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Office of Coast Survey’s Historical Map and Chart Collection

The time-honored Office of Coast Survey's Historical Map and Chart Collection. contains over 20,000 maps and charts from the late 1700s to the present day. The collection includes some of the nation's earliest nautical charts, hydrographic surveys, topographic surveys, geodetic surveys, city plans, and Civil War battle maps. The collection is a rich historical archive and a testament to the artistry of copper plate engraving technology of the 19th and 20th centuries.  Notable offerings include the "Wilkes Atlas" of the U.S. Exploring Expedition; James Whistler's Anacapa Island chart; an extensive Civil War collection; historical maps and charts from the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Columbia rivers; topographic maps of Cincinnati; and early 1920 charts of the Erie Barge Canal.

Through the years many of the maps and charts in the Coast and Geodetic Survey archives have been transferred to either the United States National Archives or to the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress.   Because these cartographic works contain both historical and scientific information of great value, efforts are being made today to identify and digitize these treasures in order to incorporate them into the Office of Coast Survey’s online archive.  To date, a whole host of amazing maps, charts, and sketches have been uncovered by this research and are being electronically scanned for easy access by scientists, scholars and the general public.  Items uncovered to date include: pristine copies of the very first charts produced by the Coast Survey of New York Harbor and Entrance printed in 1845; reconnaissance sketches for geodetic operations made by John Muir in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin; previously unknown Civil War reconnaissance sketches; copies of early aeronautical strip charts produced by the Coast and Geodetic Survey; and maps of early oceanographic observations by Coast and Geodetic Survey vessels.