Mapping the West: 1789-1900

by Robert P. Vreeland,

Serial Information: Journal of the Surveying and Mapping Division, 1967, Vol. 93, Issue 1, Pg. 37-48

Document Type: Journal Paper


Demonstrating considerable foresight, the early political leaders of the United States realized the importance of maps for an orderly development of the country. They established and defined the objectives of four federal mapping agencies: the General Land Office, the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and the Geological Survey. The scope of the project provided tremendous challenges to the pioneer surveyors: The immensity of the area to be mapped, the difficulties and dangers in exploring an almost uninhabited wilderness, and the shortage of trained men and adequate instruments. The organization, methods, and accomplishments of these agencies—and the men who comprised them—are described.

Subject Headings: Land surveys | Topographic surveys | Geological surveys | Mapping | Political factors | Federal government | United States Army Corps of Engineers | Coastal environment | United States

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