First state of this rare map of the Pacific Northwest, published by John Arrowsmith in London in 1859, one of the earliest separate maps to focus on British Columbia.
The map reflects the intense efforts of the British Royal Engineers to construct accurate surveys of the region, following the discovery of gold and creation of British Columbia in 1858. In 1858, gold was found along the banks of the Thompson River, triggering the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush. Victoria was quickly transformed into a tent city as gold seekers flocked into the region. The Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Langley burgeoned economically as the staging point for many of the prospectors heading by boat to the Canyon.
British Columbia was still not yet part of any formal government. In 1851, the resolution of the Oregon Boundary Dispute had previously meant that British interests, primarily the Hudson Bay Company, lost governance of all territory between the 49th Parallel and the Columbia River due to a sudden influx of American settlers. Fearing a similar outcome, the British colonial office responded to the new situation by establishing the British Columbia as a crown colony on August 2, 1858.
The map extends to the area north of Ketchikan, Alaska, the northern bend in the Finlay River, the Peace River, Ft. Assinboine and Edmonton, Alberta, east to Flathead Lake Montana, and south to include the Columbia River and Lewis Fork, including Walla Walla and Oregon City.
The map presents an excellent depiction of the region, with many early forts and settlements located, along with Indian Tribal lands. There are several annotations on the Fraser River and remarkable detail along the Continental divide, in the Canadian Rockies.
Among other interesting features, the map is one of the few to identify Yellowhead Lake and "Leather Pass," now called Yellowhead Pass, the route which connected the Athabasca River and the Fraser River near modern Jasper, Wyoming. Yellowhead Pass is named for Tete Jaune, an Iroquois Indian working the fur trade with his family, starting as early as 1804. In 1825, he used this route to transport a cache of furs from the Upper Fraser River to Jasper House. The pass remained nameless for most of its early history, referred to as a Portage, and called New Caledonia Portage in some early letters and journals prior to 1860. Leather Pass derives from the name "Leather Track," which was used by the officer who headed New Caledonia in the 1820s, and was likely resurrected by the Royal Engineers who were conducting survey in British Columbia during this period, and therefore picked up by John Arrowsmith in the preparation of this map.
The map is very rare on the market. We note only 2 examples in dealer catalogs going back nearly 30 years.
John (1790-1873) operated his own independent business after his uncle, Aaron Arrowsmith, died. After 1839, John moved into the Soho premises of his uncle and cousins. John enjoyed considerable recognition in the geography and exploration community. Like Aaron, John was a founder member of the RGS and would serve as its unofficial cartographer for 43 years. Several geographical features in Australia and Canada are named after him. He died in 1873 and the majority of his stock was eventually bought by Edward Stanford, who co-founded the Stanford’s map shop that is still open in Covent Garden, London today.