Topographical Sketch of the Gold & Quicksilver District of California


Published in July 1848 after the first gold strikes at Sutter’s Mill on the American River in northern California, this map shows the location of key gold and quicksilver (mercury, in the form of cinnabar) deposits in the territory of California. Soon after the find, prospectors began streaming into California in enormous numbers, and demand was high for geographic knowledge of the region, especially as it related to previous strikes. The map displays the basic topography of California by showing mountains, rivers, bays, and mountain passes, but its main purpose is to highlight the latest information on mineral deposits and the exact locations where gold and quicksilver had been discovered. As was often the case with mineral discoveries in the United States and elsewhere, most of the riches went to the earliest arrivals, and such maps proved of limited value to later prospectors, who in most cases were unable to secure the best mining claims. Selling mining equipment and supplies, including local guidebooks and maps, to prospectors was often more profitable than prospecting and mining itself in this period. The cartographer was Edward Otho Cresap Ord (1818–83), a Union general in the American Civil War, and the map was printed by Peter S. Duval (circa 1805−86), a leading Philadelphia lithographer.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

P.S. Duval, Philadelphia


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 map ; 55 x 39 centimeters


  • Scale 1:690,000


  1. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of California, volumes 18–24 (San Francisco: The History Company, 1884–1890).
  2. H.W. Brands, The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream (New York: Anchor, 2003).

Last updated: September 16, 2015