C. Roeser. “Indian Territory.” 1879


C. Roeser. “Indian Territory.” From Annual Report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office. Washington: General Land Office, 1879. Photolithograph by Julius Bien. Full color.  24 x 32. Folds as issued. Very good condition.

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The U.S. General Land Office (GLO) was established in 1812 with responsibility to survey and control the dispersal of public lands. All public land was required to be surveyed prior to settlement, and the first director of the GLO, Thomas Hutchins, set up a systematic process of rectangular survey for the public lands and launched the great national project to survey and map the public domain in the entire country, a procedure which got under way in the famous “seven ranges” of southeast Ohio. Each surveyor was to record not only geography, but also features of the landscape with economic import, such as roads, Indian trails, existing settlements, Indian lands, mineral deposits, and of particular interest, railroads and their rights of way.

By mid-century the GLO had completed most of the surveys for the lands between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, and so focused most of its attention to the American west for the rest of the century.  The GLO published mostly state and territory maps, which were issued in annual reports, bound into state atlases, and in a few atlases that combined all the current maps in progress.  These maps produced by the GLO are the most accurate and detailed maps of the U.S., based on rigorous and comprehensive surveys not hindered by commercial concerns.  These maps proved very useful to private American mapmakers, and they were often the basis for state and county maps in the second part of the nineteenth century.

This map shows the Indian Territory detailing the lands allocated to the various tribes, with notes on the treaty by which each ‘home land’ was established.  Of note are the lands ceded back to the United States at the end of the Civil War, a result of tribal support for the Confederacy.  Also indicated are rivers and other topography, as well as forts, settlements and roads.  The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad running north to south through the territory is clearly delineated.