Fine example of this scarce US Coast Survey chart of the Entrance to Galveston Harbor.
The map shows Galveson and vicinity, along with the location of a number of ship wrecks, buoys, Fort Point and neighboring islands.
The map gives a sense of Galveston's tenuous environmental position at the end of the 19th century. The low lying sand-and-wetland nature of Galveston Island would leave the city susceptible to storm surge, which, at the beginning of the 20th century, would culminate in what is still the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, by loss of life.
The chart features a lengthy set of sailing directions, note, tidal observations, current notes, etc.
The United States Office of the Coast Survey began in 1807, when Thomas Jefferson founded the Survey of the Coast. However, the fledgling office was plagued by the War of 1812 and disagreements over whether it should be civilian or military controlled. The entity was re-founded in 1832 with Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler as its superintendent. Although a civilian agency, many military officers served the office; army officers tended to perform the topographic surveys, while naval officers conducted the hydrographic work.
The Survey’s history was greatly affected by larger events in American history. During the Civil War, while the agency was led by Alexander Dallas Bache (Benjamin Franklin’s grandson), the Survey provided the Union army with charts. Survey personnel accompanied blockading squadrons in the field, making new charts in the process.
After the Civil War, as the country was settled, the Coast Survey sent parties to make new maps, employing scientists and naturalists like John Muir and Louis Agassiz in the process. By 1926, the Survey expanded their purview further to include aeronautical charts. During the Great Depression, the Coast Survey employed over 10,000 people and in the Second World War the office oversaw the production of 100 million maps for the Allies. Since 1970, the Coastal and Geodetic Survey has formed part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and it is still producing navigational products and services today.