Mining Maps – 11/16/20

One of the driving motivations of the settlement of the American West was mining. The gold, silver, copper, lead and other minerals attracted fortune seekers from around the world. Beginning in the late 1850s, prospectors flocked to Colorado, Utah, Nevada and of course, California. But it wasn’t just the West that was mined, nearly every state east of the Mississippi also saw prospectors for coal and oil. As government organizations helped settle the lawlessness of the mining districts, the need to accurately determine who had the rights to particular plots of land became necessary. At first, maps played an integral part of resolving who owned what; they also included distances, railroads, and telegraph lines. Maps were the only way to show deposit names, owners and locations. Later maps were used by people and companies to flaunt their claims and potential for resources and riches.

Mining maps also served to show safety and workings features of mines. Some of the original handmade maps are very intricate and colorful, literal works of art. I recently stumbled across an old mining map of the Comstock Lode and was struck by its beauty. After a little “digging” on the web I unearthed a treasure trove of various digital libraries of literally thousands of mining maps. If you’re interested to explore more, I linked up some of them here.