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2007 Catalog > 51. Wheeler, Atlas Sheet No. 53(c): Part of Central Colorado

The Fourth 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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51. George M. Wheeler. “Atlas Sheet No. 53(c): Part of Central Colorado” (Washington, D. C.: U.S. War Department, 1877). Duotone lithograph with light cream undertint, lightened for high land. 15 x 19" at neat line. Sheet size: 19 x 24". Fine.

Price: SOLD

One of the most desirable of Wheeler’s topographical atlas sheets is the Denver quadrangle, offered here. The map shows central Colorado from Denver south along the Front Range to Husted’s. Settlements include Littleton, Huntsville, Golden, and Pine Grove. Prominent are the railroad lines of the Colorado Central, the Denver and Rio Grande, and the Kansas Pacific. Louis Nell, listed as one of Wheeler’s topographical assistants, is likely responsible for the intricate depiction of the topography in a style that he later continued in his own private map publishing. The present map is a superb example from Wheeler’s grand enterprise.

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

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