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2007 Catalog > 69. Ringgold & Stuart, Chart of the Sacramento River.

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A Fine Gold Rush Navigational Chart of the Sacramento River

By early summer of 1849, hundreds of ships were anchored in the harbor of San Francisco. Forty-niners were scrambling for available means of transportation to the gold region, and suppliers faced the same difficulties as gold seekers. Navigation by ships on the Sacramento River was severely limited by reefs, bars, mud, and tortuous channels. Groundings were frequent and losses occurred. Ships were forced to unload to smaller vessels at either San Francisco or across the Bay at Benicia. . . . The business community and local government quickly recognized the problem and just as quickly proposed a solution: enter marine pioneer Cadwalader Ringgold.
— Alan Fraser Houston

69. Cadwalader Ringgold / Frederick D. Stuart. “Chart of the Sacramento River from Suisun City to the American River California (Sheet No. 4)” (Washington, D.C.: C. B. Graham, 1850). Published in A series of charts with sailing directions, embracing surveys of the Farallones, entrance to the bay of San Francisco . . . , straits of Carquines and Suisun Bay, confluence and deltic branches of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers (Washington, D.C.: Jno. T. Towers, 1851). Lithographed folding chart in black and white, as issued. 30 x 19 3/4" at neat line. Sheet size: 31 1/2 x 21" with a close left margin. Three inset maps: “Part of the River Sacramento showing the location of the cities of Sacramento and Boston,” “Confluence of the Sacramento River and the Middle and West Forks,” and “Suisun City and part of the Sacramento River.” One vignette showing the east bank of the Sacramento River; two vignettes showing navigational marks for entering the Sacramento River. Old folds visible; a few faint spots. Excellent.

Price: SOLD.

The naval officer and surveyor Cadwalader Ringgold arrived in San Francisco in 1841 with the first U.S. exploring expedition in the Pacific under the command of Charles Wilkes. While Ringgold was in California, he was engaged to survey areas of San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River, the major route to the mines. Ringgold later complained about the challenges of his assignments: “I was requested to undertake the laborious and toilsome duty of surveying a vast and unknown sea. Buoying out the channels, and removing the many obstacles attending intercourse with the mines.” Despite the difficulties, his efforts produced the desired results: the surveys helped open up the river delta and upstream communities to increased trade with the Bay Area. Already experiencing a population boom with the Gold Rush, northern California communities now expanded even more as travel to the area became easier.

Ringgold produced six charts of the Bay Area, which he published in 1851 in A Series of Charts with Sailing Directions. The present chart is Sheet No. 4 showing the Sacramento River from Suisun City to Boston, the latter a short-lived northern “suburb” of Sacramento. The map features precise soundings of the river, fine topographical detail of its shores, and town grids of Sacramento, Boston, Suisun City, and smaller settlements on the river. Ringgold’s charts “give a picture of how the country from the Golden Gate to Sacramento appeared in 1850,” notes Streeter, “which is of great interest.” A fine early map of the area at the heart of the Gold Rush.

Refs.: Alan Fraser Houston, “Cadwalader Ringgold, U.S. Navy,” www.questia.com; Howes, R303; Rumsey, list no. 4658.013; Streeter, vol. V, no. 2679.

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