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A Chart of New York Harbor Used At Sea By 19th Century Mariners

Well used example of this rare Electrotype edition of the US Coast Survey map of New York, published separately on thick paper, and bearing the blue stamp of Michael Rupp & Co, Chronometer Makers and Dealers in Charts, Sextants, &c.,  39 South Street, New York, and including navigational notes from use at sea by a contemporary owner.

The chart provides a fantastically detailed look at the Harbor of New York and environs. The chart also includes detailed navigational notes and sailing directions for entering the harbor, with a list in top center of lighthouses and beacons.

The chart covers the harbor from the Entrance at Sandy Hook northward, including the Hudson or North River, coast of New Jersey from Staten Island & Perth Amboy to Jersey City and Fort Lee. Locates Manhattan Island and the East River with the coast of Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach to Astoria & Morrisania, including Whitestone and Flushing. Includes Governor's Island, Ellis and Bedloe's Islands and finely detailed street block plans overall, showing both commercial and public buildings, wharves and ferries. Also includes detailed navigational notes and sailing directions for entering the harbor, with a list in top center of lighthouses and beacons.

Printed on thick paper and never folded, the chart is in near fine condition.

The United States Coast survey was responsible for several major printing innovations, including electrotyping and photography as applied to cartography. Neither of these technologies were invented within the Coast Survey. However, because of the electrical and mechanical genius of George Mathiot, both of these methods were improved and applied to the rapid production of charts and maps with great effect by the end of the 1850's.  As noted by the NOAA website:

Electrotyping was an electro-chemical method of producing an exact replica of an engraved copper plate. This was a vitally important procedure as first-class copper engravings took years to produce and would be ruined after a few hundred impressions on a printing press. The Coast Survey began experimenting with electrotyping in 1846. Selmar Siebert, a senior engraver, conducted these experiments; in 1847 Bache reported, "Several of the plates have been copied by the electrotype process, preserving the originals from injury, and rendering possible an unlimited multiplication of copies from a single engraved plate." This early work was not without its risks, as the lower plate of the chart of Delaware Bay was destroyed by the adherence of copper to the original plate in 1849. Perhaps it is just coincidence, but the following year George Mathiot was first mentioned in the annual report as being in charge of the electrotyping division.

Under Mathiot, the electrotyping division prospered. At the end of 1851, Major Stevens reported:

The electrotyping department has improved so greatly the past year in all its arrangements and processes, that at my request its chief, Mr. Mathiot, has made a general report on the subject of electrotyping, (Appendix No. 55,).... The advances which have been made through the agency of the Coast Survey have scarcely been equaled in the history of any art. Not a single failure has yet occurred in Mr. Mathiot's process. A single plate has again been reproduced from the junction of plates with complete success.

The time for reproducing a plate has been greatly abridged. Time has been saved, and a greater certainty given to the process ...

The time saved was significant. During the first electrotyping experiments, no more than six plates a year could be reproduced. By the end of 1851 the time for producing a first reproduction of a plate was reduced to four days with all subsequent duplications reduced to three. The significance of this advance was that for the first time virtually unlimited printings of map sheets could be accomplished. In Stevens' words, "... in fifty days the plates can be made for fifteen thousand sheets of any Coast Survey map, however large and elaborate it may be."

The present example is updated to 1879 and differs from earlier editions, in that it provides a far more detailed presentation of New York City and the topographical features of the region.

A fascinating artifact of 19th Century nautical history.

Condition Description
Toned and soiled, with evidence of use at sea. Repaired vertical tear at lower center
United States Coast Survey Biography

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.