Rare 1845 mineral map up for auction

Photo from Heritage Auctions Rare Books and Maps A rare map of the Lake Superior mining district dated 1845 will be auctioned on Thursday. The map, while valuable because of its age, also has a connection to Douglass Houghton.

DALLAS, Texas — A very rare map of the mineral lands of western Upper Michigan will be offered at auction by Heritage Auctions Rare Books and Maps of Dallas on Thursday. The map, according to a release from Heritage Auctions (HA), was completed in 1845 by Andrew Gray of the US Government Mineral Land Survey.

The map measures 47 by 38 inches.

Douglass Houghton, Michigan’s first state geologist, and Gray were serving as U.S. government surveyors in 1845, while Houghton was using the survey to continue his state linear and geological survey.

There is some controversy regarding the survey in 1845, however, which came to light in a letter to the editor in the July 31, 1845, edition of the Daily Union, a newspaper in Washington, D.C. Gray was accused of loitering around the Mineral Land Agency office on Porter’s Island, where he stayed during the time he and Houghton were in the area.

“Your correspondent expresses a like sympathy for the privations and long-suffering of Mr. Surveyor Gray,” the letter states. “The apartment which Mr. Gray occupies above stairs, is an ample room, some fifteen or more feet square, and is quite comfortable — nay, quite luxurious quarters, when compared to those of the other surveyors, who are where Mr. Surveyor Gray should be, if he was faithfully discharging his duties — out in the woods and the weather, among the rocks and swamps, driving the compass and chain through almost impenetrable wilds.

“It may, perhaps, be a question with the government, as it certainly will be with the public, why Mr. Gray should be lolling at his ease in the agency-house on Porter’s island, while Dr. Houghton, the other surveyor, is traversing large tracts of the mineral lands, and sustaining all the hardships and perils which pertain to his employment?”

The federal survey was instituted to distinguish mineral from agricultural lands, while Houghton’s projects also included conducting a linear survey of all the lands obtained from the government in the 1842 treaty.

Mineral tracts on the map are hand-painted with watercolor, and include important Lake Superior coves, points, and Harbors. The map also contains land tracts for permitting, including Lease No. 4, embracing Copper Harbor, and Lease No. 2, on which the location of the Lake Superior Copper Company was established in 1844.

The information on the map, if not a direct copy of the one in the mineral land office dated 1843, relies heavily on it.

The 1843 map does not name a cartographer, but Andrew Gray was not in Michigan before 1845. The map is just one more interesting puzzle of the early years of the Lake Superior mining district.