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2007 Catalog > 48. Wheeler, Atlas Sheet No. 59: Southwestern Utah.

The First of Four Excellent Topographical Maps from the Wheeler Survey

“By the spring of 1872 the new Powell Survey of the Colorado River country and the expanded Hayden Survey were presenting a visible threat to long-established Army supremacy in the field of Western mapping. A grandiose new design was wanted to help in the eternal battle for appropriations, and someone in the Corps of Engineers came up with a project to be called ‘Explorations and Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.’ These would be systematic surveys; the entire West would be divided up into 95 rectangles, with atlas sheets to be prepared for each.”
— Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West

Wheat above describes the genesis of Lieutenant George M. Wheeler’s grand plan for the U.S. Army’s mapping of the West. Calling his organization the “United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian,” Wheeler went head-to-head with the three civilian surveys in progress in the 1870s under Hayden, King, and Powell. The Army surveys, however, would emphasize topography over geology, the latter of which was the focus of the other three. Wheeler sent parties into the field each summer from 1872 to 1878, producing 161 maps issued as atlas sheets in special portfolios beginning in 1874. The portfolios were published under the general title of, first, Topographical Atlas, and, latter, Geographical Atlas. The area to be surveyed was divided into 95 rectangular divisions, each of which, when presented on a scale of one inch to four miles, would require four sheets, each 19 by 24 inches in size. Thus Wheeler developed the quadrangle system still used by the U.S. Geological Survey to this day, as well as producing the first contour maps of the region. Offered below are four fine atlas sheets from the Wheeler Survey.

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48. George M. Wheeler. “Atlas Sheet No. 59: Southwestern Utah” (Washington, D. C.: U.S. War Department, 1874). Duotone lithograph with light cream undertint, lightened for high land. 14 5/8 x 19 3/8" at neat line. Sheet size: 19 x 24". Light toning at sheet edges; three repaired tears in margins, not affecting map. Excellent condition.

Price: SOLD.

Wheeler’s atlas sheet of southwestern Utah depicts the rugged topography that includes today’s Zion and Bryce National Parks. The Powell expedition actually preceded Wheeler in the area of Zion Park in 1869. Wheeler was not far behind, as members of his survey team entered the region in 1872. In that year, Wheeler Survey geologist Grove Karl Gilbert descended the North Fork of the Virgin River from Navajo Lake to Zion Canyon, making the first recorded descent of the Zion Narrows. It is likely that he named this remarkable section of canyon in the process. The distinctive features of this region as well as the unique geological structures of nearby Bryce Canyon are here delineated with hachures and a sepia tint that is lightened in areas of higher elevations. This excellent example attests to the high quality of Wheeler’s efforts and his use of the most advanced scientific mapping methods for recording topographic variations.

Refs.: Phillips, Atlases, 1281; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, vol. V, pp. 339–343, no. 1250.

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