Dorothy Sloan -- Books


The Realization of Thomas Jefferson’s Vision of

The Best Natural Highway for Commerce from Ocean to Ocean

317.     [MAP]. JOHNSON, Edwin F[erry]. (Engineer). Map of the Country from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean from the Latest Explorations and Surveys. To Accompany the Report of Edwin F. Johnson, Chf. Engr. Northern Pacific R.R. November 1867. [at top right above map proper, table of elevations commencing] L. Superior to Seattle... [along top above map proper, profile of route with title to right] Profile of the Route of the Northern Pacific Railroad, from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean... [ad at upper right, below profile] Maps of every description to accompany Reports Prospectuses etc. Drawn Engraved Printed & colored at Coltons Geographical Establishment No. 172 Williams St. New York. [ten lines of text below ad at upper right, commencing] The distance from New City to Puget Sound... [at far left margin at center, tables of distances, commencing] Sitka to San Francisco... [above lower border within map proper] Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1867 by G[eorge]. W[oolworth] & C[harles] B. Colton & Co in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York [below map and into neat line] Prepared at Coltons Geographical Establishment. G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. 172 William Street New York. New York, 1867. Folded lithograph map on on two joined sheets of bank note paper, original full color and shading, original hand coloring (route outlined in bright rose, boundaries in pale pink), neat line to neat line: 54.5 x 114 cm; overall sheet size: 57.2 x 114.5 cm. One clean tear at fold junction at bottom (no loss), else very fine, fresh copy.

     First edition. This is a separately issued map (the map also appeared in the 1867 government report Memorial, &c. Northern Pacific Railroad; in an 1868 report published by the New York Chamber of Commerce; and in pocket map format). Phillips, America, p. 916. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 1169 & Vol. 5, Part 1, pp. 205-209:

A map produced by the Coltons, derived from their over-all railroad map of the West, is the “Map of the Country from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean from the latest Explorations and Surveys to accompany the report of Edwin F. Johnson Chf. Engr. Northern Pacific R.R. November 1867.” On several counts this is a surprising map. We might have supposed Northern Pacific Railroad projects moribund in view of the dominance of the Union Pacific roads since 1862, but even more surprising is it to find one of the visionaries of the 1850s acting as chief engineer of a developing road in the 1860s; we would scarcely have guessed, when in Volume Three we reviewed 1853 Johnson, Edwin F., that he would return to these pages [Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 790].

An explanation is provided by Eugene V. Smalley, who in his History of the Northern Pacific Railroad (New York, 1883), says that the ideas of Asa Whitney “were taken up in 1852 by one of the ablest of the world’s great engineers, Edwin F. Johnson, and given practical form and value by the aid of his genius and technical skill.” Smalley holds that the Northern Pacific, the first projected and the last completed of the three great transcontinental lines, evidences the wisdom of Thomas Jefferson in causing the route it follows to be explored as the best natural highway for commerce from ocean to ocean, and...the foresight of Whitney and the engineering skill of Johnson in claiming in advance of its actual survey that it offered the best line for railroad construction and traffic.

Smalley tells of Johnson’s early life and professional training, his promotion of a northern route in 1853, even before the Stevens explorations, and his being named chief engineer when the Northern Pacific Railroad got down to business in May, 1867. Johnson was ordered, says Smalley, “to commence surveys and locate a line between Lake Superior and the Red River of the North; also to explore the western end of Lake Superior, with a view to the location of the Eastern terminus of the road. He was further instructed to locate the line from Portland toward Lake Pend d’Oreille, to make a reconnaissance of the country between the water connected with the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Columbia River, and thence eastwardly towards the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, to make a measurement of the practicable passes in the Cascade Range, and to report the results of such surveys before the 15th of November.” To say the least, this is a prescription for a busy six months, but Johnson was equal to the task; the map now under consideration illustrates the requested report. It was not to be expected that at this stage Johnson would go and look over the country....

Using the Colton base map, for which he had no responsibility, Johnson showed his board of directors two lines starting from different points on Lake Superior and meeting near Fort Ransom on the “Shayenne River.” The route then curved northwest to cross the Missouri near Ft. Clark and go on to the Yellowstone and up the north bank of that river some distance, then strike more northwesterly across the upper course of the Musselshell to reach the Missouri above Great Falls. From this point the route went on to cross the Rockies at Cadottes Pass, descend the Big Blackfoot a few miles, cross over to the Jocko and the Flathead, and after descending Clarks Fork nearly to the Lake Pend Oreille, make almost directly southwest to the Columbia at the mouth of the Yakima. Here the road branched, one line descending the north bank of the Columbia to Ft. Vancouver and Portland, the other going northwest up the Yakima and over Snoqualmie Pass to Seattle. As might be expected, there were material variances between Johnson’s projected line and the route over which the Northern Pacific was eventually built; Johnson’s map of 1867 was as much an expression of faith and belief as his map of 1853; neither could be a hard piece of engineering. To the map he added dotted lines respectively labeled “Isothermal Line of Mean Annual Temperature of 50º Fahr.” and “Isothermal Line of Mean Summer Temperature of 65º Fahr.” These isothermal lines were carried from the Great Lakes only as far as the summit of the Rockies.

Field surveys for the Northern Pacific were begun as early as the summer of 1867 under Johnson’s general superintendence, one party being set to work in Minnesota while another was ordered to examine the passes of the Cascade Mountains.... Not until 1869 were serious and systematic surveys opened by the engineer corps of the Northern Pacific, labors extended over the next three years....

The country portrayed extends from the west end of Lake Erie to the Pacific and from a little below the 42nd parallel to well above the 52nd parallel in the British Possessions. Dakota (including the unnamed Wyoming), Montana, and Washington are shown entire, with all but the southwest corner of Idaho, most of Oregon, and parts of Utah and Nebraska. [A] wealth of military detail is found on this depiction of more northerly climes. In Dakota we see Ft. Sully and New Ft. Sully below and above old Ft. Pierre, with Ft. Rice beyond the Cannon Ball R. to the north. Farther west is that significant chain of posts previously mentioned, Forts Reno, Phil Kearney, and C. F. Smith, although Colton has not connected them with a road so as to bring out their full significance as guardians of the Bozeman Trail; elsewhere in Montana we see familiar trading posts, Braseaus House and Ft. Sarpy on the Yellowstone, and Forts Charles, Galpin, Cook, Benton, and Labarge along the Missouri, with Ft. Union and Ft. William (the latter marked “Ruins”) just east of the Territorial line at the mouth of the Yellowstone. Washington has its share of military posts, a new one called Camp Osoyoos being added to older establishments like Ft. Colville, Ft. Simcoe, Ft. Steilacoom, and Ft. Vancouver. In Oregon...Ft. Henrietta is added to previously noted posts like Camp Dalgren, Camp Marcy, Camp Gibbs and Camp Watson.

Once more, the detail of such a map defies cataloguing.

Indeed, the detail is profuse and accurate, including exploration routes (Frémont, Mullan, Stevens, Stansbury, Warren, et al), wagon roads, overland mail routes, existing and proposed rail lines, Pony Express routes, tribes, trading posts, military establishments, landforms, waterways, presidios, missions, etc. This sharply delineated map is a superb example from Colton’s cartographic establishment. The present map is not in Rumsey or either of Modelski’s works on railroad maps, although both works discuss Johnson’s 1853. Modelski’s Railroad Maps of North America: The First Hundred Years (pp. 40-41) comments on Johnson: “Edwin Ferry Johnson (1803-1872) was one of the foremost railroad engineers of his day and was an early advocate of a transcontinental railroad. As early as 1826 he suggested a line to run from the Hudson River westward. Johnson became the chief engineer of the Northern Pacific Railroad.” See also: Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers Revised Edition, Vol. II, p. 444.