Map Detail
(description follows image)
Landmark chart of Narragansett Bay
Author:Capt. Alex. S. Wadsworth, Lieut. Thos. R. Gedney, Charles Wilkes Jr. & Geo. S. Blake Of the U.S. Navy By order of the Honr. Levi Woodbury Secretary of the Navy / (engraved by) W.J. Stone
Title:CHART OF Narraganset Bay Surveyed in 1832…
Published:Washington City, [ca. 1832]
Description:Engraving on four sheets joined at an early date, 54”h x 42 ¾”w plus margins, uncolored. Linen with modern replacement and mounted on early rollers.
Condition:Some toning and mottling from removed varnish and traces of possible damp staining. Nonetheless very good or better for such a large 19th-century wall map.
Price:Sold    Inventory:    BRM1738
The first survey of the Bay by the U.S. government and a monument of American chart making.

This impressive chart illustrates soundings and navigational aids and hazards throughout Narragansett Bay and gives much detail of shoreline topography, islands, beaches, vegetation, marshes, lighthouses, ferry landings, and the towns of Newport, Bristol and Wickford. This was the product of the first systematic survey of the Bay since that of Charles Blaskowitz in the 1770s—whose surveys were later published in the Atlantic Neptune—and the 1832 chart is far more detailed than its predecessor. According to Guthorn, Wadsworth`s 1832 survey was undertaken to assist in establishing a naval depot in the Newport area of Narragansett Bay.

The members of Wadsworth’s team had almost incredibly distinguished careers: While detached to the United States Coast Survey in the 1830s, Gedney discovered an important deep water channel leading into New York Bay. Charles Wilkes went on to command the Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments, surveyed the Georges Bank in 1837, and later led the United States Exploring Expedition (1839-42). Another member was Ralph Semmes, who went on to serve in the Confederate Navy and commanded the famous commerce raider Alabama. Wadsworth himself served in the War of 1812 and was first lieutenant on the Constitution during the battle with the Guerriere, conducted an important survey of Boston Harbor after the war, was Commodore commanding the Pacific Squadron from 1834-36, then held a number of important administrative positions almost until his death in 1851.

The map is surprisingly scarce; this writer has located only six institutional examples, and Antique Map Price Record lists none having been offered for sale in more than 25 years. Issued on heavy chart paper, it should not be confused with a later version that appeared in 1843 as no. 141 in Collection of Maps Published by Order of Congress. Another edition, on a reduced scale (ca. 26”h x 20.5”w), appeared in American State Papers, Naval Affairs Vol. IV.

Chapin, Maps of Rhode Island, #66; Guthorn, United States Coastal Charts, p. 51 (ill.); Phillips, Maps of America, p. 458. OCLC #38723753 (Amherst College, Boston Public, Brown, Harvard, and Library of Congress) and #556729288 (British Library). Another example held by the American Philosophical Society.