A seminal Alaska map

Drawn by A[dolf] Lindenkohl [after George Davidson] / Charles G. Krebs, Lith. , North Western America Showing The Territory Ceded By Russia To The United States Compiled for the Department of State B. Peirce, Supt. 1867…. Second Edition May 1867. Washington, D.C., May 1867.
Lithograph, 21.5"h x 36"w plus margins, printed color

Fine separately issued example of the first printed map to depict lands recently acquired from Russia and the first printed map to name Alaska.

The United States purchased Alaska from Russia on August 1, 1867 for $7,200,000, in a transaction popularly known as “Seward’s Folly.” In connection with the purchase, the US received from the Russians a major collection of maps and charts of the region, including historic maps dating back to the era of Vitus Bering. This material was delivered to George Davidson, who would go on to become one of the most important American mapmakers and scientific minds of the 19th century. Davidson had been appointed to report upon the geography and resources of Alaska, and his published report and conferences with congressional committees influenced the passage of the bill approving the purchase. Thereafter he was placed in charge of the U. S. Coast Survey’s activities in the Pacific.

The trove of Russian maps Davidson received, and his party’s own reconnaissance in 1867, resulted in the publication that same year of the Coast Survey’s first map of the new territory. Though this agency’s original mission was to chart the American coastal waters, this terrestrial mapping project had recent precedent: During the recent Civil War the Survey had created entirely new series of territorial maps of the parts of the country where the war was fought, or might be fought, based on a combination of previous maps and recent surveys. Davidson’s new map of Alaska was an application of the same process to the far north of the American continent. Adolf Lindenkohl, whose name actually appears on the map, was one of the most prolific of the Coast Survey mapmakers during this period, and his name appears on a number of important terrestrial maps prepared during the War.

As noted in Lada-Mocarski, this map is the “first use on a map of the name Alaska [for all Russian possessions in North America ceded to the U.S.]…. The map… was published after the Treaty had been signed, but some months before the actual transfer of Alaska to the U.S. took place.”

Offered here is the second edition of the map, which adds significant detail not included in the first, including far more topographical detail, the inset maps of the area around Sitka and of the North Pacific, and the statistical legend to the right of the scale of miles. For comparison, an example of the first edition may be viewed here.

The second edition of the map was intended to accompany the Speech of Hon. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts on the cession of Russian America to the United States, though the pamphlet is usually found lacking the map. The present example of the map is most unusual in being unfolded and apparently separately issued.

Lada Mocarski, Bibliography of Books on Alaska, 159. Howes #S1134 (the Sumner pamphlet). Phillips p. 95. Rumsey #4762.001.


Minor soiling and foxing, primarily confined to the sheet edges