Striking panoramic View of Mount Rainier National Park by John Renshawe

John H. Renshawe / United States Geological Survey, PANORAMIC VIEW OF THE MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, WASHINGTON. [Washington, D.C.]: Department of the Interior, [1914?]
Lithograph, 19”h x 19 ¾”w at neat line plus title and margins. Mends to wear along a few folds, with tiny losses at a couple of intersetions, and a small stain along the left edge.

A striking bird’s-eye view of Mount Rainier National Park, prepared by John H. Renshawe from topographic sheets of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

After years of lobbying by John Muir, the Sierra Club, the National Geographic Society an other groups, in 1899 Congress established Mount Rainier as the United States’ fifth national park. The park’s 369 square miles encompass all of 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, an active volcano and also the most heavily-glaciated peak in the country. In 1914, when this view was probably produced, the development of the park was still in its infancy: over the next couple of years, the now-famous Paradise Inn would be constructed, as would the Wonderland Trail, a 93-mile trail enabling hikers to circumambulate the peak.

To create this view, long-time USGS employee John H. Renshawe (1852-1934) adapted existing topographic mapping of the area, most notably replacing contour lines with gradations of color to indicate relief. The result is a striking full-color image of the park, including noteworthy topographical features, rivers, roads, trails and other points of interest. Though lacking the precision of the USGS’ topographic maps, the technique “brings the maps to life. One immediately gets a sense of the three dimensional nature of the landscape allowing the viewer to see the topography, drainage patterns, vegetation, snow cover, and the beauty inherent in these parks.” (David Rumsey Map Center, “Views: Portraying Place and Space”)

The view is undated but bears the name of Secretary of Interior Franklin K. Lane, who served in that post from 1913-1920. For reasons not known, OCLC entries generally date the view to 1914. However, it was first advertised in the Government Printing Office’s “Monthly Catalogue, United States Public Documents” for May 1915 (p. 615), priced at 25 cents. Renshawe also produced six other shaded-relief views of national parks, including Crater Lake, Glacier, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. Though all these views are well represented in American institutions, they are very scarce on the market.

Renshawe’s technical innovation ended up being influential within the USGS:

“At first restricted to maps of national parks, the Renshawe technique was soon utilized for state maps of wall-size dimensions, overprinting them to show drainage patterns, railroads, county boundaries, and names of principal towns. The production of this series ceased in the 1930s but was resumed after World War II, when the use of tools such as the airbrush allowed the cartographic artist to achieve a wider range of tonal gradation than was possible by hand.” (Schwarz and Ehrenberg, p. 327)

OCLC 19566908 et al. Rumsey #6925. Background on Renshawe’s visual innovation from David Rumsey Map Center, “Views: Portraying Place and Space” and Schwartz and Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 327.