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March 17, 2020

The Behind-the-Scenes Map Cataloger

In June 2015, Phil Hoehn, the former Maps Librarian at the University of California and the David Rumsey Map Collection at Stanford, took on the daunting task of organizing the California Historical Society’s vast map collection. Although details of each map were unknown at that time, what we did know from an earlier inventory was that the California Historical Society (CHS) had over 45 drawers of flat sheet maps dating back to at least 1800 (including maps in atlases and books where cartographers depicted California as an island) as well as early mining, railroad, and irrigation maps, bound volumes of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, and boxes of large rolled maps spanning all the counties in California.

Collections,

The Behind-the-Scenes Map Cataloger

In June 2015, Phil Hoehn, the former Maps Librarian at the University of California and the David Rumsey Map Collection at Stanford, took on the daunting task of organizing the California Historical Society’s vast map collection. Although details of each map were unknown at that time, what we did know from an earlier inventory was that the California Historical Society (CHS) had over 45 drawers of flat sheet maps dating back to at least 1800 (including maps in atlases and books where cartographers depicted California as an island) as well as early mining, railroad, and irrigation maps, bound volumes of Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, and boxes of large rolled maps spanning all the counties in California.

Phil Hoehn, 2020

During the four years Phil worked reviewing, researching, cataloging, and rehousing the maps he discovered many unique titles, some that appear in only a few other collections in the world.  Many of the works, by such prominent surveyors and cartographers as William Eddy, Herman Ehrenberg, Jasper O’Farrell, and August Chevalier, document the birth and growth of the city of San Francisco. Highlights include a 1906 map of the burned district of San Francisco, an 1867 map of the Market Street Homestead Association by African American cartographer Grafton Tyler Brown, and a rare 1906 copy of the Van Ness Map from 1855 that lists the layout of San Francisco west of Larkin and southwest of Johnston streets and shows details of block and lot numbers, street widths, and the original shoreline.

Map of land of the Market Street Homestead Association, 1867, G.T. Brown & Co. Lithographers

 

Map of the Burned District, 1906

The county map collection is a very useful source of information for people interested in the demographic, geographic, and economic evolution of California and its many towns and regions. In this collection Phil found an incredible 1860s map of Bodie Mining District in Mono county, as well as an 1855 map of a wagon road route from Placerville to Carson Valley. Both of these maps can be viewed via the California Historical Society’s digital library.

Map of Bodie Mining District, Mono Co., Cal

 

Map of wagon road route from Placerville to Carson valley

This month Phil leaves us. He also leaves nearly 4,000 maps now accessible to researchers. From foldout ones in rare books to enormous rolled maps that practically took a village to bring up from the vaults, Phil has discovered, cataloged, preserved, and documented them all.

Thank you Phil.

Citations:

  1. Phil Hoehn at his desk at the California Historical Society, 2020
  2. Map of land of the Market Street Homestead Association, 1867, G.T. Brown & Co. Lithographers; Map 283; California Historical Society Map Collection
  3. Map of the Burned District by Laird & Lee, 1906; Map 317; California Historical Society Map Collection
  4. Map of Bodie Mining District, Mono Co., California, surveyed & drawn by Tagliabue & Garrard, surveyors and civil engineers, circa 1860s; Map 436; California Historical Society Map Collection
  5. Map of wagon road route from Placerville to Carson Valley Drawn by George H. Baker from survey by Wm. Henderson, co. surveyor of Eldorado co., circa 1855; Map 284; California Historical Society Map Collection