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Description

A Russian Map of Alta California and Baja California

Rare Russian Map of Alta and Baja California, published in about 1845.

This fascinating map reflects a geographical knowledge of the west pre-dating Fremont's expedition and the Mexican War.  Sutter's Fort (built in 1841) is shown, as is Fort Ross, the Russian outpost in California north of San Francisco Bay.

The map is largely drawn from the details included in the Duflot du Mofras map Carte de la Cote De L'Amerique Sur L'Ocean Pacifique Septentrional compretant Le Territoire de L'Oregon, Les Californies . . . published in 1844.  The most notable similarties are the inclusions of the major routes in the region, including:

  • Route of the Americans to California
  • Father Escalante's route in the Utah, Nevada and Arizona desert in 1777
  • The Spanish Caravan Route from New Mexico to California
  • The Trappers and Hudson Bay Company's Route to the South from Sutter's fort through the San Joaquin Valley and the road from California to Sonora.

In all the map is a remarkable artifact, showing the continuing Russian interest in the region up to the Mexican War and American annexation of Alta California.

Fort Ross

The history of Fort Ross begins during the Spanish Rule of California, as organized by the Russian-American Company

This settlement [Ross] has been organized through the initiative of the Company. Its purpose is to establish a [Russian] settlement there or in some other place not occupied by Europeans, and to introduce agriculture there by planting hemp, flax and all manner of garden produce; they also wish to introduce livestock breeding in the outlying areas, both horses and cattle, hoping that the favorable climate, which is almost identical to the rest of California, and the friendly reception on the part of the indigenous people, will assist in its success.

— From an 1813 report to Emperor Alexander from the Russian American Company Council, concerning trade with California and the establishment of Fort Ross.

In addition to farming and manufacturing, the Company carried on its fur-trading business at Fort Ross, but by 1817, after 20 years of intense hunting by Spanish, American and British ships—followed by Russian efforts—had practically eliminated sea otter in the area.

Fort Ross was also the site of California's first windmills and shipbuilding.  The Russian managers introduced many European innovations such as glass windows, stoves, and all-wood housing into Alta California. Together with the surrounding settlement, Fort Ross was home to Russians, as well as North Pacific Natives, Aleuts, Kashaya (Pomo), and Creoles.   

An 1841 inventory for Mr. Sutter describes the settlement surrounding the fort: "twenty-four planked dwellings with glazed windows, a floor and a ceiling; each had a garden. There were eight sheds, eight bathhouses and ten kitchens."

By 1841 the settlement's agricultural importance had decreased considerably, the local population of fur-bearing marine mammals had been long depleted by international over-hunting, and the recently secularized California missions no longer supplemented the agricultural needs of the Alaskan colonies. Following the formal trade agreement in 1838 between the Russian-American Company in New Archangel and Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Vancouver and Fort Langley for their agricultural needs, the settlement at Fort Ross was no longer needed to supply the Alaskan colonies with food. The Russian-American Company consequently offered the settlement to various potential purchasers, and it was sold to John Sutter, a Mexican citizen of Swiss origin, soon to be renowned for the discovery of gold at his lumber mill in the Sacramento valley. 

Rarity

This is the first example of the map we have ever seen for sale.