November 12, 2014

Map of the Alaskan Gold Fields

Beginning in the mid-19th century, gold was discovered in a succession of strikes along the western coast of the United States in an ascending arc from California to Alaska. The great California Gold Rush of 1849 was followed by many other “rushes” in succeeding decades, culminating in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 and the Nome Gold Rush of 1899, both in Alaska. This map was published in 1897, soon after gold was discovered in Bonanza Creek alongside the Klondike River, itself a tributary of the mighty Yukon River. The rush to the Klondike proved to be one of the largest in history, and was captured in the legendary poetry and prose of Robert W. Service (1874−1958) and Jack London (1876−1916). As this map shows, there were many other gold strikes in Alaska: along the Yukon River, in Juneau and other parts of Southeast Alaska, and in the Cook Inlet region (near present-day Anchorage). The map shows the most significant gold fields up to this time, highlighted in red, as well as the names of mountain chains, rivers, and other prominent geographical features in Alaska, Yukon, and British Columbia. Not shown, of course, are later famous gold strikes in Nome, Fairbanks, and Livengood. News of these discoveries, transmitted to the nation and the world by telegraph and newspaper, spurred tens of thousands of prospectors to sacrifice all in the feverish and often ill-advised search for fortune.

Salmon Canneries of the Pacific Northwest

In the late 19th century, salmon canneries became a major industry along the Pacific coastline of the United States and Canada. American fishing interests in the Pacific Northwest pressed for the Alaska Purchase in 1867 and strongly shaped regional politics up until the turn of the 20th century. Imperial Russia had imposed limits on Americans fishing in Alaskan waters. After Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, Americans gained access to new fishing grounds, including some of the world’s best salmon runs. The combination of access to new stocks, new technologies for canning and shipping salmon, and a burgeoning worldwide market for canned fish resulted in a veritable explosion of the salmon canning industry in the 1870s and 1880s. This map of the West Coast, published in 1901 by the New York Commercial, shows salmon canneries along the entire shoreline from California, Oregon, and Washington State to British Columbia and Alaska. The map lists in great detail the names and locations of salmon canneries in each region. It also cites the annual aggregate amount of the catch, as well as the catch totals by year and by river, body of water, or region.

Map of the Gold Regions of California

The California Gold Rush of 1849 was a major event that sparked interest around the world and spurred the long-term rise and development of San Francisco and the surrounding region. Previously a Spanish and Mexican outpost, California witnessed a huge influx of prospectors and settlers after the gold strikes at Sutter’s Mill in early 1848. This map shows the entire area of California, including the Baja (present-day Mexico), and highlights in bright yellow the gold-producing regions along several rivers. The map also lists the names of various mountains, bays, peninsulas, rivers, and communities across the region. Even after the Gold Rush of 1849 had ended, California proved to be an enduring magnet for new immigrants to the American West, as Europeans and other migrants came to seek their fortune in the state. The map was produced by the famous British mapmaker James Wyld the younger (1812−87). After studying at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, Wyld joined his father’s mapmaking and publishing firm, which he eventually inherited. Wyld published numerous maps, many of which were intended to satisfy public interest in current events, such as the First Anglo-Afghan War, the California Gold Rush, and the Crimean War. Wyld’s maps were of high quality, and he was appointed geographer to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was also a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

A Good-Natured Map of Alaska Showing the Services Offered by the "The Alaska Line"

This map, published in 1934 for the tourist market with colorful images and motifs, shows various shipping routes of the Alaska Line, which had a near-monopoly at that time on maritime transportation in the region. It also shows key interconnecting routes such as the Alaska Railroad, White Pass and Yukon Railroad, and Richardson Highway. The Alaska Steamship Company, known informally as the Alaska Line, was formed in 1894 by a group of frontier businessmen. Initially intended to service the fishing industry and passenger traffic, by 1898 and the onset the previous year of the Klondike Gold Rush the line was focused on transiting prospectors and mining cargos. As the boom-and-bust cycle of the gold rush moved west across Alaska, the Alaska Line established regular routes to the Bering Sea, the mouth of the Yukon River, and Nome. After diversifying its operations to serve other sectors of the economy, including salmon canneries and new missionary settlements, the Alaska Steamship Company was acquired by the Alaska Syndicate in 1909. The Alaska Syndicate, funded by J.P. Morgan and Solomon Guggenheim, merged its Northwest Steamship Company with the Alaska Steamship Company. The combined entity continued to grow under the latter’s name and eventually benefited from an essential monopoly of Alaska freight and passenger service after passage of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act). The Alaska Line subsequently became a major intermodal transportation company, with services across Alaska and the Northwest Coast. Following the U.S. government requisition of company ships during World War II, the Alaska Line regrouped in 1945 and turned to container service and tourism amidst greater rivalry from air and trucking interests in the postwar period. Nevertheless, by 1971 increased air services for passengers and cargo competition drove the venerable line out of business after nearly 80 years of service.

Indian Reservations West of the Mississippi River

As the United States expanded westward in the 19th century, white settlers invariably clashed with Native Americans. Possessing entirely different concepts of land use and ownership, whites and Native Americans increasingly came into a conflict. Compounding the problem was the fact that the U.S. Army was the de facto authority in most parts of the American West at this time, especially after the Civil War, and often resolved issues through force. The United States had long regarded most Indian tribes as sovereign entities, with which it negotiated treaties in order to frame legal relations and resolve conflicts. In time, many Native American nations were settled on reservations that set them apart from the white settlers but that also relegated them to a separate and unequal existence. This map, created by the Office of Indian Affairs in 1923, shows the location of Indian reservations west of the Mississippi River. The names of the tribes are given and important geographic features such as state boundaries and rivers and railways are shown. Reservation schools and hospitals are also marked. In 1924, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship rights to Native Americans.

Map of the Trans-Mississippi Territory of the United States During the Period of the American Fur Trade as Conducted from St. Louis between the Years 1807 and 1843

This map, published in 1902 in H.M. Chittenden’s History of the Fur Trade of the Far West, shows major cartographic features of the American West in the early 19th century, including the location of key Native American populations, forts, trading posts, and physical features, such as mountains and rivers. French voyageurs pioneered fur trading and trapping in Canada and the American West before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, but the basic geography of this vast region was poorly understood before the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–6. Following the expedition, the fur trade rapidly expanded in the region between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. One of the most famous American fur traders, John Jacob Astor, established his Pacific Fur Company in 1810 near the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon. The British-controlled Hudson Bay Company was at this time the predominant force in the fur trade on the North American continent, but it was increasingly challenged by Russian traders in Alaska and by American frontiersmen. The map shows the routes of the most important expeditions to the West, including those of Lewis and Clark, Wilson Price Hunt (the Astor Expedition of 1810–12), Jedediah Smith, and William Sublette. Saint Louis was the starting point for many of these expeditions. It became an important metropolis and was for decades the gateway to the American West and a provisioning and outfitting point for traders, trappers, explorers, and settlers.