Rare Survey of the San Francisco Bay

by Laurie Thompson

Frontispiece to the 1852 edition of Ringgold’s Memoir & Maps, titled: View of San Francisco from Yerba Buena Island. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

We are very grateful to Jeff Craemer for the recent donation of a rare book documenting the San Francisco Bay, including parts of the Marin County coastline, by Cadwaladar Ringgold titled A Series of Charts, with Sailing Directions, embracing the surveys of the Farallones, Entrance to the Bay of San Francisco…. Fourth Edition with Additions, Washington: 1852.

Cover of Ringgold’s Memoir & Maps. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

“The naval officer and surveyor Cadwalader Ringgold arrived in San Francisco in 1841 with the first U.S. exploring expedition in the Pacific under the command of Charles Wilkes. [Ringgold returned to California in the summer of 1849 where he] was engaged to survey areas of San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River, the major route to the mines. Ringgold later complained about the challenges of his assignments: “I was requested to undertake the laborious and toilsome duty of surveying a vast and unknown sea. Buoying out the channels, and removing the many obstacles attending intercourse with the mines.”


Despite the difficulties, his efforts produced the desired results: the surveys helped open up the river delta and upstream communities to increased trade with the Bay Area. Already experiencing a population boom with the Gold Rush, northern California communities now expanded even more as travel to the area became easier.” (2007 Catalog, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints).

In his preface to the 1852 edition of A Series of Charts, with Sailing Directions Ringgold highlights the beauty and commercial potential of the San Francisco Bay. Among other points of reference, he notes “Table Hill,” today’s Mt. Tamalpais:

The approach to the harbor from sea is striking and bold. The Farallones, a group of small islands, twenty-seven miles distant, the South or Great Farallon, having a lofty peak, a fit landmark, even without a light-house, for all vessels either entering or departing, are the first objects of interest. Table Hill, Punto de los Reyes, Monte Diablo, and other majestic heights and points, are conspicuous through the vast range of mountains that bound the coast. After passing the “Golden Gate,” the bay spreads north and south, forming an expanse, bounded by lofty mountains and rich valleys, justly and truly deserving the name of an inland sea. Islands are scattered about as well for useful and commercial purposes, as for beauty and romantic variety. Among them, “Angel Isle” is conspicuous for its towering summits, its oak groves, graceful slopes, and soft climate. After some experience in many parts of the world, I freely venture the opinion, there is not sheet of water on the globe better adapted for great national and commercial purposes than the Bay of San Francisco and its vast tributaries.

Originally published at https://annetkent.kontribune.com.



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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room


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