Spectacular map of Puget Sound by Washington Territory surveyor Edgar Morgan

Edgar M. Morgan, Dep. U.S. Surveyor / Lith. Britton, Rey & Co. S.F., MAP OF PUGET-SOUND WASHINGTON TERRITORY. 1875. Compiled from Surveys on file in Surveyor Gens. Office by Edgar M. Morgan DEP. U.S. SURVEYOR OLYMPIA, W.T. [Olympia or San Francisco], 1875.
Lithograph, 51”h x 36”w plus margins, original outline color. Removed from, but accompanied by original pocket folder. Flattened, with areas of loss along folds and in margins in-filled, with some visible discoloration (but exaggerated in the images).

A spectacular and extremely rare 1875 map of the Puget Sound region of Washington Territory, known in only a handful of copies.

The Puget Sound region was first visited by Europeans in the 1790s and named by George Vancouver in honor of a lieutenant on his HMS Discovery. In the 1830s what had been fur trading posts began to morph into permanent settlements, and in 1853 the Washington Territory, including of course the Puget Sound area, was organized by Congress. Even by 1860 there were fewer than 12,000 white inhabitants in the Territory, though the population began to grow rapidly, with around 75,000 counted in the 1880 Census.

Compiled by Olympia-based surveyor Edgard Morgan, this map covers 10 counties, beginning with the southern part of Whatcom in the north and encompassing all or part of Snohomish, Clallam, Jefferson, Islands, Kitsap, King, Mason, Pierce and Thurston. Compiled from maps on file at the Territorial Surveyor General’s office in Olympia, the map is overlaid with the familiar range-and-township grid of township, section and quarter-section lines, interrupted only by several reservations for the area’s native American peoples and United States Military Reservations (outlined in yellow). Relief is shown by hachures, roads and rail lines are indicated, and the boundaries of major land holdings are delineated and their owners named.

The map’s visual appeal and documentary value are greatly enhanced by the vibrant outline color applied to county boundaries and seven vignettes depicting Seattle, the young settlement of La Conner (est. 1867), Port Madison, Fort Gamble, Tacoma Mill, Port Discovery Mill, and the City of Olympia, at the time the territorial capital. Aside from the Indian reservations and native place names, the overall impression is of a landscape open for business, and from which the indigenous presence has been largely effaced.

Edgar M. Morgan (1836-1880)
A native of Virginia and the seventh of 14 children, before arriving in Olympia, Washington Morgan bounced around the West for several years. There is record of him in San Miguel, New Mexico Territory, and in Idaho Falls, Idaho Territory, where in 1864 he was a partner in incorporating the Oneida Road, Bridge and Ferry Co. in Idaho Falls before being bought out in 1865.

Morgan first appears in the Olympia-based Washington Standard on March 4, 1871, describing himself as a “civil engineer and surveyor” and offering “drawings and specifications prepared for building Bridges, and work superintended in any part of the Territory.” (p. 3) He met with at least some public approbation, as the July 29, 1871 issue mentions that “Mr. Morgan’s map of Port Townsend is spoken of by the papers as a triumph of topographical skill” (p. 2); and on October 14 the paper announced he had won “first diploma” at the Mutual Aid Fair for a “Map of Thurston County and Olympia and Harbor” (p. 1), the former compiled at the behest of the County Commissioners. (May 24, 1873, p. 3) It seems that a significant part of Morgan’s income came from contracts with the Territorial General Land Office in Olympia, the first of which he won in 1871 and the last in 1874. These entitled him to use the “Deputy Surveyor General” title that appears next to his name on this map.

Apparently Edgar had trouble staying in one place. By some time in 1875 he was working as a civil engineer in San Francisco—which could explain the imprint of lithographers Britton & Rey that appears on his Puget Sound map. He won a contract to build water lines in Healdsburg in 1876 and that year also obtained a patent for a piece of hardware. After living in Santa Cruz for a few years, he returned to San Francisco, where he died of liver failure in 1880, leaving behind his wife and three children.

The map is very rare. OCLC locates a single holding (UC-Berkeley), and I am aware of others at the California State Library and the Museum of History & Industry (Seattle). One was offered in the Streeter sale, and John Howell offered an ex-library copy for $400 in 1972.

OCLC 82918056 (UC-Berkeley only), as of June 2021. Streeter #3262, purchased in 1949 from Eberstadt. Background on the Washington Territory GLO from Jerry Olsen, “A Brief History of the General Land Office in Washington”. Biographical information on Morgan from the Washington Standard and Jerry Olsen, Short Biographies and Personal Notes A-E of All of the Surveyors and Individuals Associated with the General Land Office in Washington, 1851-1910, pp. 287-88.