A larger copperplate press was purchased in 1881, and a second added in 1884.
An addition was built to expand the press room 1885, allowing the new 38-inch press to
fit along with the existing two presses (U.S. Treasury Department et al. 1886, 107). A
fourth press was in use in the summers of 1888 and 1889, staffed by temporary labor, due
to increasing demand for charts (U.S. Treasury Department et al. 1889b, 120; U.S.
Treasury Department et al. 1890, 121). Requests were made to add power to the existing
presses in 1888, 1889, and 1890; and two additional presses were requested in 1889 and
1890. Both requests were approved in 1891 (U.S. Treasury Department et al. 1892, 5). A
new, larger press room location was found, and in 1892 the new location was in use with
its two new powered presses, one older press that had been converted to power, another
that was being converted, and a new powered calendar press
was installed (U.S.
Treasury Department et al. 1893, 135).
In 1904 the survey acquired a lithographic press of its own (U.S. Department of
Commerce and Labor et al. 1904, 175). It was used to print preliminary editions via
Aluminum printing plates replaced stones in the lithographic presses in 1912
(U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor et al. 1913a, 96). Once this change was made,
the survey began to print some of its high-demand finished charts by photolithography
instead of using the slower copperplate presses (U.S. Department of Commerce and
Labor et al. 1913b, 93). Other charts were still printed from copper plates, though (U.S.
Department of Commerce et al. 1916c, 14). The aluminum plates were initially used in
the existing flatbed lithographic press, but a rotary offset press was acquired in 1917,
greatly increasing the number of sheets that could be printed in a given period of time
(U.S. Department of Commerce et al. 1918, 28; U.S. Department of Commerce et al.
1976). In 1931 the survey received an appropriation to purchase three new lithographic
presses for its new office building (U.S. Department of Commerce et al. 1931, 8-9). An
additional offset press was added in 1935 (U.S. Department of Commerce et al. 1936b,
A press that applies immense pressure to dried, printed sheets in order to harden and glaze the surface of
137). Pictures of C&GS presses dated circa 1935
show five offset lithographic presses,
two of which can print five colors in a single pass.
Color on the charts is a direct consequence of the abilities of the printing method
in use. Until lithography was employed for the nautical charts, clerks in the Washington
DC office applied any color on a chart by hand after the charts were printed by a single
impression of the copperplate press using black ink. Analysis of early color is limited by
scans of most early charts (before about 1920) being gray-scale or black and white.
This section refers to Layout 09—Color, which only includes clips from scans
that are in color. It excludes the color scan of NY40 1844 because this chart is known to
have no color applied.
The first chart used here that was printed in color and scanned in color is from
time period four, E1200 1900. Two colors are seen in the clip: yellow, for land, and
orange to highlight beacons and lighthouses. It is not clear if the orange circles were
printed or applied by hand. Buoys are not colored.
In the fifth time period, NY40 1914 has buoys and sector markings that are
either red or magenta in addition to yellow fill for land area. Either way, the color applied
to the chart represents red. Red completely fills the red buoys, while the red sector arcs
are applied over the black plate. The red arcs do not obscure black text. A close
examination of the arc in the clip shows that the right-most segment, between the dotted
line and the “15” is slightly off-set from the rest of the arc, and that the whole of the arc
is not as perfectly a segment of a circle as the printed dashed line is. This suggests the
color was hand-applied, since it is unlikely this was intentional, and such an error would
probably have been caught in the plate production process if the red was applied via
another pass through the lithographic press.
Available from the NOAA Photo Library’s Historical Coast and Geodetic Survey Collection,
NY40 1917 has one addition over the 1914 edition: text referencing larger-scale
charts, in red. The clip shows one example, “(chart 541”, where a closing parenthesis was
omitted. The strokes are inconsistent enough (some square, some pointed; some darker at
the ends) that they may have been applied by hand.
W1200 1917 has similar color features: yellow land, red buoys and text references
to other charts, and orange circles highlighting lighthouses and beacons.
The sixth time period provides one big innovation. MH400 is the first chart here
to add a cyan plate to represent shallow water as blue. Waters shallower than three
fathoms are shown as cyan with sanding that is heavy at three fathoms but becomes less
dense based on distance from the line (not based on depth). It also has the other color
features present on the charts in the previous time period. The other editions in the sixth
time period do not have the cyan plate.
In the seventh time period one of the charts adds cyan for shallow waters, but
one loses it. MH400 1938 has had its cyan removed. Present for the 1922 edition, it is
gone for the 1930 edition (not shown) and is also not present on the 1938 edition used
here. The sanding remains, as does the red buoys and chart references, and orange
highlights for lights. One addition is magnetic variation lines that are shown in orange.
These would have been printed, not applied by hand.
NY40 1936 is the chart that has had cyan fill for shallow waters (everything
inside three fathoms) added since the previous time period. Today the color is a flat shade
of blue-gray on the scan; it is not known if this the original shade, or if time has caused
the color to shift. Another change to the chart is many more navigational aids (buoys,
beacons, etc.) having orange highlights overlaying the black object. There is also
additional use of red/magenta. Cable and pipeline areas are defined by a dashed outline in
red/magenta, and labeled in the same color.
The other change worth noting is that E1200 1938 has also added magnetic
variation lines that are shown in orange, as did MH400 1936. The other charts with clips
in this time period (GJF200 1933 and W1200 1932) do not have changes to note.
Time period eight saw additional color added to nearly every chart. NY40 1944
uses a new technique for showing marsh areas: cyan is printed over yellow to create a
pastel green. There are distinctly different magenta and red colors on this edition.
References to other charts are printed in magenta, while cable and pipeline areas still
marked and labeled in red. Some buoys are also filled with red. Lights and beacons that
were highlighted in orange on the previous edition are now either enclosed within the
outline of an unfilled magenta circle, or overprinted with a filled magenta circle. New
danger areas, related to the World War II, are outlined with a dashed magenta line, and
labeled with magenta text both on the chart face and in notes.
The green line shown in the clip appears to have been drawn by hand. There is a
green square in the center of the chart, and at each corner faint lines that appear to be
pencil extend outside for a short distance. It looks like the green lines are traced over a
darker line in a thin, translucent green ink. A label printed in magenta just outside the
square near bottom center suggests that the square is the outline of “(chart 541)”. It could
merely be coincidence, though
SF40 1947A shares NY40 1944’s color scheme, with the addition of cyan and
magenta since the 1926 edition. It also uses the cyan-over-yellow method of showing
marsh. Red marks buoys and cable areas, while magenta marks lights and restricted areas.
Numbers in circles (in magenta) apparently refer to notes, but the scan is incomplete and
the notes are not present.
SF40 1947b/57 has switched cable and pipeline areas to magenta, while some
buoys are still shown in red. The missing notes from 1947A are present on this later
edition, and they refer to Anchorage Areas, some of which have restrictions on their use.
For MH400 1942, the cyan plate returned. There appears to be two tints of cyan,
or possibly one of cyan and one of blue, in fact. The darker is used for water less than
five fathoms, and the lighter is used for water between five and ten fathoms. The cyan
does not overprint yellow to show marsh in green as the larger-scale charts do, though.
Much of the frequently-changing navigational information (compass rose and lines of
magnetic variation, references to other charts, highlights for lighthouses and beacons,
etc.) are printed in magenta, except for red filling some buoys, all of which are outlined
GJF200 1941 is the only chart edition in this time period that does not use cyan to
show shallow water. Yellow, magenta, and red are used as they are on the other charts,
For W1200 1945, the only use of color that is not seen on the other charts in this
time period is that of a magenta line along the coast showing a “track line”, a preferred
route for powered ships. It is visible in the clip passing through the word “Blanco”.
E1200 1943 uses the same printed scheme as others charts of this time period.
The chart that was scanned has the addition of a more detailed set of latitude and
longitude lines drawn in a dark blue colored pencil around the entrance to Delaware Bay.
E1200 1948 has, in addition to yellow, cyan, and magenta, three additional colors
that each provide an overlay related to LORAN navigation systems. Hyperbolic lines for
triangulating positions are overprinted on the base chart in brown, green, and dark blue.
Text relating information about the lines is also printed in the same color as each of the
MH400 1951 also has a LORAN overprint. It has two sets of hyperbolic lines, one
in magenta, one in green.
Printing in multiple colors requires the ability to register the print across the
multiple impressions. This is not possible when printing from copper plates because the
paper has to be damped for each impression, allowed to dry, then dampened again for the
next pass through the press. The drying creates inconsistent shrinkage of the paper
(Magee 1971). Color was instead applied by hand to charts printed from copper plates. At
the C&GS, buoys were hand-colored on printed charts as early as 1847 (Wraight et al.
1957, 21). This was in keeping with using hand color as decoration for points and lines,
as noted by Pearson (1980).
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Maps were printed by the Coast Survey in up to five colors using lithography
during the Civil War (Wraight et al. 1957, 21). Lithography does not require wetting the
paper, which makes registration easier. But, due in part to fact that the detail possible
through lithography at that time was not as fine as that of copperplate printing, and partly
due to copper plates being the primary data storage mechanism, the practice was not
continued by the survey after the war.
Color lithography was again tried through contract with private printers starting
early in the first decade of the twentieth century. The first edition of San Francisco
Entrance, Chart 5532, to be printed in color by photolithography was in 1903 (U.S.
Department of Commerce and Labor et al. 1903, 174, 177). A digital version is not
A two-color offset lithographic press was purchased and installed in Washington
by the survey in 1917. In the 1930s a five-color offset lithographic press was purchased.
A change in standards for coloring was enacted in 1934, soon after the multi-color
presses were installed. Instead of highlighting lights and beacons by hand, color
highlights could now be printed in yellow. Radio-navigation related features were to be
highlighted by a purple ring. Sanding was to be supplanted by a blue tint (U.S.
Department of Commerce et al. 1934, 10).
More changes were made in 1935, including the addition of “[t]rack lines for full-
powered steamers, printed in red on general charts of the Pacific coast,” and “[i]sogonic
lines in purple, on certain sailing charts (U.S. Department of Commerce et al. 1936b,
A method for printing multiple tints of a color on a single pass through the press
was developed in 1938, and it was thought likely applicable on the blue shoal water (U.S.
Department of Commerce et al. 1939, 139). This process probably explains the two tints
of cyan on MH400 1942.
Design and Organization
Layout 01—Upper Left Corner is the place to begin an examination of the chart
numbering systems used by the Coast and Geodetic Survey. See Table 2 on page 13 and
Table 6 for summaries of the chart numbers shown on the charts, and Appendix C: Chart
Details for chart numbers in context with other identifying information.
Table 6. Chart Numbers
7 / 369
The first charts published by the U.S. Coast Survey were not numbered. The
oldest chart editions used in this project are all of New York Bay and Harbor and the
surrounding area, published in 1844, 1845, and 1853. These have no text outside the
neatline framing the upper left corner.
It is not until well into the second time period, 18 years after the first charts were
published, that numbers are first seen. The earliest charts that do have text in this spot are
both from 1862, MH400 and GJF200. They are numbered ‘No. 9’ and ‘No. 28,’
respectively. The earliest three-digit number is found on W1200 1864, ‘No. 603.’ Two
separate editions of NY40, both published in 1870, have different numbers, ‘No. 7’ and ‘
No. 369.’. The last edition in the second time period, SF40 1859/77, shows an addition to
the text in the corner, ‘
PRICE 75 CENTS
’. This is the first instance seen where a price is
printed outside the neatline on the charts being compared.
Moving forward to the third time period, all of the editions have chart numbers,
but all of them are different from the numbers seen in the previous period. The
differences are slight, however. Two have an addition of a superscript to the last number
seen in time period two. NY40 1878 has become ‘No. 369
’ and SF40 is now ‘No.
’. The Sailing charts have also changed. E1200 1881 is ‘
SAILING CHART A (2 Sheets)’,
while W1200 1888 is now ‘No. 602’. E1200 is the only chart identified by a text phrase
rather than a number, and the letter identifier was first seen in the annual report of 1877
(U.S. Treasury Department et al. 1880).
The fourth time period continues to show substantial change. Of the three charts
that have useful clips of the upper left corner, all three have chart identifications different
from previous edition. The numbers are now all four digits long. SF40 1901 seems to be
engraved in a thicker font, using block serifs, instead of the more delicate lettering done
on other editions. It also appears to have a typo in the price, ‘
PPICE 50 C(ENTS)’.
a slight possibility both artifacts are due to bad scans. GJF400 1895 has become ‘No.
6300’, while E1200 1900 is now “Sailing Chart No. 1000’ with a change to lower case
type for the identifying text phrase.
Time period five offers several changes from prior editions. MH400 1916 is only
the second edition of this chart, and there is a minimum of 44 years between the editions,
so signficant change should be expected. The chart is now ‘No 1109’ with no period after
‘No’. Two editions of NY40 are included and there is a major change between 1914 and
1917. For at least 12 years the chart was printed on two sheets. In 1917 it is once again
printed on a single sheet, with a drop in price from 75 cents for the two sheets in 1914 to
just 50 cents for the one sheet in 1917. The chart number reverted to what it became with
the second edition of 1870, ‘No. 369’—the superscript numeral two has been removed.
There is also a difference in the text’s placement in relation to the corner of the neatline.
Until the 1950s chart numbers are all left justified flush with the outermost edge of the
neatline. NY40 1917 is the only chart seen that violates this practice. It is indented past
the second part of the neatline.
Chart W1200 1917/26 also has changes to the chart number during the fifth time
period. It most likely changed during the fourth time period along with so many other
charts, but no proof is available to confirm it. The version shown here is from the UO
MAP Library and the number has also been manually updated to the post-1974 number
Time period six has very few changes between its five charts. SF40 1926 has a
new chart number, and four of the five charts have a price increase to 75 cents. The
typography of NY40 1926 and E1200 1927 is a little different than the type of SF40
1926, MH400 1922, and GJF200 1922. The characters used in the former are drawn with
much less difference in thickness between the main stroke and the hairline strokes. They
also use a version of slab serifs, while the other three use a form of bracketed serif. The
letters to appear bolder, possibly more modern, than the thin, delicate and classic look of
the other three. Scan resolution might again contribute to these apparent differences.
Time period seven only has one change from period six. The price of GJF200
has finally caught up to the others, increasing to 75 cents.
Time period eight begins to hint at some major changes taking place. The earliest
change is between E1200 1943 and E1200 1948. The title changes from “Sailing Chart
No. 1000” to “Loran Chart No. 1000-L,” and the price has been removed. The price is
also absent on W1200 1945/54 and SF40 1947b/57 but still seen on MH400 1951. The
final change is to both the placement of the text and what is placed. On SF40 1947b/57
the chart ID has moved from above the top neatline reading left-to-right to now residing
at the left side of the neatline, left-justified with the top of the line, reading top to bottom.
The wording has changed from “No. 5532” to simply “5532” and the price is absent, as
mentioned above. One last typographic change seems to be a change to a zero that is
more oval than in previous time periods. In all cases the zero takes up less horizontal
space while maintaining its height, relative to the other characters.
The C&GS has used several different numbering schemes for its published charts
during its history. In the first decade of publishing there was no system, and charts were
primarily identified by title. Where the survey was publishing several charts of a
particular region at a single scale, the titles of the charts would include numbers (“New
York Bay and Harbor, Sheet 1”; “Chesapeake Bay No. 2, Magothy R. to Hudson R.”).
Any other identification numbers seen on charts of this time period are likely on charts
printed in reports such as the annual report to Congress. Charts lithographed for inclusion
in the annual report to Congress of the superintendent of the C&GS were numbered by
their order in the Appendix.
Even reference to the charts in the annual report to Congress was ad hoc for many
years. The first year in which finished charts were listed in geographic order was 1855
(U.S. Treasury Department et al. 1856a). The numbered list, from north to south along
the east coast, did not correspond to any numbers on the charts, however.
In the 1856 report, the progress sketches (maps created to demonstrate to
Congress the work of the Survey) were placed on a single scale for the first time (U.S.
Treasury Department et al. 1858). The office had also finished laying out the extents of a
series of 32 charts covering the east & gulf coasts at a scale of 1:200,000, 18 charts
covering the same area at 1:400,000, and was working on laying out a series of 1:80,000
charts. This was completed in 1858 with a plan for 113 charts at this scale (U.S. Treasury
Department et al. 1859). Numbers were assigned to the charts, but only in relation to the
series they were in—for example, “Seacoast of the United States, No. 3, Maine, New
Hampshire, and part of Massachusetts,” at 1:200,000 published in 1858.
In 1870 the plan for the 1:80,000 series was changed somewhat to reflect
information gained in the course of surveys after the previous scheme was laid out (U.S.
Treasury Department et al. 1873, 1). Some time later charts were renumbered for
purposes of the catalogue of charts published by the agency. For the charts used here,
SF40 1859/77 and MH400 1862/72 carry numbers dating from after the reorganization.
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