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U.S. COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY NAUTICAL CHARTS: 
A CARTOGRAPHIC HISTORY 
by 
JONATHON L. MCCONNEL 
A THESIS 
Presented to the Department of Geography 
and the Graduate School of the University of Oregon 
in partial fulfillment of the requirements 
for the degree of 
Master of Arts 
June 2007
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ii
“U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Nautical Charts: A Cartographic History,” a thesis 
prepared by Jonathon L. McConnel in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the 
Master of Arts degree in the Department of Geography. This thesis has been approved 
and accepted by: 
Dr. Amy K. Lobben, Chair of the Examining Committee 
______________________ 
Date 
Committee in charge:  
Dr. Amy K. Lobben 
James E. Meacham 
Accepted by: 
Dean of the Graduate School 
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iii
© 2007 Jonathon L. McConnel  
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iv
An Abstract of the Thesis of 
Jonathon L. McConnel 
for the degree of 
Master of Arts 
in the Department of Geography 
to be taken 
June 2007 
Title: U.S. COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY NAUTICAL CHARTS: A 
CARTOGRAPHIC HISTORY 
Approved:  _______________________________________________ 
Dr. Amy K. Lobben 
The first century of nautical chart publication by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic 
Survey was a period of much change and innovation in map production. However, the 
charts published by the agency have not been methodically studied to understand what 
the changes were, and the reasons they occurred.  
This thesis identifies and describes the changes made to the design and content of 
nautical charts published by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey during the first century 
of the agency’s publishing history, from 1844 to the mid 1940s. For context and 
relevance, this thesis also offers an explanation of the reasons for the described changes, 
referring to advances in scientific instruments, the changing needs of maritime 
navigation, changes in publishing technology, and changes in the bureaucracy of the 
federal government. It compares forty editions of six charts, accompanied by layouts of 
clippings from the charts created to facilitate comparison.
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v
CURRICULUM VITAE 
NAME OF AUTHOR:  Jonathon L. McConnel 
PLACE OF BIRTH:  Idaho 
DATE OF BIRTH:  1973 
GRADUATE AND UNDERGRADUATE SCHOOLS ATTENDED: 
University of Oregon 
University of Washington 
Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon 
DEGREES AWARDED: 
Master of Arts in Geography, 2007, University of Oregon 
Master of Library and Information Science, 1997, University of Washington 
Bachelor of Science in Political Science, 1995, Lewis & Clark College 
AREAS OF SPECIAL INTEREST: 
Cartography 
Map Librarianship 
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: 
GIS/Policy Analyst, Berk & Associates, Inc., Seattle, 2005-present  
Research Assistant, InfoGraphics Lab, Department of Geography, University of 
Oregon, Eugene, 2004-2005 
Research Assistant, MAP Library, University of Oregon, Eugene, 2004. 
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vi
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 
The idea for this project came about while working at the University of Oregon’s 
MAP Library. The collection of nautical charts needed some attention, and my interest in 
their history was piqued when trying to learn about their organizational scheme.  
This project could not have happened, at least it could not have been so inclusive, 
without having a large store of digital images of nautical charts available. I would like to 
acknowledge the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Historic Map & 
Chart Project (http://historicals.ncd.noaa.gov/historicals/histmap.asp), which supplied the 
majority of the digital images used here. Other images were acquired from the New York 
Public Library’s collection American Shores: Maps of the Middle Atlantic Region to 
1850 (http://www.nypl.org/research/midatlantic/), and from the David Rumsey Historical 
Map Collection (http://davidrumsey.com/). I would also like to acknowledge the NOAA 
Central Library Data Imaging Project 
(http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/cgs/data_rescue_cgs_annual_reports.html), which makes 
available online many of the annual reports of the Coast and Geodetic Survey. 
Thank you also to my family, friends, co-workers, and employer, who believed 
that I could finish this project while working full-time in Seattle.  
vii
TABLE OF CONTENTS 
Chapter 
Page 
I.    INTRODUCTION ..............................................................................................
II.   LITERATURE REVIEW ...................................................................................
Nautical Charts ..............................................................................................
Printing Techniques and Technology ...........................................................
III.  METHODOLOGY ............................................................................................
Choosing Charts ............................................................................................
Acquiring Chart Images ................................................................................
13 
Workings with .sids ......................................................................................
16 
Choosing What to Clip ..................................................................................
19 
Copy, Save, and Assemble.............................................................................
25 
IV.  COMPARISONS OF CHART ELEMENTS ....................................................
29 
Production and Printing ................................................................................
31 
Production Methods .................................................................................
31 
Printing Method .......................................................................................
37 
Color .........................................................................................................
40 
Design and Organization ...............................................................................
45 
Numbering System ...................................................................................
45 
Neatline ....................................................................................................
50 
Title, Short Title, and Statement of Responsibility ..................................
61 
Navigation-Related .......................................................................................
72 
Compass Rose and Magnetic Variation ...................................................
72 
Aids to Navigation ...................................................................................
78 
Shoal Water ..............................................................................................
84 
Bathymetric Contours ..............................................................................
87 
Bottom Characteristics .............................................................................
92 
viii
Chapter 
Page 
IV.  COMPARISONS OF CHART ELEMENTS (CONTINUED) .........................
Soundings..................................................................................................
96 
Channels.................................................................................................... 100 
Topographic Information.......................................................................... 104 
Cultural Information ................................................................................. 115 
V.  ANALYSIS .........................................................................................................  125 
Technological Change .................................................................................. 125 
Shipping and Boating ............................................................................... 125 
Data Acquisition ....................................................................................... 129 
Chart Creation .......................................................................................... 131 
Typography .............................................................................................. 133 
Printing ..................................................................................................... 135 
Administrative/Bureaucratic ......................................................................... 138 
Civilian Versus Military ........................................................................... 139 
Funding and Economy ............................................................................. 139 
Corrections ............................................................................................... 145 
Contracting ............................................................................................... 147 
Standards .................................................................................................. 148 
User Needs ............................................................................................... 152 
Competition .............................................................................................. 155 
Other Publications..................................................................................... 155 
VI.  CONCLUSION .................................................................................................. 157 
ix
Chapter 
Page 
APPENDICES ................................................................................................
160 
A. CHARTS USED IN THIS PROJECT ............................................................. 160 
B. SCALE DIVISIONS........................................................................................ 166 
C. CHART DETAILS........................................................................................... 168 
D. LAYOUTS................................................................................................
170 
00—Full Sheets......................................................................................... 171 
01—Upper Left Corner................................................................
172 
02—Title Area.......................................................................................... 173 
03—Compass Rose................................................................................... 174 
04—Shoal Water....................................................................................... 175 
05—Channels............................................................................................ 176 
06—Deep Water........................................................................................ 177 
07—Urban Topography................................................................
178 
08—Topography (other)................................................................
179 
09—Color................................................................................................
180 
10—Notes................................................................................................
181 
11—Aids to Navigation................................................................
182 
12—Bottom Center................................................................................... 183 
13—Lower Left Corner................................................................
184 
14—Lower Right Corner................................................................
185 
BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................
186 
x
LIST OF FIGURES 
Figure  
Page 
1. Chart Locations .............................................................................................
12 
2. Chart Production Method Timeline ..............................................................
31 
3. Printing Method Timeline .............................................................................
38 
4. Key to Abbreviations, GJF200 1862 ............................................................
93 
5. Key to Abbreviations, E1200 1863 ...............................................................
93 
6. Key to Abbreviations, GJF200 1895 ............................................................
94 
7. Key to Abbreviations, E1200 1900 ...............................................................
94 
8. Key to Abbreviations, GJF200 1941/48 .......................................................
95 
9. Key to Oakland Outer and Inner Harbors Channel Information,  
SF40 1947b/57 ............................................................................................
104 
10. Increase in Draft of Naval and Merchant Vessels ........................................ 127 
11. Number of Chart Titles Available 1844-1945 .............................................. 133 
12. Nautical Charts Printed and Distributed, 1844-1945 .................................... 137 
13. Appropriation and Budget Estimate (Request), 1807-1942 .......................... 142 
14. Appropriation, Nominal and Adjusted (Consumer Price Index),  
1807-1945....................................................................................................
143 
15. Appropriation, Nominal and Adjusted (Relative Share of GDP), 
1807-1945 ...................................................................................................
144 
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