Skip to main content
[Two survey notebooks recording astronomical observations and chronometer readings from an expedition to determine the eastern California boundary line]. Joseph C. IVES.
[Two survey notebooks recording astronomical observations and chronometer readings from an expedition to determine the eastern California boundary line]

[Two survey notebooks recording astronomical observations and chronometer readings from an expedition to determine the eastern California boundary line]

Along the Colorado River: January 14 - March 31, 1861. Two volumes, small quarto. (8 x 6 3/4 inches). [With:] A third volume comprising astronomical observations from McGregor's Observatory, San Francisco from July 19 to August 30, 1861.

Contemporary black morocco, upper covers lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers. Housed in a black morocco box.

Provenance: Beloit College Library (blindstamps); Frederick Blomquist

Newly rediscovered survey notes by Lieutenant Ives on the Colorado River to determine the eastern California boundary.

After completing his famed surveys along the Colorado River in 1857 and 1858, the first detailed hydrographic surveys of the region, Ives would serve as an engineer on the construction of the Washington Monument, before returning west to assume the position of Astronomer and Surveyor to the U. S. Commission to run the Boundary between California and the Territories of the United States in July 26, 1860. At issue was the "slanted" eastern boundary between California and Nevada and Arizona Territories. According to the California constitution, the boundary ran as a straight line from the intersection of longitude 120 degrees with latitude 39 degrees down to the Colorado River at latitude 35 degrees. Determining accurate measurements along an oblique line, however, would prove difficult. At the southern end, it meant finding the exact intersecting point of the 35th latitude along the Colorado River; at the northern end, the end point lay somewhere within Lake Bigler (i.e. Lake Tahoe).

The present survey notes, accomplished within partly-printed notebooks produced by Thomas Groom & Co., begin on January 14, 1861. Ives records a detailed entry on that date from "Camp at Initial Point on Colorado River, supposed to be about the 35th parallel" which describes all the equipment being used and how it was to be set up. What follows are almost daily astronomical observations and chronograph readings, each in separate volumes, from that date to March 31.

Given the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, the expedition ended abruptly. Although originally from the north, Ives was married to Cora Semmes, the daughter of Confederate naval officer Raphael Semmes. He was offered a Union commission as Captain, 17th Infantry in May 14, 1861 but declined to join the Confederacy, serving as chief engineer on Robert E. Lee's staff, rising to the rank of Colonel and serving under Jefferson Davis. The exact boundary line between California and Nevada would continue to prove elusive, and would not be officially determined until the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey of 1893-1899.

Very little is known of Ives' 1861 work along the boundary. Appendix 3 of the July 1899 to June 1900 Report of the of the Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey (Washington: 1901) gives a complete history of the surveys along the Colorado River boundary. But referring to the present survey, the author writes: "I have no evidence as to when work on the Colorado River at latitude 35 degrees was executed, but presumably in 1861, from reference to by Mr. Houghton. No one knows what became of these maps, etc. of Lieutenant Ives..."

Item #36407

Price: $17,500.00

See all items in Americana & Canadiana
See all items by