“Of paramount importance in any cartographical consideration of the gold rush”—Wheat

The Map That Launched a Thousands Ships

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346. [MAP]. [ORD, Edward Otho Cresap]. Topographical Sketch of the Gold & Quicksilver District of California July 25th., 1848. E.O.C.O. Lt. U.S.A. [centered below neat line] P.S. Duval’s Lith. Steam Press Phila. [Washington, 1848]. Lithograph map; neat line to neat line: 54.1 x 39 cm; overall sheet size: 58 x 43 cm. Top blank margin lightly browned, several edge chips (one with loss at left just touching border), a few fold splits (some with very minor losses), creased where originally folded, overall a good copy of a map sometimes found in pieces because it was printed on cheap paper used by the government and folded into a large volume.

     First edition (the map appeared in the government document, President’s [Polk’s] Message to the Congress of December 5, 1848 (30th Congress, 2nd Session, House Executive Document No. 1). This epochal map made several references to specific rivers in which gold had been found; even the “Low Clay Hills and Gravel Slate Sub Soil” contained gold. The implication seems to be that gold can basically be picked up off the ground at no effort, no doubt motivating thousands to go see the Elephant.California 49: Forty-Nine Maps of California from the Sixteenth Century to the Present, p. 29 (illustrated) & #29. Cowan, p. 426. Hayes, Historical Atlas of California, Map 179, p. 88. Howes P446. Rumsey 3458. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, pp. 278-279: “Discovery of gold at Sutter’s sawmill in January 1848 spurred the production of western maps as did no other single event, particularly after President James Polk confirmed the discovery in his annual message to Congress on December 5. Ord’s map was copied by J.T. Lawson and sold through advertisements in the New York Tribune, beginning January 9, 1849.” Wheat, “Twenty-five California Maps” #5. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 30.Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 565 & Vol. III, p. 52:

The writer’s work on the maps of the California Gold Region described a number of the first maps reporting on the discoveries; in general, these were small area maps with too little geographical reach to merit redescription in the present study. An exception is E.O.C. Ord’s “Topographical Sketch of the Gold & Quicksilver District of California,” dated July 25, 1848, which depicts almost the whole of the Central Valley in commendable detail, naming nearly all the streams, and denoting those on which gold had been found “as far as examined.” The map also shows interestingly trails and roads then in use, including one north up the Sacramento Valley from Sinclair’s ranch, the old “Pass to Salt Lake” north of “Mountain Lake” (Lake Tahoe, which as on Fremont’s map of 1845, is shown to be a source of the South fork of the American River, rather than of Truckee), and in some respects most surprising of all, the new “Pass to Salt Lake” south of Mountain Lake, which was to become known as the Carson Road to the Diggings, and which was in fact being opened by returning Mormon Battalion men bound for Utah at the very time Ord drew his map.

Wheat, Maps of the California Gold Region 54, illustrated following p. 32 & pp. xxiii: “Most important of all the maps of 1848...was that of Lieut. E.O.C. Ord, which was dated July 25, 1848.... Ord’s map was the first which pretended to reflect actual conditions at the mine and must therefore be held to be of paramount importance in any cartographical consideration of the gold rush.” Wheat gives a good account of Ord’s continuous excellent service to the United States for over four decades in his entry 54 (pp. 32-33):

Edward Otho Cresap Ord had a distinguished career in the army. Born at Cumberland, Md., Oct. 1818, he early demonstrated great mathematical ability and graduated from West Point in 1837, seeing his first service as Second Lieutenant of the Third Artillery during the Seminole War in Florida. In 1847 he went to California via the Horn with Lt. Henry W. Halleck (a classmate) and Lt. Wm. T. Sherman. In 1850 he returned to the east, was made Captain, and again came to California in 1852, being engaged in the Coast Survey in 1855. The next year he participated in the Rogue River Indian war, and in 1858 campaigned against the Spokane Indians of Washington Territory. At the beginning of the war Ord was in San Francisco. He was made Brigadier General of the Volunteers and joined the Army of the Potomac, being twice wounded in action and receiving promotion for gallant conduct. He was in the command of the Army of the James at the close of the war, and later headed the Military Departments of Arkansas, California, the Platte, and Texas, retiring December 6, 1880, and being after engaged in the construction of the Mexican Railway. Ord died en route from Vera Cruz to New York, via Cuba, of yellow fever, in Havana, July 22, 1883. (Overland Monthly, 2nd Ser. Vol. 25, Feb., 1895, pp. 117-118.) In addition to the preparation of his map of the gold and quicksilver district, Ord made a number of local surveys in both northern and southern California during the years 1847-1850. His 1849 map of the pueblo of Los Angeles was the first cartographical representation of that city.


Sold. Hammer: $425.00; Price Realized: $520.63.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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