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Mining in Western Arizona

Detailed blue print map of a large section of Arizona, focusing in on the lines of transportation to the mining regions around Planet Mountain and Bill Williams Fork, prepared by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in 1908.

The map is bounded on the west by the Colorado River and includes parts of Mojave County, Yuma County, Yavapai County & Maricopa County, focusing on topographical details, mines, wagon roads, existing and proposed railroad lines, reservoirs, ranches and local Indian Reservations.

The map extends from the Colorado River and Parker, Arizona in the west to the area just west of Prescott and Phoenix.

The map was produced at the height of the Copper Mining boom in the region. In both Mohave and Yuma counties, there are rich deposits of copper. In the Bill Williams Fork district, the Planet mine produced a significant amount of copper ore. At the time, the Santa Fe Railroad was actively adding lines to the region to support the mining boom.

Bill Williams Fork is named for the legendary western trapper, guide and trader Bill Williams, who made several expeditions down the River in the 1830s from Colorado.

Blueprint maps were among the most popular means for the swift printing of maps for which there would be a limited demand. A blueprint map could be made and/or revised much more quickly than a lithograph, cerograph, or other printing method, and at a much lower cost.

Blueprinting as a method was invented in 1842 by John Herschel, a chemist, astronomer, and photographer. A cyanotype process, one starts by drawing on semi-transparent paper, weighted down by a top sheet of paper. The paper would be coated with a photosensitive chemical mixture of potassium ferricyanogen and ferric ammonium citrate. The paper would then be exposed to light, wherein the exposed portions turned blue and the drawn lines, protected from exposure, would remain white.

The blueprint process was an improvement on the expensive and time-consuming method of hand-tracing original documents. The technique was particularly popular with architects; by the 1890s, a blueprint was one-tenth the cost of a hand-traced reproduction. It could also be copied more quickly.   

Blueprint maps began to appear as early as the 1850s and 1860s, but they really began to become the standard for mining and similar limited-purpose maps by the 1880s. The ability to create these maps quickly and at a low cost made them the standard for short-run prints, ideal for mapping mining regions in the West and for similar purposes.

The method still exists today, but in a very limited fashion. In the 1940s, diazo prints (whiteprints or bluelines) became more popular, as they were easier to read and faster to make. The blue lines on a white background of these prints are now what most people call blueprints.