The Unique Map of California
Rare Late 19th C. Illustrated Map

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Unique Map of California
Detail of Unique Map of California Detail of Unique Map of California
Detail of Unique Map of California
Map title
E. McD. Johnstone (act. 1885-1895) (after)
The Unique Map of California
Dickman-Jones Co. Lith., San Francisco: 1885
21.75 x 18 inches, border
26.75 x 21 inches, overall
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

Rare and decorative late 19th century map of California. According to a caption to the left of the title, it was “published under the auspices” of the Southern Pacific Company, a railroad company, and the State Board of Trade of California. As such, it promotes the state’s natural products, especially agriculture and mining, and its tourist attractions, including “the grandest scenery in North America.”

The map is divided into counties and incorporates physical geographic features such as rivers, mountain ranges and major towns, and almanac information such as acreage, industries and agricultural products. Each county also has a circle on it showing the annual rainfall in inches. A diagram in the upper right shows the elevation of various mountains in the Sierra Nevada range. Three inset maps of the State show, respectively, mean annual temperatures, distribution of soil types, and a comparison of the area of California with that of ten other states. The latter map demonstrates that California is larger than the New England states, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio combined.

The map is signed in the plate by the illustrator, E. McD. Johnstone. It features 20 insets of landmarks and scenic spots such as Palm Valley, Mt. Whitney, Lake Tahoe, the redwood forest, and the railroad bridge at Cape Horn. One of these small illustrations shows the Golden Gate in the San Francisco Bay before the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. An image of the state seal is illustrated to the right of the title.

The Unique Map of California was first published in 1885, and republished in 1888, with one from the later edition in the collection of the Library of Congress. Other collections with examples of the map include the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection (see References below), and the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

E. McD. Johnstone was a California author and illustrator of guidebooks and maps, some produced as promotional materials for the Southern Pacific Company. Besides the map shown here, he also drew the Climactic Map of California (1887) for the Southern Pacific and apparently wrote and illustrated E. McD Johnstone's West by South, Half South (1890) for them. He also wrote several guidebooks to local areas of California, such as By Semi-Tropic Seas, Santa Barbara and Surroundings (c. 1888) and Shasta: The Keystone of California Scenery (1889).


“Image ID 110058.” David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. 2008. (22 August 2008).

“New Acquisitions 2005-2006.” Newberry Library. 2008. (22 August 2008).

“’The Unique map of California,’ by E. McD. Johnstone. America on the Move, Smithsonian National Museum of American History. (22 August 2008).