant Charles Preuss. Compiled by Charles Preuss, 1846. By Order of the Senate of the United States Scale 10 Miles to the Inch. [N.p., 1849]. Lithograph map on 7 sheets, sheet size of each approximately 39.5 x 65.4 cm. Creased where formerly folded, upper left blank margins professionally infilled (where removed from bound volume), edges of Section VII strengthened, otherwise fine.

Map List in Geographic Sequence

Section I: KANSAS & NEBRASKA. The map commences at Westport, Kansas (present area of Kansas City), the departure point for the Oregon Trail, and ends in southern Nebraska. Text on the map states: “This section abounds with grass, water and fuel so that emigrants may encamp almost anywhere. Elk and deer, the only game, are very scarce.”

Section II: NEBRASKA. This stretch begins near present-day Marquette, Nebraska, and goes as far as present Ogallala, Nebraska. Helpful notes include the advice that buffalo chips are a source of fuel and that timber is scarce. Frémont’s animated description of their first sighting of buffalo: “June 30th. First view of buffalo. The air was keen the next morning at sunrise, the thermometer standing at 44° and it was sufficiently cold to make overcoats very comfortable. A few miles brought us into the midst of the buffalo swarming in immense numbers over the plains, where they had left scarcely a blade of grass.... Indians and buffalo make the poetry and life of the prairie, and our camp was full of their exhilaration.” Travellers are warned that the Pawnee are a threat and rob emigrants along the route.

Section VI (i.e. Section III): NEBRASKA & WYOMING. The route shown is from near Sidney, Nebraska (close to the Colorado border), to the area of what is now Casper, Wyoming. Text on the map indicates that this is a challenging section of the trail, where no game can be found thirty miles each way from Fort Laramie, grass and fuel are scant, and “Sioux Indians are not to be trusted.” The strategic military position of Fort Laramie is discussed, with the observation: “If it is in contemplation to keep open the communications with Oregon Territory, a show of military force in this country is absolutely necessary and a combination of atvantages [sic] renders the neighborhood of Fort Laramie the most suitable place on the line of the Platte for the establishment of a military post.”

Section IV: WYOMING & IDAHO. The map commences near Casper, Wyoming, and extends to present-day Fontenelle, Wyoming, including South Pass and the Wind River Mountains. Frémont discusses the Continental Divide: “We mounted the barometer in the snow of the 13,570 feet for the elevation above the Gulf of Mexico. Fields of snow lay far below us: boundless mountains stretched before us. A stillness the most profound, and a terrible solitude, forced themselves constantly on the mind as the great features of this place.” Because this section crosses the war ground of Native Americans, the necessity for careful guards and watches is emphasized.

Section V: WYOMING & IDAHO. The map extends from present-day Fontenelle, Wyoming, to what is now Pocatello, Idaho. Notes in this section mention the Great Salt Lake and indicate that the travellers are now out of danger from the Indians, since the Snake Indians were considered friendly.

Section III (i.e. Section VI): IDAHO. This map starts near Sterling, Idaho, and extends to present Boise, Idaho. The traveller is warned: “This is the most trying section for the traveller on the whole route. Water, though good and plenty, is difficult to reach, as the river is hemmed in by high and vertical rocks and many of the by streams are without water in the dry season. Grass is only to be found at the marked camping places, and barely sufficient to keep strong animals from starvation. Game there is none. The road is very rough by volcanic rocks, detrimental to wagons and carts. In sage bushes consists the only Fuel. Lucky that by all these hardships the traveller is not harassed by the Indians, who are peacable [sic] & harmless.”

Section VII: IDAHO, OREGON & WASHINGTON. Here the map picks up near present-day Boise and ends near present-day Walla Walla, Washington. This section contains the largest amount of written data, with extensive notes from October 10th through October 25th. The final note describes the first sighting of the Columbia River. Frémont describes their arrival at Fort Walla Walla: “The appearance of the post and country was without interest, except that we here saw for the first time the great river on which the course of events for the past half century has been directing attention and conferring historical fame. The river is indeed a noble object and has here attained its full magnitude.” He concludes that the distance from their starting point to the Pacific Ocean is approximately two thousand miles.

            Second edition. The first edition came out in 1846. There were two states of Section VII (changes in text setting). The present edition was published in a government document (John A. Rockwell, Report from the Select Committee to Whom was Referred a Joint Resolution to Authorize the Survey of Certain Routes for a Canal or Railroad between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, February 20, 1843, 30th Congress, 2nd Session, House Reports 145). This second edition does not include the lithographer’s name (Lithogr. by E. Weber & Co. Baltimore), has Sections III and VI misnumbered, and displays other alterations, such as titles that have been moved. Hasse, Reports of Explorations Printed in the Documents of the United States, p. 69. For the 1846 edition see: Braislin 1269. Cohen, Mapping the West, p. 80. Ralph E. Ehrenberg “Mapping the North American Plains: A Catalog of the Exhibition” in John L. Allen, Mapping the North American Plains, pp. 220-222, VII.2, Section II illustrated at p. 222: “Preuss’ map was issued in seven sections so that it could easily be read by wagonmasters under the most adverse conditions.” Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West, 1803-1863, p. 106: “This authoritative map, well drawn, detailed, and aimed at the wants of the emigrants, was one of Frémont’s and Preuss’ greatest contributions to the development of the West.” Graff 3360: “An extraordinary map by a master cartographer.” Mattes, Platte River Road Narratives 67 (note). Rumsey 2773: “First maps to show the Oregon Trail accurately with great detail. Used by many of the overland trail parties.” Schwartz & Ehrenberg, Mapping of America, pp. 272-273. Streeter Sale 3100.

            “A road guide for Oregon emigrants such as had never previously existed. This map in general reflects so much of 1845 Frémont as shows the route set forth in its title, though on a different scale. It is so divided that each section covers about 250 miles of the route, and each is so oriented as to bring that portion of the route which it embraces along its major axis. The purview of each section is quite narrowly limited to the emigrant road, but the topography is developed in rather more detail than on the parent map.... Owing to its rarity and to its having long stood in the shadow of the much more widely known and distributed Frémont map of 1845, Preuss’ sectional map of 1846 has been insufficiently appreciated by students of Western history. In particular, those interested either in Frémont’s travels of 1842-43 or in the evolution of the transcontinental wagon roads will find that the map rewards close study” (Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, Vol. 3, p. 26; full discussion, pp. 25-29, all seven sheets illustrated; #523; refers to 1846 edition).

            Master cartographer Charles Preuss (1803-1854) was a native of Germany who came to the 1834 following service as a surveyor for the Prussian government and training in the art of lithography by its inventor, Aloys Senefelder. After working at a few drafting jobs, the last of which he finally lost, in desperation he turned to Frémont, who was very impressed with his recommendations and his work. Frémont immediately found work to keep Preuss occupied and to help feed his family until the 1842 expedition departed with Preuss as cartographer. Although Frémont speaks warmly of him, Preuss does not return the favor in some respects, often complaining about the lackluster scenery and relative sterility that he found in the West. Nevertheless, this seven-sheet map he produced is a monument of Western cartography.

            Originally published in 1846 as a separate in an edition of ten thousand copies ordered by Congress, the map was immediately popular and probably proved to be a considerable boon for emigrants on the Oregon Trail, for whom it was seemingly intended. Such expansionism was certainly on the Manifest Destiny agenda of Thomas Hart Benton, Frémont’s father-in-law. Preuss prepared the map while sitting out Frémont’s third expedition in the comfort of his Washington, D.C., home. About the time this 1849 edition appeared, Preuss was with Frémont on his disastrous fourth expedition. The Oregon Trail, so minutely depicted here, although it was the main route to the West before 1849, would be eclipsed by California. As a result Preuss would, ironically, also serve as his own rival. Congress would order 50,000 copies of his 1848 Map of Oregon and Upper California. Preuss was also rivalled by others, such as T. H. Jefferson, whose 1849 Map of the Emigrant Road (Plains & Rockies IV:168) became one of the most popular guides for the vast emigration to the Gold Fields that dwarfed Oregon emigration. It would appear that Jefferson took inspiration from Preuss’s map in terms of its physical format of large separate sheets, extreme detail, generous scale, and its inclusion of extensive printed text on the face of the map. Because of the combination of text and geography, these productions served simultaneously as maps and emigrant guides.

            This important edition appeared in a railroad report, which must have pleased Preuss, who refused to accompany Frémont on the fifth expedition and instead worked on the Pacific Railroad Surveys. Its appearance here, in something of an omnibus government report on transcontinental and transoceanic transportation methods, portends the growing power and importance of mechanized means of transportation as opposed to the Schooners of the Prairies. Although the 1849 railroad report is not in Plains & Rockies, it deserves to be. To the contrary, references that imply this map is contained in Plains & Rockies (115) are erroneous.

            The set offered here is the same issue that sold at the Snider Sale for $13,200 (Christie’s 1618:238). ($4,000-8,000)

Sold. Hammer: $4,000.00; Price Realized: $4,700.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

Click images or links labeled Enlarge to enlarge. Links labeled Zoom open zoomable images.

Auction 21 | DSRB Home | e-mail: