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"It may thus be seen, that while the field-operations produce the raw materials of geography and hydrography, the office-operations are applied to the manufacture, from these materials, of faithful maps and charts, to meet the national demand...."(1)

The major purposes of the office of the Coast Survey were to process the ever-increasing data acquired by the field crews and disseminate it as usable information. The increase in data was fueled by the increase in field assistants from 10 under Superintendent Hassler in 1841 to 26 assistants and sub-assistants under Bache in 1851 and thence a further increase to 76 assistants, sub-assistants, and aids by 1860. The primary product to be produced and distributed was the nautical chart. However, the Coast Survey also had to devise means to process and distribute geographic, geophysical, oceanographic, technical, and commercial information acquired in the course of its operations. In many respects, it was the pioneer organization in both the United States Federal Government and the United States scientific community confronted with the management of a data and information explosion.

To produce its charts and reports, the office force of the Survey was expanded from 12 under Hassler in late 1841 to 50 in 1850 under Bache and thence again to over 120 by 1860. In 1860 an additional 19 individuals were engaged in contract draughting and engraving. To manage this rapidly expanding enterprise, Bache established the position of Assistant-in-Charge of the Office in 1844. This position was held by an Army officer until the beginning of the Civil War.

The first to hold this position was Captain Andrew Atkins Humphreys. (2) When Humphreys took over, the office force was relatively small, and he could personally oversee the work of every individual in the office. As a consequence, he did not establish divisions or division chiefs to monitor the work and report to him. This worked well in the beginning, but by 1849 engraving and printing had been placed under Assistant W.M.C. Fairfax; and Samuel Hein, the disbursing agent, oversaw records, books, instruments, maps, and publishing. Humphreys supervised Fairfax and Hein personally and directed computing and drawing. He found this job so demanding that he was relieved for health reasons in 1849 and spent his last year on the Survey as chief of a triangulation party working away from the confines and pressures of the Coast Survey offices in Washington, D.C.


To replace Captain Humphreys, Superintendent Bache recruited Brevet Major Isaac Ingalls Stevens to be Assistant-in-Charge of the Office. Realizing that Stevens was an ambitious young man, Bache emphasized that the position afforded an opportunity "to build up a name for executive ability" and that the Chief Engineer of the Army, Brigadier General Joseph Totten (an intimate friend of Bache's,) would look favorably upon Stevens accepting the assignment. Stevens had graduated at the head of his class at West Point in 1839 and served gallantly in the Mexican War in which he was wounded. He was a small man, but a human dynamo. His interests transcended the Coast Survey as he was politically active and interested in helping effect Army reform. At Superintendent Bache's request, Stevens continued organizing the office along functional lines. Showing a strong ego, Stevens wrote his brother on his first day on the job:

"... I see no particular difficulty. There is no need of being a mere office drudge. All the work can be done without any one's breaking down. The Coast Survey is a large operation, and the charge of the office here can be made an agreeable duty. The responsibility will be considerable. But all details can be thrown upon subordinates. The fact is, the work in the world has got to be done. But it can be done by proper distribution and arrangement in an easy, quiet manner. This will be my study in my new duties." (3)

During his tenure as Assistant-in-Charge of the Office, Major Stevens declared his ambition to see that Coast Survey charts and scientific information "be carried to each man's door having an interest in commerce, navigation, geography, and science." Probably Superintendent Bache had always entertained such ideas; but, until the advent of a sufficiently large force both in the field and in the office, the Coast Survey had insufficient resources to embark upon such an ambitious path. Up until 1850, the Coast Survey was a relatively small organization with little energy or interest in communicating its results to the public with the exception of producing charts for mariners. However, the expansion of Coast Survey operations and the adaptation of missionary zeal in bringing results to all interested parties meant not only a seemingly ever-increasing office force, but also a general reorganization in the method of doing business. It was necessary to increase efficiency and speed up all facets of the office functions of computing, verifying, draughting, engraving, printing, publishing, and distributing finished products.

To expedite this, Major Stevens divided the office into seven functional areas: 1) computing; 2) drawing; 3) engraving; 4) electrotyping; 5) printing; 6) publishing, distribution, and sale; and 7) instrument-making. The following year a library and archives division was added as was a tidal computing division in 1855. With minor changes, this remained the structure of the office for a number of years. Those identified as the first division chiefs under the reorganization were: Julius Hilgard in charge of computing; Lieutenant Richard H. Rush, U.S.A., in charge of drawing; Lieutenant Edward B. Hunt, U.S.A., in charge of engraving; George Mathiot in charge of electrotyping; Joseph Saxton in charge of instrument making; and C.B. Snow in charge of the archives and library. Curiously, a hydrographic division was not formed in spite of the establishment of a position analogous to hydrographic inspector in 1851. Perhaps this reflected Bache's belief that Army and Navy officers would not work well together. Bache noted that:

"The examination of the hydrographic work returned by the different parties, the revision of sailing directions and lists of dangers, the comparison of charts prepared at different periods, the general direction of tidal computations according to prescribed form, and various miscellaneous hydrographic work, would occupy the time and attention of an accomplished hydrographer, with several assistants. During the past year, much aid has been derived from the labors, under my immediate direction, of Lieutenant Wm. B. Whiting, United States navy, who was detailed to Coast Survey work in March last...." (4) (5)

The system that Major Stevens enacted established Coast Survey office operations on an assembly-line basis. To put Stevens' problems in perspective, it is well to remember that the Coast Survey was considered a huge organization in the mid-Nineteenth Century. Management problems associated with such a farflung and diversified engineering and scientific operation were virtually unprecedented. The solutions enacted by a handful of outstanding Army officers assigned to the office is an achievement which stood the test of time. Lt. Rufus Saxton, an Army officer in charge of the Engraving Division a few years later, described the system:

"...The general design of the office organization being to take up the results as sent in by the field parties, digest and compute them, afterwards delineate on paper, and then, with all the despatch consistent with accuracy, publish to the world, with such directions, data, and conclusions as will be of use -- the work will be glanced at in the order received, and pressed through the various divisions.

"First in order the triangulation is received, the angles and distances computed, the points then plotted, and returned to the field parties for minute topographical detail, then again plotted on separate sheets and sent for the hydrographic results.

"The second return of work is received by the drawing division, changed in scale to suit the nature and extent of locality desired to be embraced in one map or chart, worked up by the draughtsman into the appearance designed for the public; thence it passes to the engraver to be permanently fixed on copper plate for re-production. The plate goes from the engraving to the electrotype room, where a mould or alto is taken, and from the alto a cast or basso produced, which is the duplicate of the engraved plate, and the one used by the printer...." (6)

To manage the rambling offices of the Survey, Stevens had a system of wires with bells attached strung throughout the buildings such that whenever he wished to speak to someone he would summon them with a jingle of the bells. Superintendent Bache noted with some annoyance the continual ringing of bells throughout the Coast Survey buildings but decided "it won't do to interfere with these army officers." (7) Stevens was so compulsive about improving efficiency and assuring maximum output that it was reported that he taught one of the messengers, who had lost both arms in an explosion, to learn to write with a foot and then gave him copying to do.

In short time, Major Stevens mastered the management of the office and by the end of 1850 he wrote his wife:

"Every department is improving, and a very fine spirit pervades all the employees. I am bringing to bear upon the men my personal weight, and you know I rarely ever fail whenever I am brought into direct personal contact with men.... I am determined to be deserving of their confidence, and, if so, I shall most assuredly gain it.

"The professor's confidence in me seems to be greater every day. This makes my position pleasant. It makes me more efficient. My judgment is all the clearer for it. The truth is, I take the same general view of things that he does, and my judgement almost invariably brings me to the same conclusions...." (8) (9)

This empathy between Stevens and Bache assured a smoothly operating office. Once the office was proceeding down the path that Stevens wanted, he turned his attention to other matters. Major Stevens was a strong Democrat and supported presidential candidate Franklin Pierce in 1852 by letters to editors of the national press and numerous public speaking engagements. He showed considerable professional courage in doing this as the incumbent administration and head of the War Department were Whigs. Compounding this was the Whig candidate, General Winfield Scott, on whose staff Stevens had served in the Mexican War and who also happened to be the senior general in the Army. However, Pierce won; and in early 1853 Stevens resigned the Army after being appointed the first governor of Washington Territory. Upon Stevens departure, Captain Henry W. Benham, the No. 1 graduate of the West Point class of 1837, was appointed Assistant-in-Charge of the Office.

The position of assistant-in-charge continued to evolve. By the mid-1850's, it was his responsibility to develop a plan for all office operations for the coming year. This plan was meant to coordinate the "action of all the divisions according to a regular plan, the parts of which fit with each other ... the details, of course, to be varied from more or less in the course of the year, but unity of purpose is secured, and general conformity to a system arranged beforehand prevents desultory and irregular effect...." (10) This plan, of course, had to be reviewed and accepted by Superintendent Bache.


Under Captain Benham the work continued with the same general organization. However, parts of it were beginning to suffer from key personnel either being transferred or resigning with distressing regularity. Benham commented on this problem in his report at the end of 1854:

"The arrangement for the administration of the duties has continued essentially the same as heretofore, attempts having been made to secure as far as possible that great desideratum for the continued successful progress of the office duties - a permanence of the personnel, in reference to the employees of the several divisions, as well as in the more important cases of those charged with the responsibilities of their management. Without this permanence, the valuable information acquired in any one month or year may be lost in the next, as is too often the case now, in reality leading so frequently to the conviction that more important facts have been known and lost than all that are at the present time retained in the memory of the persons employed; thus producing great irregularity and confusion, loss of labor and the means of the survey, in the proper carrying out of the different duties...." (11)

The loss of organizational knowledge was particularly critical in the engraving division. First-class engravers were in demand in the United States for bank note production and book illustrations. Consequently, few young engravers took up topographic engraving as their life's work. Many of those that achieved expertise in this arcane field were attracted elsewhere by the greater remuneration of commercial engraving. The lack of engravers posed a threat to the Coast Survey insomuch as it caused a bottleneck to develop at the end of the data acquisition and data reduction system. Without sufficient engravers to accurately, artistically, and quickly produce copper impressions of the compiled charts for printing, the Coast Survey would fail in its primary goal of providing the maritime community with safe up-to-date charts.

Superintendent Bache was extremely concerned with this state of affairs and assigned both Captain Benham and Lieutenant Edward Hunt to study the problem and come up with a solution. Hunt, characteristically, studied the whole engraving system from start to finish and described his findings and thoughts on the subject in a classic report included in the Superintendent's Report for 1854. Hunt recognized that:

"No man can be a first-class topographical engraver who is destitute of the essential qualities of an artist, as, of course, none but a genuine artist can do even tolerable justice to the various headland and harbor views required on the series of charts. The engraver who ignores art can only accumulate topographical lines and dots in spiritless ranks by literal copyism from his drawing, or in unreasoning conformity to conventional rules. But it is the engraver's duty to rise above his model [the original drawing] in the elements of expression, and to render nature with a fidelity and spirit such as no mere system can teach.... How fine a sense of natural truth and characteristic attributes should be exacted from him who is to express enduringly in copper the rocky shores of New England, the clay banks of the Chesapeake, the sand beaches of the Carolinas, and the bluff headlands of our Pacific sea-margin.... While no zeal in perfecting the drawings should on any account be abated, it is a truth which cannot be safely forgotten, that our map engravers must themselves, through artist culture and persistent effort, vindicate their rightful claims to fellowship with the noble art brotherhood." (12)

Hunt also realized that establishment of an assembly-line factory environment for engraving copper plates was detrimental to the spirit of artistic engraving; consequently he recommended a compromise between one individual accomplishing all on a plate and a full division of labor:

"...It is characteristic of the ruder stages of all arts and manufactures that a single hand has manifold functions. Each progressive step narrows the sphere of individual action, and concentrates a more undivided attention on the narrowed field. The individual thus becomes merged in a train of processes to which he contributes but his humble mite; thus the lofty and generalizing, but somewhat rude, spirit is bowed to the mechanical, petty perfection of one idea. The good result is mechanical perfection and facility; the bad is mannerism and narrowed individual capacity.... To give one engraver a great variety of work lowers his mechanical mastery of each species, while too long concentration on one species tends to sink the artist in the mechanic, and to form a manner no longer pliant with the varying characteristics of our kaleidoscopic coast. It is a well settled fact in general that the same artist should not be both a topographical and a letter engraver. But it is not so clear that one should do hills only, another sand only, another only fields, woods, and cities, and another only views.... Besides, mannerism, even of the highest order, is a sad penalty, which waits with unrelenting punctuality on an excessive and sustained subdivision of work, and when its hold is once fastened on the office, release will be indeed a forlorn hope...."

While Hunt defined the philosophy and aims of Coast Survey engraving, Benham attempted many methods of training and recruiting to maintain an adequate engraving force. This was fueled by Superintendent Bache's attention to the problem. He wrote the Secretary of the Treasury:

"No subject connected with the immediate practical results of the work has employed more of my thought, attention, and observation than this one...."

"By dividing the maps and charts into two classes -- one preliminary, to be published immediately on the execution of the work; another of a finished character, to be engraved in the highest style of art -- a leading and most prominent difficulty is obviated, for it is possible to find numerous persons capable of all but the higher kinds of engraving. The public is satisfied to balance promptness of publication against inferiority of work, provided the highest standard of excellence, such as is consonant with the whole design of the survey and its elaborate methods in the field, is kept up in the finished maps and charts....

"Several attempts were made to obtain the supply of first-class engravers, which was so indispensable to the progress of the engraving, and which could not be had in the United States, from abroad.... All these attempts, from various causes easily traced, failed; and the exigency not only still exists, but it increases every month with the progress of the coast survey.

"To sum up, we are falling irretrievably behind in our publication of first-class maps and charts, for want of first-class engravers, and this demand cannot be supplied in the United States." (13)

The problems associated with acquiring first-class engravers vindicated Superintendent Hassler. In 1842 he testified that American engravers were not up to the requirements of first-class topographical engraving. Bache had attempted contracting, permitted individuals to work out of their homes, placed recruiting advertisements in countries having engravers with the necessary skills, and instituted in-house training programs. All of these efforts met with varying degrees of failure. In 1856 Bache sent Captain Benham to Europe specifically to recruit first-class topographic engravers. (14) This trip was successful and a number of engravers signed on with the Coast Survey and stayed with it for years. To put this problem in perspective, only 3 of 11 engravers employed by the Coast Survey in 1851 were still with the organization in 1860. In the meantime, by 1860 the engraving department had grown to 24 individuals with another 5 or 6 engravers on contract. By contrast, in 1881 the average service of engravers with the Coast Survey was 18 years while 2/3 of the contract engravers had been working for the Coast Survey since at least 1860.

In the year following Captain Benham's trip, Lieutenant Rufus Saxton, U.S.A., Assistant in charge of the Engraving Division, observed that many of the new engravers had shown "commendable zeal" in their work and that "the standard of art" in their depiction of topography and lettering as compared to foreign work was "inferior to none." Although artistic visually- pleasing charts were a goal of the Coast Survey, Lieutenant Saxton hit the nail on the head when he continued, "The charts of the Coast Survey are in great demand, and the extensive use which is made of the information which they contain by those who are in any way connected with the navigation and commercial interest of our country, involves the necessity of extreme accuracy in details. As errors might endanger both life and property, no time or pains is spared to make them as accurate as possible." (15)

Because of the efforts of Benham and Bache, by the late 1850's the Coast Survey had a permanent cadre of skilled engravers able to meet the most exacting standards of artistry and accuracy in the execution of their work.


One of the most famous individuals to work in the Coast Survey offices was James McNeill Whistler, best known for Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother, or as it is commonly called, "Whistler's Mother." Whistler was also well-known for his copper-plate etchings, a skill he first learned in the Coast Survey. His association with the Survey was noted in the report of Lieutenant J.C. Tidball, U.S. Army, Assistant in charge of the Drawing Division, which contained the following notice at the end of a listing of draughtsmen and their work: "Mr. James A. Whistler (16)

was attached to the division about two months in the early part of the season, and was employed principally upon miscellaneous work." (17) Whistler was not mentioned in the 1855 report on engraving, but the one surviving plate that he engraved for the Coast Survey, the Anacapa Island plate, was included in the "List of Preliminary Charts and Sketches Engraved" as No. 110 out of 181 completed. (18)

James Whistler came from a military and engineering family; his father was a major in the Army who had taken civilian employment as chief construction engineer on the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railway. Young Whistler spent part of his childhood in Russia and other parts of Europe. He returned to the United States after his father's death from cholera in 1849 and within two years had entered West Point. Although he did well his first year, the next two years were academic disasters and he left military life forever after failing chemistry. The Whistler legends for outlandish behavior began here as he claimed that the reason that he never became a general was his failure of chemistry. His response to a request to discuss silica on an important oral exam began with the absurd assertion that "Silica is a saponifiable gas!" This story was reported by General Loomis L. Langdon (19) who related that Whistler probably responded in that manner because he knew that he had no hope and felt that he might as well go out in a memorable manner.

Regardless of the reason for Whistler's failure, his artistic abilities had caught the eye of Professor Robert Weir (20) who taught drawing at West Point. Probably upon his recommendation, and the fact that Captain Henry Benham, Assistant-in-Charge of the Office, had been a good friend of Whistler's father, James Whistler was employed as a draughtsman on the Coast Survey in November 1854. He did not have the discipline to learn to become a good topographic draughtsman and was given to doodling on the edges of maps and even covering convenient walls with his sketches. In particular, the stairway leading down to the area of the superintendent's office was soon covered with pencil-sketches of soldiers fencing, soldiers on parade, soldiers reposing or in various action poses, and images of little heads of people either from his past or his imagination. No record has been found if Superintendent Bache ever noted these drawings. Key stated that he never knew him to draw pictures of those about him except on one occasion when Whistler drew Key hard at work at his drawing table. The only other surviving picture that Whistler drew at this time was a picture since entitled The Cobbler, an illustration of a character in Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers.

Whistler's temperament assured that he would not be tethered by the mathematical exactness required in topographic draughting. He failed in this realm. Fortunately, another medium awaited his talent. When it became apparent that he would do the Drawing Division no good, he was transferred to the Engraving Division to see if he could learn a useful trade for the Survey. He was sent down to George McCoy, a kindly Irishman, who was always ready to help young artisans learn the trade of topographic engraving. John Ross Key took Whistler to McCoy and described the scene:

"For the first time since his entrance into the office Whistler was intensely interested. Always sedate, he was also singularly indifferent, but on this occasion he seemed to realize that a new medium was being put within his grasp. He listened attentively to McCoy's somewhat wordy explanations, asked a few questions, and squinted inquisitively through his half-closed eyes at the samples of work placed before him. Having been provided with a copper plate, such as was kept for the use of beginners, and an etching-point, he started off to make his first experiment as an etcher. I watched him with unabated interest from the moment he began his work until he completed it, which took a day or two. At intervals, while doing the topographical view, he paused to sketch on the upper part of the plate, the vignette of Mrs. Partington and Ike, a soldier's head, a suggestion of a portrait of himself as a Spanish hidalgo, and other bits, which are the charm of the work." (21)

Although the main object of this plate was to produce a view of Boston Harbor, the little heads were what impressed Key the most. When Whistler had completed the etching to his own satisfaction, he went with Key and placed wax about the borders of the plate to act as a reservoir, poured acid on the plate and watched it bite and bubble about the line, and brushed the etching carefully about the line-work to prevent refuse from accumulating and biting unequally. After completing preparation of the plate, Whistler and Key proceeded to the basement of the Coast Survey building where the printing plant was located. A printer washed the plate and produced a proof copy of this first Whistler etching. While Key and Whistler were inspecting the proof, Captain Gibson, chief of the Drawing Division, happened by and pointedly inquired of Key if he felt that Whistler could not do his work without suggestions from Key. Thus Key, who had succumbed to Whistler's contagious artistic fever, was "forced to return to" his "tedious task of map-making." This first copper-plate etching by Whistler became known as "The Coast Survey Plate."

Whistler took his new found skill and never looked back. He learned quickly and produced two plates for the Coast Survey. The first plate has been lost, but the second plate was that of Anacapa Island. This plate is unique in having two flights of sea gulls gracing the image of the profile of Anacapa. Whistler seems to have been the only engraver in the Coast Survey to have ever etched sea gulls on a map and gotten away with it. When told that the birds had no topographic value, he is reported to have said: "Surely the birds don't detract from the sketch. Anacapa Island couldn't look as blank as that map did before I added the birds." (22)

The Anacapa Island plate was the last work accomplished by James Whistler for the Coast Survey. He either resigned or was fired shortly afterwards. Given that the Coast Survey needed skilled engravers and his family connection with Captain Benham, he would have had to commit an egregious offense to warrant his dismissal. It is possible that he did so, as his work habits were not the best; and Key reported that he was habitually late in showing up at the proper time. As the Coast Survey offices only worked from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. in those days (23), this would not speak well for his work ethic. One story relates that he brought an extra hat to the office to hang on a peg to make his superior believe that he was somewhere in the building while he was wearing his other hat on the way to a local tavern. (24) (25) Perhaps his propensity for doodling led to his being fired, or his desire to continue etching as an art-form conflicted with the Coast Survey need for finished topographic plates and led to his dismissal. Or perhaps, Whistler resigned when he saw that working in a Government office for the rest of his days was not the life he wanted. Whatever the circumstances of his leaving, it probably was best for both him and the Survey. Whistler went on to become a world-renowned artist and his etching work was compared to Rembrandt by critics during his lifetime.

The survival of Whistler's first etching, The Coast Survey Plate, occurred because John Key went to attempt etching and found Whistler's work in the copper scraps reserved for beginners. When he took it out of the pile, the man responsible for the copper inventory said that he would clean that piece off for him to work on. Something in Key recognized Whistler's budding genius as he declined and paid the small amount for the copper and took it home. John Ross Key kept the plate for the rest of his life.


In spite of Captain Benham's success in building up the ranks of the engravers, the Coast Survey never would have met the public demand for charts if it had not been a leader in two technical fields. These were electrotyping and photography as applied to cartography. Neither of these technologies were invented within the Coast Survey. However, because of the electrical and mechanical genius of George Mathiot (26), both of these methods were improved and applied to the rapid production of charts and maps with great effect by the end of the 1850's.


Electrotyping was an electro-chemical method of producing an exact replica of an engraved copper plate. This was a vitally important procedure as first-class copper engravings took years to produce and would be ruined after a few hundred impressions on a printing press. The Coast Survey began experimenting with electrotyping in 1846. Selmar Siebert, a senior engraver, conducted these experiments; in 1847 Bache reported, "Several of the plates have been copied by the electrotype process, preserving the originals from injury, and rendering possible an unlimited multiplication of copies from a single engraved plate." (27) This early work was not without its risks, as the lower plate of the chart of Delaware Bay was destroyed by the adherence of copper to the original plate in 1849. Perhaps it is just coincidence, but the following year George Mathiot was first mentioned in the annual report as being in charge of the electrotyping division.

Under Mathiot, the electrotyping division prospered. At the end of 1851, Major Stevens reported:

"The electrotyping department has improved so greatly the past year in all its arrangements and processes, that at my request its chief, Mr. Mathiot, has made a general report on the subject of electrotyping, (Appendix No. 55,).... The advances which have been made through the agency of the Coast Survey have scarcely been equaled in the history of any art. Not a single failure has yet occurred in Mr. Mathiot's process. A single plate has again been reproduced from the junction of plates with complete success.

"The time for reproducing a plate has been greatly abridged. Time has been saved, and a greater certainty given to the process ..." (28)

The time saved was significant. During the first electrotyping experiments, no more than six plates a year could be reproduced. By the end of 1851 the time for producing a first reproduction of a plate was reduced to four days with all subsequent duplications reduced to three. The significance of this advance was that for the first time virtually unlimited printings of map sheets could be accomplished. In Stevens' words, "... in fifty days the plates can be made for fifteen thousand sheets of any Coast Survey map, however large and elaborate it may be."

The success of this process also led to a great reduction in the cost of engraving. Original plates required from three to four year's work to produce and cost from $3,000.00 to $6,000.00 each. They would then be ruined after a press run of a few hundred copies. The 1851 cost of reproducing these plates by electrotyping was approximately $200.00 per copy. Within a few years, improvements in the process reduced the cost to about $60.00 per copy assuring unlimited reproductions at the trifling cost of a penny or two per dollar as compared to the original plate. (29)

Many other benefits followed from this process. Inexpensive electrotype copies could be easily modified to produce subsequent editions of the original chart. By doing this, the amount of required engraving work was substantially reduced. Another less apparent benefit was the increased willingness of the Coast Survey to ship unfinished plates to contractors for continued engraving. Making an electrotype copy of the original plate assured that no previous work would be lost if the plate was damaged during transportation or at the hand of the contractor. By 1860 it was standard procedure to make copies of all plates as insurance that the original work would not be lost. Another advance was the development of the capability to take several small plates, cement them together in a unified whole, and reproduce the composite on a single plate requiring very little additional engraving. The last significant advance made by Mathiot in the 1850's was the duplication of plates on extremely thin sheets of copper. Superintendent Bache described this new technique as printing "from thin plates, say not thicker than ordinary drawing or map printing paper, stretched upon a smooth plate of copper, zinc, or iron, merely as a backing.... The saving in time and expense by this process, and the economy of space and weight, and in preserving the plates, are obvious. It has passed into one of the regular applications of the electrotype process." (30)

By the end of 1857, Captain Martin Luther Smith, Assistant-in-Charge of the Office, reported:

"From rather an experimental beginning, this division has grown to be one of the most important auxiliaries in getting before the public the results of the survey; it is to the engraving division what the die is to the seal; let a plate on which there is engraving but pass into it and that engraving is perpetuated; deface or destroy the original, it can be re-produced "ad infinitum" in the utmost perfection.

"Never has the process been carried on with more certainty that during the past year, and the number of plates capable of being produced by the process is only limited by the means placed at the disposal of the electrotypist; a few years ago it was thought an achievement to produce six perfect plates in a year, now one is produced on an average of every two and a half working days...." (31)

As with many technical innovations made in the United States, electrotyping became a source of chauvinistic pride. In 1852 George Mathiot prepared a scale model electrotype apparatus for inclusion in the exhibits brought by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry on his expedition to Japan. The following year Lieutenant Washington Bartlett, United States Navy, and formerly a Coast Survey Assistant, was sent to Paris, France, on lighthouse business. While there he provided the Director of the Depot de la Guerre, Colonel Blondel, a copy of a Coast Survey memoir detailing recent advances in electrotyping. Colonel Blondel had recently sent an officer to England to study their developments in electrotyping and after reading the Coast Survey memoir declared, "The perusal of the memoir has convinced me at once of the superiority of the electrotype methods which are used in the United States. The reproduction in less than three days of a plate of large size, is an improvement of the highest importance." (32)

George Mathiot's electrical and chemical genius was used within other parts of the Survey and by commercial organizations. He invented an improved battery that was revolutionary for its time. This device was capable of producing a constant current over prolonged periods and was used extensively in operating electrical instruments for Coast Survey telegraphic longitude operations. Variations of this battery were produced and used by the telegraph industry. Mathiot was so confident of the capabilities of these batteries that he reported, "The construction which I have devised will, I think, obviate many of the difficulties attending telegraphing, and the principles of electro-chemistry, and even experience, justify me in saying that batteries may be constructed to be buried in the earth or sunken in the sea, which will certainly and uniformly continue in action for very long periods, even for a hundred years."(33) (34)

Within Mathiot's description of his battery and the principles of its operation he displayed another dimension to his insight of physical phenomena. At a time well before the invention of any device capable of looking at molecular or fine crytalline structure, Mathiot was able to envision the appearance of an atomic surface. He noted, "We get the nearest approximation to an atomic roughness when a surface has been covered with amorphous metal by electro deposition.... Could we view such a surface, or rather I should say want of surface, we doubtless should find it many thousand fold more rugged, uneven, and porous, than the common sponge." (35) He would have been right at home with the electron miscroscope images of the Twentieth Century.


Mathiot had made electrotyping an intrinsic part of the Coast Survey chart production system by the mid-1850's. Although he kept adding refinements to the electrotyping, his inventive mind turned towards photography as an economical means of speeding chart production. Photography at that time was thought of as a means of speeding the reproduction of finished maps and charts, but Mathiot wanted to:

"... make use of the photograph in the construction of our charts. I emphasize construction in order that I may direct attention to the true object of my labors. That facility, which the photograph offers for copying, and its almost universal employment for this purpose, causes the idea to be very generally entertained that we are endeavoring to multiply copies of our charts by photography. (36) Such, however, would be to employ photography for the multiplication or publication of the charts, instead of their construction. But, the latter being the true purpose, and the construction of the chart being an operation founded on the methods and purposes of every department of the survey, it will be seen that the proposition to employ photography in making the charts involves no trifling considerations, and prospectively may affect every branch of the survey." (37)

To this end, in 1854 he began experiments with photo-engraving referring to his methods as "natural-engraving", "chemiglyphic," "actino-engraving," and "photo-electric" engraving. In his 1854 report he paid homage to the Europeans who had pioneered the concepts of using photography, particularly as related to chart engraving; but from that time on Mathiot became the pioneer. In 1856 Mathiot reported that he had limited success with the photo-electric method of engraving. To conduct his experiments he constructed his own large "daguerreotye apparatus to execute a plate 13 by 13 1/4 inches." He reported, "The difficulty and labor of this have been very great, as such large apparatus not being in market as a regular manufacture. I had to obtain the material from various sources, and execute most of the work of construction with my own hands; even the large daguerreotype plates I have had to make, the manufacturers of plates offering nothing of the size or quality required." He made a number of experiments with this apparatus by engraving small portions of charts and obtained results indicating "that a little further improvement will enable the photo-electric process to commence a rivalry with the lithograph, and even to contend with hand engraving." (38)

Although Mathiot did not succeed in perfecting photo-engraving for Coast Survey needs in the 1850's, he made a major contribution to the evolution of cartographic methods by perfecting the use of photography for the reduction of hand-drawn topographic and hydrographic sheets to the scale required for chart construction. At the beginning of his experiments in this field, it was not believed that the requisite accuracy could be attained by photographic means of reducing a survey sheet from its original large scale of 1:10,000 or 1:20,000 to the scales of 1:40,000 or smaller used in most of the charts. Mathiot's first mention of attempting to use photography for the reduction of drawings and survey sheets was in 1857, but Superintendent Bache acknowledged the then present state of British superiority in this technique: "... we are not as far advanced in the actual practical application as a substitute for drawing as the British Ordnance Survey...." (39)

The year 1858 saw continued improvement in the process, and the drawing of San Pablo Bay was accurately reduced from 1:50,000 scale to 1:80,000 scale. Tests were also made in photo-reducing plane-table topographic surveys such that minimal additional drafting would be required to effect junctions of plane table sheets at chart scales for direct use by the engravers. The prospects for success were so great that Mathiot reported: "Apparatus and instruments of the most approved kind have been obtained or constructed, and an addition to the portico of the building is in course of erection; this, when finished, will enable me to prosecute my experiments more rapidly, and will doubtless lead to an advantageous use of photography in the survey." (40)

By 1859 the photographic method of reduction was in regular use in the office of the Coast Survey. The cost of reducing topographic and hydrographic sheets to chart scales by photography was estimated to be 1/4 to 1/6 the cost of hand reduction with an overall reduction of 1/3 in the total cost of chart production. Mathiot proclaimed that he was "now enabled to decisively say that the photographic method of reduction, is now in successful operation in the office, and I doubt not that before long it will prove far preferable to all other methods for delineation and accuracy, and incomparably the advantage in economy and rapidity of execution." (41)

The following year, Mathiot made a further improvement in the use of photography for the reduction of drawings. He substituted glass for paper in the reductions and eliminated the defect of the shrinkage and distortion of paper caused by changes in temperature and relative humidity. This effect on paper also caused problems with the hand reductions of drawings.

Thus, increased accuracy and rapid speed of reduction of the drawings were attained. An additional bonus was the increase in the efficiency of engraving as the engravers no longer had to wait for critical reductions of field sheets. Photographic reductions were able to keep well ahead of the needs of the Engraving Division. (42) The fact that the cost was significantly less than manual reduction rung the death knell for the hand-reduction function of the Drawing Division.

No less an authority than Assistant Henry Whiting, when called upon to establish rules and methods for the use of office and field alike in the delineation of topography, declared: "The reduction by photography of the original field-sheets of the Coast Survey to the smaller publication scales has proved, so far, successful, and is so much more rapid and accurate in its results than the best methods of hand reduction heretofore used that it will be considered as the basis of the rules and process of reduction to be adopted...." (43)

George Mathiot's work in photography effected a revolution in cartographic methods. This was illustrated by the career of senior draughtsman Wilson M.C. Fairfax, who served with the Coast Survey from 1843 until his death in 1860. Fairfax had temporarily headed the engraving and printing division as established under Captain Andrew Humphreys in the late 1840's but was assigned to the Drawing Division at his request in 1850, where he remained for the rest of his life. Fairfax became an expert in the reduction of field drawings from original surveys to the appropriate scale required for a chart. This tedious work involved transferring an image point by point from an original drawing to the reduction. In 1854 Captain A.A. Gibson, U.S.A., Assistant in charge of the Drawing Division, commented:

"It is worthy of note how interesting the work of this division is becoming, from the magnitude of the results of the survey, and how, from the apparently chaotic mass in which they are first presented, art moulds them into expressive form. The reductions of the first order are no less distinguished for their exquisite finish, than for their extreme accuracy; they are models for the engraver, which, to reproduce, would be the highest attainment of his skill....

"I can hardly speak in exaggerated terms of the fidelity with which the more experienced draughtsmen execute their work. By long practice they have acquired wonderful facility in detecting the faults of original work, and ingenious methods of rectifying them when the case admits. A reduction to 1/80000, containing errors exceeding 60 feet, is rejected...."(44)

Wilson Fairfax died six years later. He was eulogized by Superintendent Bache "as a topographical draughtsman ... without a superior in the country; perhaps in the world. Combining a full mastery of theory with the feeling of the artist, his work was in accuracy and in effect of the highest order." His immediate superior at the time of his death was Lieutenant Thomas Wilson, U.S.A., Assistant in charge of the Drawing Division, who expressed: "The division has experienced a severe loss during the year in the demise of Assistant W.M.C. Fairfax, draughtsman, who died on the 8th of August. He ranked at the head of his profession, and for seventeen years (since 1843) had devoted himself to his duties with unremitting fidelity and remarkable success; his exquisite reductions ... are monuments of his extraordinary skill, and they can never be excelled...."

This moving eulogy was embedded in Lieutenant Wilson's 1860 report to the Superintendent. On the very next page of his report he continued:

"Hand reduction is still employed for charts far advanced in engraving. Even in such cases, however, a great saving of time and labor has been gained in the use of colors, the

prominent idea being to replace by them well-defined masses of woods, sand, marsh, &c., &c.,instead of indicating them by the old style of elaborate pen delineation. (45)

"The great assistance given by photography renders unnecessary the employment of other draughtsmen to fill the places of those who have left during the year." (46)

George Mathiot's introduction of photography to the chart production process of the Coast Survey assured that Wilson Fairfax's "exquisite reductions" would never be excelled. Photography also assured that it would never be necessary to replace "those who have left during the year" even if the cause of leaving was an unexpected death. In a few shorts years Fairfax had risen to the pinnacle of his profession as a highly skilled topographical draughtsman. In even less time, his skills and those of his colleagues had been rendered obsolete by the introduction of a superior technology.

George Mathiot did not stop with the success of photo-reduction. Although Mathiot's avowed goal of using photography in the chart production process had been attained, Superintendent Bache was interested in using it for chart reproduction and for further experiments in photo-lithography. Chart and map reproduction was certainly viable, and during the Civil War hundreds of photographic reproductions were made by the Coast Survey on short notice. As with electrotyping in which he was able to envision atomic surfaces, Mathiot also lowered the microscopic threshold of photographic capability to the point where he was able to photograph the minute life forms brought up with Coast Survey deep sea soundings. Working with Louis F. Pourtales, head of the tidal computing division and protege of Louis Agassiz, Mathiot reported that they had "trodden an unexplored field, for, so far as I am informed, success has not elsewhere attended the efforts to produce enlarged photographs of opaque miscroscopic objects; but there is still room for improvement in our efforts here." Mathiot, never satisfied with his results, continued with a statement that showed the driving force behind his inventive genius: "Though we have successfully introduced the work of photographing the soundings [the minute shells and sediment fragments brought up with various sampling devices], other and no small part of my labors have been wholly fruitless thus far, yet persevering industry will ultimately succeed." (47)



Beginning in 1851, Superintendent Bache instituted a major change in the Annual Reports. He, like Hassler before him, had used these reports to capture the major elements of the progress of the Coast Survey and as a "bully pulpit" to present his side of political and administrative battles. Notices of newly discovered information of value to the mariner were also included in these reports as well as many suggestions for the placement of lights and aids to navigation. In general, the report had been concerned with the "nuts and bolts" of running the Coast Survey and of increasing the overall safety of the maritime community.

Reflecting Superintendent Bache's increasing confidence in his position as the most prestigious scientific administrator in the United States and reacting to his need to blunt potential criticism that the data was not being made available in a timely fashion, he embarked on a path to publicize all of the technical and scientific results of the Coast Survey in a format that would help him carry the work to the doorstep of every interested person in the country. Bache continued the older sections of the report, but added large appendices which reported on scientific, engineering, mathematical, and philosophic (as related to the work of the Survey) subjects. (48)

The annual report had been evolving since Bache took over as Superintendent. His report for 1844 had only 22 octavo pages (approximately 5".5 X 8".5 paper size), one attachment of a letter announcing a hydrographic discovery, and four illustrations. As the work grew, so did the content of the report. The 1850 annual report had grown to 133 pages with 39 appendices and 27 illustrations.

By 1850 a number of appendices had become regular features in the annual reports. Among these were a tabular distribution of the working parties of the Coast Survey and a tabular statistical compilation of the accomplishments of the Coast Survey. For the first time in 1850, a data listing of results of the work was included; that being a listing of maps engraved and those being engraved at the office. This was a relatively puny first attempt to publicize the availability and state of data collected by the Survey. Other common categories were announcements of hydrographic discoveries and sailing directions (prior to the formal publication of sailing directions and notices to mariners,) and recommendations by Coast Survey Assistants for the placement of lighthouses and aids to navigation. These two categories made up almost half of all appendices between 1844 and 1850. The remainder high-lighted various aspects of the work such as tide and current observations, Gulf Stream studies, longitude developments, ship information as related to either cost or disasters, administrative and political concerns, results of major reconnaissance projects, accounts of saving life and property, and obituaries. Few of these early appendices had even modest scientific value with the exception of five reports by Sears C. Walker on longitude observations and a report by William Cranch Bond on the initial results for determining the longitude of the Harvard Obervatory relative to European observatories.

In spite of its relatively large size, the 1850 report was still a mere pamphlet by comparison with the 1851 report. This huge document encompassed 559 octavo pages in one volume and 58 illustrations in a separate quarto page (approximately 7" X 11") volume. The first 100 pages of this report were devoted to the year's activities while the appendices were found in the remaining pages. Other than its size, this report was revolutionary for the inclusion of a number of works which showed Bache's desire to make the annual report a vehicle for bringing his organization and American science to the forefront of the World community.

Louis Agassiz and the Florida Reefs

The first of these works was "Appendix No. 10, Extracts from the report of Professor Agassiz to the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, on the examination of the Florida reefs, keys, and coast." This report was the outgrowth of Bache commissioning Louis Agassiz in 1851 to study the Florida reef as it was among the greatest of natural hazards affecting American shipping. Agassiz was a charismatic Swiss who was among the foremost naturalists in the world. His work in fossil fish studies and his being the first to formulate the theory of widespread glaciation assured his scientific reputation. He came to the United States in 1846 and was at the height of his personal popularity with the American public as well as at the zenith of his scientific career when he undertook this work for the Coast Survey.

Agassiz proceeded to the south tip of Florida on the Coast Survey Steamer HETZEL under Lieutenant Commanding John Rodgers. He conducted examinations of the reef in response to Bache's question concerning whether "the growth of coral reefs can be prevented, or the results remedied, which are so unfavorable to the safety of navigation." (49) Agassiz showed a modern understanding of the relationship between man and nature when he responded directly to Bache's questions by cautioning him "... that here, as in most cases where the operations of nature interfere with the designs of man, it is not by a direct intervention on our part that we may remedy the difficulties, but rather by a precise knowledge of their causes, which may enable us, if not to check, at least to avoid the evil consequences. I do not see the possibility of limiting in any way the extraordinary increase of corals, beyond the bounds which nature itself has assigned to their growth."

However, Agassiz concluded that there would be little change in the overall shape and extent of the reef in the near future although he recognized that as time went on, "... the changes which are going on will chiefly consist in bringing up the reef, for its whole extent, to the surface of the water, with occasional intervening channels kept open by the currents, such as exist now between the keys; that this reef once matured, will be covered by coral debris, becoming transformed into a range of keys, similar to that which exists now inside of it; that the depth of the ship channel between the reef and main range of keys will gradually lessen, and the channel itself be changed into mud flats, similar to those stretching now between the keys and the main land. In still more remote ages the present mud flats may become swamps, elevated above the reach of the tide-waters, like the everglades; and this process may perhaps be extended to the present ship channel. But unless some great revolution in nature modifies the present relative level between land and sea, it may safely be maintained that the present outer reef is the final southern boundary of the North American continent..." Based on his recognition of the nature of the total reef system, Agassiz recommended "that the sooner a system of light-houses and signals is established along the whole reef, the better; for this is, after all, the shore which is to be lighted, and not the range of keys which is within the reef." This lent the "voice of science" to advocating a major goal of Superintendent Bache as a member of the newly formed Lighthouse Board.

Louis Agassiz was fully conscious that Bache was using his reputation to further establish the scientific credibility of the Coast Survey and American science. He was in full agreement with these goals and became a lifelong friend of Bache as well as a leading member of Bache's inner circle of scientific leaders known as the Lazzaroni. Agassiz's concluding paragraph certainly served to cement the relationship between Bache and himself:

"These practical results -- for so we venture to call the general conclusions last presented -- although they are purely scientific deductions from general principles, may satisfy the most obstinate supporters of the matter-of-fact side of all questions, of the advantages of scientific illustrations in the daily walks of life, and also justify the course which has been followed with so much success by the Coast Survey, in combining the strictest scientific methods with its practical operation."

The Data Reports

Although the annual report for 1851 included a small listing of engraved charts and those in the process of being engraved as had the 1850 report, the 1851 report contained the first large-scale effort to make a major data set available to the public. The data set chosen for publication was the List of geographical positions determined by the United States Coast Survey, a listing of 3,240 geographic positions determined as a result of field observations and office computations. This listing encompassed 281 pages (50) and included latitude and longitude of observed points, azimuth to another known point, and distance to that point in meters, yards, and statute miles.

A short introduction explaining the means of acquiring the observational data preceded the listing of geographic points. In very general terms, this introduction described triangulation, base line measurement, telegraphic longitude operations, astronomic latitude and azimuth observations, and computations. It related that all published Coast Survey longitudes, with the exception of West Coast values, were determined in comparison with the Harvard University Cambridge Observatory and that the center of Coast Survey longitude operations was at Seaton Station in Washington, D.C.

The value of this list of geographic positions was greater than its obvious utility to engineers, scientists, and geographers. By the timing of the publication of this listing, Superintendent Bache made a powerful statement that the Coast Survey was producing results that were of great value to the Nation in addition to the obvious benefit of nautical charts. It was also a bold repudiation of the Navy's position that detached surveys, without benefit of coherent triangulation schemes as formerly conducted by the Navy, were the most efficient and economical means of producing nautical charts.

Coast Survey Methods and Results

A third type of appendix that signaled a break with the past was the inclusion of four reports on either scientific methods developed by the Coast Survey or discussions of observational methods used and the results of observations. These reports were: Appendix No. 7, Notes of a discussion of tidal observations, made in connexion with the Coast Survey, at Cat island, in the Gulf of Mexico, by Professor A.D. Bache, Superintendent of the Coast Survey; Appendix No. 8, Method used in the coast survey of showing the results of current observations, by A.D. Bache; Appendix No. 9, Report of Professor O.M. Mitchel, director of the Cincinatti observatory, to the superintendent of the Coast Survey, on a new method of recording differences of north polar distances or declination by electro-magnetism; and Appendix No. 55, Report to the assistant in charge of the Coast Survey office, on the electrotyping operations of the Coast Survey, by George Mathiot, electrotypist.

These reports not only recorded recent advances in science and engineering; but, as with most things Bache did, they oftentimes served to advance his political agenda. At a time when the Coast Survey was under attack by the Navy Secretary, Superintendent Bache not only related that the Coast Survey had taken hourly tidal readings night and day for the past year at Cat Island, but also thanked his major protagonist, Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury, for providing him with tidal data from early Navy surveys in the Gulf of Mexico to assist in his study of Gulf Coast tides. In his discussion of the method used to show the results of current observations, he made rather profuse thanks to the naval officers (his deceased brother George M. Bache, Charles H. Davis, John Maffitt, and Carlile Patterson) who had assisted in the development of field methods upon which the new current chart of Boston Harbor had been based. This reference to naval officers served to blunt critics who claimed that Navy officers "did all the work" while receiving little of the credit. In discussing the data presentation format of the new current chart, he advertised that "It is easy for the navigator to seize the relations of the currents he will meet ...." in making the point that the work of the Coast Survey is concurrently advancing science and providing pragmatic solutions to problems affecting commerce and defense.

In publishing the report of Professor Ormsby M. Mitchel, Superintendent Bache not only related a scientific advance, but also informed the world that it was through Coast Survey patronage that the advance was made. Mitchel's work on this project had been done on the old 5-foot focal length Dollond transit that had originally been procured by Ferdinand Hassler and then loaned by Bache to the Cincinnati Observatory. Professor Mitchel also touted a theme dear to Superintendent Bache: the superiority of American science. Mitchel unabashedly proclaimed that he had taken "some three thousand observations, taken in twelve nights by the new apparatus (a number exceeding the recorded observations of a whole year at one of the oldest European observatories.) Each of these observations presented an accuracy superior to those obtained by the old methods."

The last of this new genre of reports was George Mathiot's description of electrotyping as accomplished in the Coast Survey. This recorded the advances made by Mathiot and the Coast Survey in the art and engineering of electrotyping large copper plates. Prior to Mathiot's work, the art of metal plating and casting relatively small objects such as medals or plates for printing book pages was well known. However, the ability to take large copper plates of up to 10 square feet and reproduce them was not yet developed. The best results obtained to date involved the deposition of one pound of copper metal on a surface of eight square feet in 24 hours. At that rate, it would take 45 days to manufacture a sheet 1/8 inch thick. The quality of the metal of the reproduced plate was also unpredictable as "copper sand" or metal with the apparent softness of lead would often result.

George Mathiot conducted many experiments involving chemistry of ionic solutions, the physics of electricity, battery design, and practical engineering until arriving at a significantly better method of reproducing the large engraved plates of the Coast Survey. He invented batteries with which he could deliver a large current while regulating the voltage; introduced the use of an iodine solution as the medium to eliminate the adherence of the original plate to its reverse image original duplication (termed the alto plate by Mathiot, while direct image plates made from the alto were termed basso plates); discovered the light sensitive nature of the process such that "a plate prepared on a dull day did not separate so readily as one prepared under a bright sky"; and discovered that heating of the copper-bearing solution during the plating process increased the rate at which copper was deposited on the new plate. With his innovations and discoveries, George Mathiot reversed the "electrotypists' axiom of 'work slowly' ... into 'the quicker the work, the better the quality.'"


The 1851 annual report was a grand experiment by Superintendent Bache to see if the political gain outweighed the monetary investment of embarking on such an expensive course. He probably encountered some criticism for producing such a large volume; consequently, in 1852 and 1853 he produced much smaller, relative to the 1851 report, annual reports of 173 and 186 quarto pages respectively. However, he forcefully argued the case for publishing all of the results of the Survey in 1852:

"The publication of the observations made in the progress of the survey has been recommended by the highest scientific authority of the country, and in successive reports I have called attention to it as a desirable thing. It will secure the observations from loss and casualties which can now be but imperfectly guarded against. It will insure their receiving ultimate form while those are still connected with the survey by whom they were made, and who are therefore responsible for them. Where the means of reducing work are barely sufficient to give the results immediately called for, there is, of course, a tendency to postpone what is not essential to such results. The means being furnished for finally working up and publishing the observations would secure us against the accumulation of a mass of records which, at the close of the survey, must necessarily be published, and under much less advantageous circumstances than at present." (51)

Superintendent Bache, of course, thought it his "duty to insert an item in the appropriation for the next fiscal year for beginning the publication of observations, intending that this should be done annually or biennially, as might be found most expedient, bringing out by degrees, at the same time, the observations of former years...." In his report for 1853 Superintendent Bache repeats the above argument but adds, "The history of such works shows that the observations accumulated during their progress, and which must be published for permanent reference and to give them authenticity, are brought out very slowly. Those who have taken part in them are dispersed, and questions arise which require their aid to answer. However perfectly in theory a work is organized, such questions will arise." (52) Showing no fear of Congress, he adds, that if an appropriation is not forthcoming to expedite the publication of results, "the responsibility of the delay, and of the other difficulties which I foresee unless these publications be soon commenced, may not rest with me."

Strengthening Superintendent Bache's hand in this debate for additional funding for publication of results was the praise of Captain R.W. Smyth, R.N., the President of the Geographical Society of London who in 1850 pronounced:

"The Coast Survey of the United States is truly a national undertaking, and has been most creditably conducted through all its various departments of science.

"I have studied the question closely, and do not hesitate to pronounce the conviction that, though the Americans were last in the field, they have (per saltum) leaped into the very first rank.

"Were I asked to give instances, I would say, look to their beautiful maps and charts; see their practice of establishing longitudes by electricity, and the probable extension of its wonderful chronographic application; mark their novel method of taking and recording transits by a galvanic current, and consider the excellence and refinement of their astronomical observations for geodetic purposes, as proved by their being able to detect the alteration of gravity caused by a difference in the density of the earth's crust."

The following year, Captain Smyth spoke of the Coast Survey report for 1851 as being "in every respect a model for works of that kind." The next year, Sir R.I. Murchison, in speaking before the Geographical Society, heaped praises upon Superintendent Bache and added:

"... the Annual Report of that distinguished physicist relative to the progress of the work during the year 1851 is, if possible, more worthy of notice than any that have preceded it, for in this document you have the ways and means by which such results are obtained along all the eastern coast through nineteen degrees of latitude, and can mark with admiration the rapidity with which the western shores of that continent have been carried on. The systematic co-operation of able surveyors of the naval and military service, combined with and subordinate to a central system of direction in the Treasury Department, and superintended by astronomers whose chief is Professor Bache, could not fail to make this one of the most perfect exemplifications of applied science of modern times.

"The precision with which every observation is recorded, the light that is thrown collaterally on magnetism, meteorology, the tides and currents, as well as on hydrography and pure geography, render such reports encyclopedias of great value." (53)

Given such support and Superintendent Bache's persuasive powers, the regular publication of results became standard operating procedure for the Coast Survey. Beginning in 1854, the annual report grew to 288 quarto pages and then to 420 pages in 1855. For the rest of the Nineteenth Century, Coast Survey reports would be an important addition to the scientific literature of the United States. During the remainder of Superintendent Bache's tenure, the average length of these reports was well over 300 pages. The only apparent threat to this trend occurred during the Panic of 1857 when Bache offered up the cessation of publication of results as a potential cost saving measure. Paradoxically, the 1857 and 1858 reports were the two largest compiled under his superintendencey.

So great was the demand for the annual reports by the end of the 1850's that there was a regular mailing list of over 4,000 individuals and public institutions including over 300 colleges and universities. In addition to the 4,000 reports regularly sent out, many Army and Navy officers received the annual report as did all Navy and Revenue Marine vessels, light-house inspectors, customs houses, and General Land Office officials. Commercial organizations such as the Chambers of Commerce of seaboard cities, Boards of Trade, and insurance underwriters also received copies. As an example of the popularity of the reports, Congress ordered an additional 11,200 reports in 1858 as complimentary copies for Representatives and Senators to pass out to constituents. (54)

Superintendent Bache's ultimate goal was to publish scientific results and methods in thematic publications separate from the annual report. In 1859 he announced his intention to publish "a volume of Gulf Stream results" within a year or two if the appropriations were sufficient. He closed this discussion by noting that publication "secures the records from possible loss, and enables us, while those are connected with the survey who have executed the work to be published, to have full scientific criticism of the results. It has been the reproach of such surveys that there is great delay in publishing results, so that they appear only years after the work has ceased, and when the observations are in a degree obsolete. I should like to avoid the application of this remark to our work, if possible." (55) Unfortunately, this did not occur as events leading to the Civil War were sweeping the country and more important matters began to absorb Bache's attention.


Superintendent Bache developed one other major public affairs product in his quest to publicize the results of the Survey and educate influential men as to the results and value of the Survey. This was the "Congress Map." This map was mandated by law in 1854 as a means to rapidly demonstrate to interested Congressmen the extent of Coast Survey work. The map was about 9 feet on a side and at a scale of 1:1,500,000. Lt. J.C. Tidball, chief of the Drawing Division in 1854 spoke of this map as exhibiting "at one general view the configuration of the coast of the United States, and the limits of the Gulf Stream, the probable limits of soundings, and, by colors, the charts published or in progress; and the extent to which the reconnaissances, triangulation, topography, and hydrography, respectively, are completed or in progress, to November 1, 1854, as compiled from the archives of the Coast Survey and other authorities; and is susceptible of additions and alterations to show the advancement of all these different portions of the work in the successive years." (56)

The "Congress Map" was but one example of Superintendent Bache providing needed information to other parts of the United States Government. Perhaps his most effective method of communicating with members of Congress and other influential citizens was through the medium of a rousing good party. Jefferson Davis's wife Varina described the joy and revelry which took place under the roof of the Coast Survey office building:

"The Coast Survey at that day was a large, old-fashioned barrack of a house, on the edge of Capitol Hill, overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. It was very plainly furnished, and had no curtains to the drawing-room windows, but certain riotously healthy rose geraniums that grew in boxes were interlaced across the window panes and made a flickering green and gray light, and exhaled a delicate odor. This perfume now brings back a ray of the old joy that used to pervade us all when "the family" were bidden to supper there.

"On these occasions Mr. Davis and Professor Bache, General Emory and Mr. Walker, jested like boys, told stories of their West Point life, or of canvasses for office in Mississippi. I had known Mr. Walker since my infancy, and his wife was my mother's dear and intimate friend before my birth, and sometimes we went into a regular romp with him, in which he joined with boyish zest. Mrs. Dallas Bache was a petite and eccentric childless woman, with a great deal of character and much common-sense, and she had not a little epigrammatic wit. Like Mrs. Gladstone, she had given up her life to her husband and was part of all his labors. Once he wrote to her from the Capitol to tell the clerks to send him in great haste, some papers, needful for the defence of the Coast Survey. She inquired of them and found they knew nothing of what was wanted. She searched until she found them, and wrote only this commentary, "Pins have heads."

"About nine o'clock we were ushered pellmell into a long, unfurnished room, the walls of which were hung everywhere with scientific instruments; disused theodolites were shunted into dark corners; old telescopes, with all the paraphernalia of adjuncts to scientific investigation; and, in the middle of the room, was a great table laden with everything good and appetizing that Washington could furnish. Then the terrapins and canvas-back ducks were not, as now, going to join the buffaloes, the dodo, the roc, and the phoenix as extinct animals; so they were there in profusion. The perfume of the long-necked bottle of Rhine wine filled the room, which the Professor opened himself, there being no servants present, and the gentlemen pledged us and each other in a glass, and the quip and jest flew from one to another, and made of our suppers at the Coast Survey real noctes ambrosianae. When Professor Bache was domesticated with Humboldt, whither he went to investigate the school system of Germany, he learned to like these wines, and always imported them himself.

"Mr. Davis was the life of the party, and I never heard him advert but once with regret to a night there. He was one Christmas persuaded to sing an Indian song, and Dallas Bache put on a fur coat to personate Santa Claus, and gave the presents in the most truly dreadful doggerel. Six months afterward, one warm summer day, Mr. Davis exclaimed that he felt oppressed; "but," said he, "I think it is not the weather, it must be the memory of my Indian song last Christmas, and dear Dallas Bache's execrable doggerel. I am sorry I did not make him sing, and do the rhyme myself." As the Professor could not carry a tune, and Mr. Davis had no capacity for jocular rhyme, I thought they had reached their utmost limits as it was, but refrained from venturing an opinion." (57)

Such was the office of the Coast Survey. A sweatshop to some; the nerve center of a farflung engineering and science organization to others; the repository for data and information from the field; the distribution point for the finished products of the Survey; and the locus of hearty camaderie and joyous memories to others.


1. Hunt, E.B. 1855. Report on Engraving in relation to the Coast Survey. By Lieut. E.B. Hunt, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, and assistant in the U.S. Coast Survey. In: Bache, A.D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 57, p. *201-202*.

2. Andrew Atkins Humphreys was a small dapper man known for his prodigious capacity and talent for cursing. Following his tour on the Coast Survey, he conducted surveys of the Mississippi River and headed the Pacific Railroad Surveys while serving under Bache's good friend, Secretary Jefferson Davis of the War Department. He would soon be covered with glory for heroic actions during the Civil War although he was initially frustrated in attempts to obtain troop command because of doubts concerning his loyalty as he had developed a close working relationship with Davis. He was chief topographical engineer with McClellan on the Peninsula and placed the artillery and troops at Malvern Hill; it is claimed that he was the Union general who came closest to the stone wall at Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg; he was known as the "Fighting Fool of Gettysburg" where he was General Meade's Chief of Staff and commander of the Second Division of the Third corps; and following Petersburg, he was in command of the Second Corps that continually hounded and engaged the Confederate Army until Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Following the Civil War, he was promoted to Chief of Engineers, a position he held for thirteen years until his retirement from active service in 1879.

3. Stevens, H. 1900. The Life of Isaac Ingalls Stevens. Volume I, p. 243. Houghton, Miflin, and Company. Boston and New York.

4. Bache, A.D. 1852. The Report of the Superintendent ... 1851. Senate Document No. 3, 32nd Congress, 1st Session. p. 99.

5. Showing the influence of the interweaving of family ties in the science community of the mid-Nineteenth Century, Lieutenant William B. Whiting was the brother of the Survey's most accomplished topographer, Henry L. Whiting. Lieutenant Whiting's appointment to this position was not without merit; he had spent many years conducting hydrography for the Coast Survey. He first served with the Survey in 1837, pre-dating his brother's entry onto Coast Survey service by one year. Although Whiting was the first to be recorded as being "hydrographic inspector", in the 1848 Report of the Superintendent ..., Lieutenant David Dixon Porter was reported as having "verified" several hydrographic sheets. (p. 61-62.)

6. Saxton, R. 1858. Extracts from the report of First Lieutenant Rufus Saxton, 4th regiment of artillery, United States army, assistant, in charge of the engraving department. In: Bache, A.D. 1858. Report of the Superintendent ... 1857. Appendix No.22, p. 185.

7. Stevens, H. 1900. The Life of Isaac Ingalls Stevens. p. 246-247. Houghton, Mifflin, and Company. Boston and New York.

8. Letter from Stevens to wife dated September 29, 1850. In: Stevens, H. 1900. The Life of Isaac Ingalls Stevens. p. 254. Houghton, Miflin, and Co. Boston and New York.

9. There can be little doubt that Stevens exerted a great influence on the organization of the Survey at that time. However, he learned from what Humphreys had done and built on that. Bache seems to have always had great respect and warm feelings for Andrew Humphreys; for years after his leaving the Survey, Bache would speak of him in glowing terms in his official reports and recommend that he be promoted within the Army. In 1855 Bache wrote in the Superintendent's Report for 1855: "...The labors of Captain Humphreys, who was the first assistant in charge under my superintendency, and under whom the survey assumed the general form which it has now, have indelibly impressed themselves, as I see and know, upon the office arrangements; and, after mature consideration and experience of the present, I have not a word to withdraw of the commendation which I have bestowed in former years upon his abilities, zeal, industry, and success...."

10. Bache, A.D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1855. p. 19-20.

11. In: Bache, A.D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. p. 86-87.

12. Hunt, E.B. 1855. Report on Engraving in relation to the coast Survey. September 21, 1854. In: Bache, A.D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 57. p. *201-212*. This report fully explains the engraving system in use by the Coast Survey at that time, philosophy of using engravers, and state-of-the-art of engraving in 1854.

13. Letter from Bache to the Secretary of the Treasury, James Guthrie, September 14, 1855. In: Bache, A.D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1855. Appendix No. 37, p. 250-251. A supporting letter concerning this problem from Henry Benham to Bache dated October 15, 1855, is in Appendix No. 38, p. 252-253.

14. Bache, A.D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1856. p. 4-5.

15. Saxton, R. 1858. Extracts from the report of First Lieutenant Rufus Saxton, 4th regiment of artillery, United States army, assistant, in charge of the engraving department. In: Bache, A.D. 1858. Report of the Superintendent ... 1857. Appendix No. 22. p. 200-201.

16. Whistler is usually referred to as James McNeill Whistler, but his full name was James Abbott McNeill Whistler. On the Anacapa Island plate he is referred to as J.A. Whistler. Whistler, who was of minor consequence to Coast Survey operations, ironically is a source of what little first-hand information exists concerning the nature of day-to-day operations in the office. John Ross Key, a young draughtsman and the nephew of Francis Scott Key, captured the essence of Whistler's short tenure in the Drawing Division in a delightful memoir that first

appeared in Century Magazine in 1908. This memoir is probably the most reliable account of Whistler's short career with the Survey as numerous embellishments have expanded Whistler legends. In the 1950's there were a series of Whistler articles written in the BUZZARD, a quasi-official publication of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, while ESSA WORLD, the organ of the Environmental Science Services Administration, forerunner of today's NOAA, included an article on Whistler in the January 1968 issue written by William A. Stanley.

17. Bache, A.D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1855. Appendix No. 36, p. 233.

18. Bache, A.D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1855. Appendix No. 35. p. 241.

19. Key, J.R. In: Spencer, R. 1989. WHISTLER A RETROSPECTIVE. p.49. Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc., New York.

20. Professor Weir was a famous artist of the time who had executed the painting The

Departure of the Pilgrims in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol for the princely sum of


21. This first etching is now known as The Coast Survey Plate and is located in the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution.

22. THE BUZZARD. Volume 21, No. 8. February 24, 1953. Copies of THE BUZZARD are found in the Rare Books Room of the NOAA Library, Silver Spring, Maryland.

23. It is unclear from Key's account whether these were year-around working hours, or whether these were winter working hours when insufficient light would curtail the time available for the fine work of drawing and engraving. Joseph Ruth, a young aid from the Philadelphia Central High School, reported his working hours as "8 1/2 to 2 1/2" at the Coast Survey offices in an 1844 letter to Superintendent Bache. (Ruth to Bache, July 10, 1844. National Archives, Bache Correspondence, microfilm collection M642, roll 3, p. 519.)

24. Stanley, W.A. 1968. Three Short Happy Months. In: ESSA WORLD. January, 1968. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

25. This is probably an embellishment as John Ross Key reported that Whistler "had no bad habits, and did not smoke. His manners were quiet and sedate, and his attractive personality interested every-one with whom he came in contact, and I never knew any one to say an unkind word of him." Perhaps he was going out for breakfast as he often missed that meal at his boarding house.

26. In recognition of Mathiot's outstanding work in advancing technology for improving the imaging and map production capability of the Coast Survey, the American Association for Information and Image Management, formerly the National Micrographics Association, awarded George Mathiot its Pioneer Medal in 1982.

27. Bache, A.D. 1847. Report of the Superintendent ... 1847. p. 6.

28. Stevens, I.I. 1852. In: Bache, A.D. 1852. Report of the Superintendent ... 1851. p. 91.

29. Bache, A.D. 1852. Report of the Superintendent ... 1851. p. 91-92.

30. Bache, A.D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1856. p. 11. Within this Superintendent's Report additional reference to the use of thin plates is found in: Report of Mr. George Mathiot, in charge of the Electrotype Division. November, 1856, Appendix No. 19, Reports of the Chiefs of Divisions to Captain H.W. Benham.... p. 155.

31. Smith, M.L. 1858. Report of Captain M.L. Smith, U.S. Topographical Engineers, assistant in charge of the Coast Survey office, and extracts from sub-reports of chiefs of the office divisions. In: Bache, A.D. 1858. Report of the Superintendent ... 1857. Appendix No. 22. p. 189.

32. Bache, A.D. 1854. Report of the Superintendent ... 1853. p. 83.

33. Mathiot, G. 1855. Letter from George Mathiot, Esq., containing a detailed description of his self-sustaining voltaic battery. In: Bache, A.D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 56, p. *193-*201.

34. Mathiot qualifies this remark at the end of Appendix No. 56 of the Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. As a result of prior experiments, he had ascertained that a battery containing approximately 50 pounds of zinc would sustain sufficient current to operate a telegraph unit for 7 hours per day for 100 years. He had used much smaller batteries over 2,000 times in a period of six months while gold-plating deepsea thermometers for oceanographic observations with no noticable loss of strength at the time he wrote this.

35. Mathiot, G. 1855. Letter from George Mathiot, Esq., containing a detailed description of his self-sustaining voltaic battery. In: Bache, A.D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 56. p. 198*.

36. Mathiot had, however, suggested the use of photography to duplicate small charts and maps of the Coast Survey. Printing from copper-plate engravings was a slow and tedious process taking approximately 5 minutes per sheet for each finished map copy.

37. Mathiot, G. 1860. Report of Mr. George Mathiot, in charge of the Electrotype Division. In: Bache, A.D. 1860. Report of the Superintendent ... 1859. Appendix No. 17. p. 199-201.

38. Mathiot, G. 1856. Report of Mr. George Mathiot, in charge of the Electrotype Division. November, 1856. In: Bache, A.D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1856. Appendix No. 19, Reports of the Chiefs of Divisions to Captain H.W. Benham.... p. 155.

39. Bache, A.D. 1858. Report of the Superintendent ... 1857. p. 118.

40. Mathiot, G. 1859. Report of Mr. George Mathiot, in charge Electrotype Division. In: Bache, A.D. 1859. Report of the Superintendent ... 1858. Appendix No. 19. p. 174-175.

41. Mathiot, G. 1860. Report of Mr. George Mathiot, in charge of the Electrotype Division. In: Bache, A.D. 1860. Report of the Superintendent ... 1859. Appendix No. 17. p. 199-201.

42. Palmer, W.R. 1861. Report of Capt. W. R.. Palmer, U.S. Topographical Engineers, Assistant Coast Survey, in charge of the office, and sub-reports of the chiefs of office divisions. In: Bache, A.D. 1861. Report of the Superintendent ... 1860. Appendix No. 19, p. 180-181.

43. Whiting, H.L. 1861. Report of Assistant H.L. Whiting, on topographical contour, hydrographic details, and reduction, on photography, and on the scale of shades suitable for complete maps. In: Bache, A.D. 1861. Report of the Superintendent ... 1860. Appendix No. 20, p. 216-229.

44. Gibson, A.A. 1855. Report of Captain A.A. Gibson .... In: Bache, A.D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 31, p. 45*.

45. The old method of drawing in various covering features such as woods or sand by hand involved a double expenditure of labor as both the draughtsman and the engraver had to represent these features. The substitution of colors for various classes of features eliminated much of the work of the topographic draughtsman.

46. Wilson, T. 1861. Sub-report of Lieut. Thomas Wilson .... In: Bache, A.D. 1861. Report of the Superintendent ... 1860. Appendix No. 19, p. 186-187.

47. Mathiot, G. 1860. Report of Mr. George Mathiot, in charge of the Electrotype Division. In: Bache, A.D. 1860. Report of the Superintendent ... 1859. Appendix No. 17, p. 199-201.

48. The following table demonstrates the growth in the size and content of the annual report from the first annual report written by Superintendent Bache to the 1852 report.

1844 22 pages, octavo. 1 Appendix. 4 illust. 1 SD/NM


1845 44 pages, octavo. 4 Appendices. 3 illust. 1 AD, 2 SD/NM, 1 TC/TM

1846 74 pages, octavo. 11 Appendices. 9 illust. 1 SD/NM, 1 AD, 1GS, 2 LO, 2 LS/PS, 3 SH, 1 TC

1847 87 pages, octavo. 18 Appendices. 11 illust. 3 AD, 1 DI, 2 GS, 5 LH, 1 OB, 2 SD/NM, 3 SH, 1 TC

1848 119 pages, octavo. 19 Appendices. 16 illust. 1AD, 1 DI, 6 LH, 2 LO, 8 SD/NM, 1 TC

1849 97 pages, octavo. 20 Appendices 16 illust. 4 AD, 1 DA, 1 DI, 4 LH, 1 LO, 1 LS/PS, 4 SD/NM, 1 SH, 1 ST, 2 TC

1850 133 pages, octavo. 39 Appendices. 27 illust. 5 AD, 1 DA, 1 DI, 10 LH, 2 LO, 3 OB, 2 RE, 11 SD/NM, 1 SH, 1 ST, 2 TO

1851 559 pages, octavo. 57 Appendices. 58 illust., quarto in separate volume. 1 AD, 1 AS, 3 DA, 1 DI, 1GE, 26 LH, 3 LO, 2 OB, 3 PE, 1 RE, 1 REP, 9 SD, 1 SH, 1 ST, 2 TC, 1 TO

1852 173 pages, quarto. 52 Appendices. 37 illust. 7 AD, 2 DA, 1 DI, 22 LH, 2 PE, 3 RE, 1 REP, 9 SD/NM, 1 ST, 1TC

* Code: AD = Administrative Information; AS = Astronomy; DA = Data Listings; DI= Distribution of Parties; GE = Geology; GS = Gulf Stream ; LH = Lighthouse Matters; LO = Longitude; LS/PS = Life-saving/ Property-saving; OB = Obituaries; PE = Personnel Listings; RE = Reconnaissance; REP = Reproduction Techniques; SD/NM = Sailing Directions/Notice to Mariners; SH = Ship Information; ST = Statistical Compilation; TC = Tides and Currents; TM = Terrestrial Magnetism; TO = Topography

49. The view that we must prevent the growth of coral reefs, or find a way to mitigate the results of their growth, is in stark contrast to the modern view.

50. Bache, A.D. 1852. Report of the Superintendent ... 1851. Appendix No. 12, p. 162-442.

51. Bache, A.D. 1853. Report of the Superintendent ... 1852. p. 4-5.

52. Bache, A.D. 1854. Report of the Superintendent ... 1853. p. 17.

53. Trowbridge, W.P. 1859. Review by Professor W.P. Trowbridge, Assistant in the Coast Survey, relating to the origin, cost, and progress of foreign geodetic surveys, with other data for comparison with the results of the United States Coast Survey. In: Bache, A.D. 1859. Report of the Superintendent ... 1858. Appendix No. 40. p. 251-270.

54. Bache, A.D. 1859. Report of the Superintendent ... 1858. p. 23, 31.

55. Bache, A.D. 1860. Report of the Superintendent ... 1859. p. 29.

56. Tidball, J.C. 1855. Description of the Congress map, by Lt. J.C. Tidball, U.S.A., Assistant in Coast Survey. In Bache, A.D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 32, p. 61*-62*.

57. Davis, Varina, Jefferson Davis .... A Memoir. Belford Company, Publishers. New York. 1890. pp. 262-264.

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