Map Of The Valley Of The Sacramento Including The Gold Region

Thomas O. Larkin

Thomas O. Larkin

The title words including the Gold Region and the designation of the Mining District on the map make this map by Thomas Oliver Larkin, the first and last U.S. Consul to Mexican California, one of the key maps of California history As Carl Wheat points out in his great cartobibliography, The Maps of the California Gold Region, it ranks as “one of the earliest (if not the earliest)” to denote the discovery area along the American River. In creating this map, Larkin simply took the best-known map of the Sacramento Valley, John Bidwell’s manuscript map of 1844, traced it, and made additions. As delineated by Larkin, the Mining District occupied two ranchos bordering both banks of the American River: Rio de los Americanos Rancho of the late William Leidesdorff and Rancho San Juan of Joel P Dedmund.

Larkin sent his tracing back to Boston for publication, and publisher T. Wiley, Jr., for protection, placed the lithographed, hand-tinted map in a protective black cloth folder with the magical words Gold Region gilded on the front cover. On the inside cover, Wiley added a paper label with the words “A Correct Survey Of The Gold Region California.” With a copyright date of 1848, this stands as one of the earliest examples of a publisher taking advantage of the gold fever that was just beginning to sweep across the nation. Given the map’s lack of detail, it can hardly be called a “correct survey” For example, Coloma, the site of Sutter’s Mill and James Marshall’s discovery of gold, lies northeast of the two Mining Districts, and the forks of the American River are not shown. Judging by its present scarcity, the first printed Gold Rush map does not appear to have received widespread distribution.

Larkin’s map also illustrates his interest in acquiring rancho land following the Mexican War. Prominent on the map are his Rancho de Larkins (Larkin’s Children’s Rancho of 44,364 acres) and Rancho de Jimeno (48,854 acres) on the west side of the Sacramento River in present-day Colusa County.

Gary F. Kurutz

Map I of the valley of the Sacramento including the Gold Region. This map is a correct tracing of the map of Bidwell (Land Surveyor) by Thos. O. Larkin Esq: late Consul of the U.S. for California; and by him stated to be the best for reference in California. Boston. Published by T. Wiley, Jr., 20 State St. Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1848 by J. H. Bufford & Co. in the Clerks office of the District Court of Massachusetts. [Lithograph, 54.3 x 43.2 cm., color.]  Image courtesy of a Society member.

From Warren Heckrotte (Ed.) & Julie Sweekind (Ass’t Ed.), California 49 [/] Forty-nine maps of California from the sixteenth century to the present, California Map Society, Occasional Paper No. 6,with The Book Club of California, San Francisco, CA, 1999.