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2007 Catalog > 29. Gunnison & Beckwith, Map from Santa Fe Pass to to the Coo-che-to-pa Pass.


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29. John W. Gunnison / Edward G. Beckwith. “Map No. 3: From the Santa Fe Crossing to the Coo-che-to-pa Pass” [Explorations and Surveys for a Rail Road Route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. War Department. Route Near the 38th & 39th Parallels] (Washington, D.C.: Selmar Siebert’s Engraving & Printing, 1855). Published in Pacific Railroad Reports, vol. XI (Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 78, 33rd Cong., 2nd sess.). Lithographed folding map in black and white, as issued. 31 1/4 x 23 3/8" at neat line. Sheet: 33 1/4 x 25 1/2". Minor darkening at old folds; trimmed close to neat line at left; small repaired loss in margin where formerly bound in; faint ink residue from wiping the plate; faint damp stain in l. l. quadrant. Overall, very good.

Price: SOLD.

The ill-fated survey party under Captain John W. Gunnison set out to explore the central route along the 38th and 39th parallels from western Missouri to the Sacramento River over the difficult Cochetopa Pass (today’s North Pass) in southern Colorado, a route advocated by Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton (campaigning on behalf of St. Louis as a terminus). Gunnison met with an untimely death by hostile Indians when the expedition reached the Wasatch Mountains. Lieutenant Edward Beckwith, his assistant, salvaged Gunnison’s notes and, with the help of F. W. Egloffstein, finished Gunnison’s maps.

The present map represents the third of Gunnison’s four survey maps of the 38th parallel route. It focuses on the area south of the Platte River, largely depicting southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, with special topographic detailing of the mountains south of Pike’s Peak and west, although the notorious Cochetopa Pass is just off the map. Gunnison’s survey proved that a railroad via the 38th parallel was not feasible because of the expense of tunneling, bridging, and spanning gullies. “Though he had not lived to discover the best route to the Pacific,” writes Goetzmann, “he had at least been able to demonstrate the obvious absurdity of Benton’s mythical ‘great central path to the Pacific.’”

This is an outstanding topographical depiction of the Southern Rockies.

Refs.: Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West, 285–286; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, vol. IV, no. 845, p. 76.

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