Stuart's map of the California Gold Regions is one of the earliest and rarest of all California gold rush era maps. In addition, as one of the earliest published works on the region based upon first hand accounts, one of the earliest maps (published February 1, 1849), it was one of the earliest obtainable printed works relied upon by the gold seekers who set out in the Spring of 1849 to seek their fortunes in California.
Stuart's map extends form Monterey and the centeral San Joaquin Valley to the Prairie Butes, well north of Sacramento, providing one of the earliest detailed topographical accounts of San Francisco Bay and the California Gold Regions. In Mapping of the Transmississippi West, Carl Wheat notes that Stuart's map displays " graphically the great advances in geographical knowledge of the American West during less than a decade." The map was prepared to accompany Charles Wilkes' Western America, Including California and Oregon, with Maps of Those Regions, and of "The Sacramento Valley," published in Philadelphia in 1849. Eberstadt notes:
This is Wilkes' own narrative of the Oregon and California explorations and experiences in 1846. It contains much information regarding those countries and their situation which he could not with propriety dwell upon in his official reports 'before the territory became part of the public domain.
In Mapping of the California Gold Region, Carl Wheat identified the map as one of the earliest printed maps " on which the results of personal observation were delineated." In The California Gold Rush, Gary Kurutz notes :
Commander Wilkes compiled this work from data gathered while he was on the Pacific Coast commanding the United States Exploring Expedition from 1838 to 1842 [and his later visit in 1846]. He included a chapter on the gold region drawn from official reports and his knowledge of the area's geology and his own opinion of gold specimens sent east. The preface was dated February 1, 1849. The map of the Sacramento Valley was an important source of information for gold seekers.
The map shows Wilkes' route from San Francisco to north of Sacramento, showing many annotations regarding the natural resources and topography. Further east, several early mines are noted, as are other areas simply labeled Gold. The map is also interesting for its treatment of San Francisco Bay and vicinity, including soundings, topographical detail, Indian Villages, raods, missions, pueblos, etc.
Wheat observes that Wilkes' maps, though early 1849 in type, and requiring to be read in the light of what has been quoted, are enlightening now as then. In all, a highly important map and one unquestionably utilized by the earliest of the '49ers.