Official Map of Marin County, California 1892
A very rare monumental wall map of Marin county, the Largest, most detailed and most influential survey of the county made during the nineteenth-century.
George M. Dodge
Official Map of Marin County, California.
San Francisco: Schmidt Lithography Co., 1892.
57 x 56 ½ inches, framed
This highly important and intellectually engaging map represents the most accurate and detailed view of Marin County taken during the late nineteenth-century. The present example of this monumental wall map, is one of only very few to have survived to the present day, and is in remarkably fine condition. The engineer and surveyor, George M. Dodge employed the most advanced surveys to compile this highly impressive map which is considered to be the apogee of the cartography of Marin County. Dodge was then the most prominent member of his profession working in the county, and was popularly known for designing the tourist railway that was built to the top of Mount Tamalpais in 1898. While many of the overall land use patterns visible on the Dodge map are familiar to the modern eye, at the time the map was made, and indeed until the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937, Marin was the least developed county in the Bay area. The 1890 census recorded only 13,072 residents, and apart from the towns of San Rafael, Larkspur and Richardson’s Bay, the county was almost entirety pas toral, little changed from the pre-Gold Rush era.
Upon viewing this map, one is granted a panoptic view of all of Marin’s 820 square miles. Most prominently, one will notice the large ‘Ranchos’ that make up the county, each comprising several thousands of acres. From 1834 to 1846, the successive Mexican governors of Alta California, fearing American encroachment on their underdeveloped province, hastily granted virtually all of the land in Marin to a handful of friends and relatives. These new proprietors included members of the local Hispanic community, the ‘Californios’ and British immigrants who were sworn in as Mexican citizens.
Of the twenty Ranchos that made up Marin, the most consequential were Sausalito, Corte Madera del Presidio, Punta de Quentin, Punta de Los Reyes, Novato, Nicasio and San Geronimo. Just to sample a taste of the Ranchos’ fascinating history, Rancho Sausalito, comprising 19,571 acres, was originally granted in 1835 to William Richardson, an English immigrant, and included the modern locations of Sausalito, Marin City, Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, and southern Mill Valley. The Rancho of Corte Madera del Presidio, totaling 7,845 acres, was given in 1834 to an Irishman, John Reed, and encompasses the modern areas of Belvedere, Tiburon, northern Mill Valley and Corte Madera. Rancho Punta de Quentin, comprising 8,878 acres, was granted in 1840 to John B. Cooper, the brother-in-law of the ‘Californio’ grandee General Mariano GuadalupVallejo, and includes much of modern Larkspur, as well as Ross, Kentfield, and part of San Anselmo.
When the United States took possession of Alta California in 1848, it was obligated by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to honor the legitimate land claims of Mexican citizens, including the proprietors of the Ranchos residing in those captured territories. However, many of the proprietors faced costly legal battles to defend their titles and the expenses of maintaining their vast estates quickly depleted their capital. The period beginning in 1850 saw the ‘disintegration’ of the Ranchos, which were gradually sold off, either completely or in part, mostly to American individuals or companies. This transition was still underway in 1892 when Dodge created this magnificent map. The numerous consequent land concessions, complete with the names of the proprietors and the acreages, are carefully detailed on the map.
Other developments featured on the map are the divisions of the eight townships which comprise the county, identified by letters, namely: A) Tomales, B) San Antonio, C)Novato, D) Nicasio, G) Point Reyes, F) San Rafael, G) Bolinas, H) Sausalito. The map also identifies, by number, each of the county’s thirty-five school districts. Also marked are hundreds of miles of county roads and the Sausalito and Tiburon ferries, which were the county’s only link to San Francisco, which is itself depicted in the lower portion of the map.
The definition of the topography is highly precise, with very fine hactures expressing points of elevation and shading to denote the various tidal marshlands. Interestingly, the large grids which are seen projecting into San Francisco Bay from Marin’s southeastern shorelines represent the land reclamation projects, overseen by the Board of Tide Land Commissioners, which created thousands of acres of new flat land between San Rafael and Richardson’s Bay, ideal for urbanization, The Dodge map is a highly significant artifact speaking to the history of Marin County. One of very few surviving examples, this monumental achievement of both cartography and lithography attractively showcases an immense quantity of fascinating information, justifying its place as the most important antiquarian map of Marin County.
Reference: David Rumsey Map Collection (online): no.0245.000.