Cartographic’s Favorites of 2017

Co-written with Amy Edwards

The Cartographic Branch holds a wide variety of materials. While working with these documents for reference requests, projects, or research room requests, our staff comes across some very cool and significant documents. Today, we are featuring a few of our favorite records that we’ve come across this year. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we do!

Plan for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

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RG 26: Lighthouses, North Carolina, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The Cartographic Branch holds a variety of lighthouse drawings. The drawing above shows the First Order Lighthouse for Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Note that the iconic black and white striping is missing from this illustration, which is dated 1869. Our collection also holds many additional plans and drawings related to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Sketch of Montauk Point Light

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RG 26: Lighthouses, New York, Montauk Point Light, “A View of the Light House on Montauk Point.”

Another lighthouse drawing that caught our eye was a hand drawn and handcolored sketch of the Montauk Point Light in New York. The sketch illustrates not only the lighthouse itself, but also shows the light keeper’s house, two detailed boats, and some cows in the foreground. This is only one of countless beautiful sketches and drawings that can be found within our holdings.

Plan for Dry Dock from the Grice Drawings

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RG 45: Drawings of Ship Construction and Equipment, “Grice Plans” Drawing 85, Plan for Dry Dock.   

The Cartographic Branch holds many interesting drawings and plans related to ships. This drawing illustrates the plan for a dry dock and is date April 1863.  The ship that is most visible on the left hand side is noted as being the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. This drawing is part of the “Grice Drawings” series of ship plans, which was digitized earlier this year. All of the drawings are available to view and/or download at the following link: Drawings of Ship Construction and Equipment.

Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail

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Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment, “Ware Drawings,” Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail. 

This drawings features a sail design for a naval vessel. The design was a strong and recurrent theme during the War of 1812.  “Free trade” referred to the protection of American commerce while “Sailors’ Rights” referred to a desire for the end the British impressment of American sailors. Drawings from this series were also digitized this year and are available at the following link: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. Additional information about the Charles Ware Drawings can be found on our previous blog post, “Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection.” 

Master Plan Cover for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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RG 79: NPS Master Plans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 1938.

Another favorite here in the office and on the blog this year were the many unique and ornate National Park Service Master Plan covers that the Cartographic Branch holds within Record Group 79. The 1938 plan for Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of many that is hand colored and quite visually impressive. See our blog post: Planning America’s Best Idea: Master Plans for National Parks for more covers and also the history behind the Master Plans.

Plan for the U.S.S. Constitution

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RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships,  The U.S.S. Constitution.

Ship plans are some of our most requested items. This drawings is of the U.S.S. Constitution. Originally designed and constructed in 1794, it appears that Charles Ware created an illustration of the vessel sometime later during his tenure at the Boston Navy Yard.  This also appears to be the case for the illustration of the U.S.S. Congress, also designed in 1794 and constructed the following year.  Note that this drawing of the U.S.S. Constitution is located in RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships, 1940-1966, rather than RG 45 with the main series of Ware Drawings. Again, additional information about the Charles Ware Drawings can be found on our previous blog post, “Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection.” 

Plan for Fort Dupont

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RG 77: Fortifications File, Drawer 169, Sheet 91

Fort plans are also quite popular. The Cartographic Branch holds plans for many major and minor fortifications important in our history. This plan is for Fort Dupont, which was constructed by Union forces during the Civil War to help protect Washington, DC against attacks. Along with providing the overall layout of the fort, this drawing includes some cross-sections highlighting gun positions and other elements of the fortification that are better viewed from the side. These help the viewer to better understand this fort and its design.

Drawing of the C.S.S. Nashville

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RG 19, Dash Files, 81-12-2G, The C.S.S. Nashville

Cartographic also holds ship plans related to the Civil War. Our holdings include plans for both Union and Confederate vessels. The drawing of the Nashville features a side view of the ironclad naval vessel. In the background, a Union ironclad is visible. Additionally, a mine appears in the water near the Nashville, potentially posing a threat to the vessel.  

Map of Le Bonhomme, France

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RG 120, Entry 403, Le Bonhomme, 9/3/1918.

The Cartographic Branch also holds a variety 20th century maps, including many from World War I and World War II. It is difficult to choose a favorite when there are so many. The map of Le Bonhomme in France appears to be pretty average but it is the unique connection to a photograph within the holdings of the Still Pictures Branch which makes this map a favorite of 2017. Staff members discovered photographs showing French cartographers creating a map and were able to match the map in the photographs to the finished map, as the Cartographic Branch holds a printed copy.  For more information on this unique connection and to see the photographs, please see the blog post “Maps of the Great War: Army Cartography in World War I.” 

We hope that you have enjoyed a look at some of our favorite items from the holdings of the Cartographic Branch. We invite you to share your own favorites from our holdings in the comments section below, and also invite you to explore our collections to make discoveries of your own! Our catalog is as great place to start!

4 thoughts on “Cartographic’s Favorites of 2017

  1. These are great! The Hatteras lighthouse base is near identical to the base of our Roland Water Tower. I am really glad people save/archive and make available to the public these drawings! Thank you. PS – a couple drawings would not load, maybe to large a file?

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post! The drawings opened ok for me this morning, but yes, they are pretty large files, so that might be the problem.

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