Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Digging for Gold at the Library: U.S. Coast Survey Report

(by Gina Bardi, Reference Librarian)

I often talk about how walking through the stacks of the library I find gems based on unusual titles or interesting bindings.  Today’s gem has neither of these.  The binding is standard blue library binding and the title, U.S. Coast Survey Report is about as thrilling as a cotton ball. However, I walk past these volumes (it’s a continuing resource which is fancy library talk for “they publish it in volumes” [or maybe that’s fancy librarian talk for continuing resource…which is more fancy?!]) and a few months ago I stopped to take some off the shelf and see exactly what they were and what information they contained.   U.S. Coast Survey Reports are yearly reports from the Superintendent of the Coast Survey to Congress. For the most part, they have coastal maps, charts, tide tables, lists of maps completed or in progress and reports from various field offices which include shore line measurements, soundings, tidal observations, etc. There are also many appendices which give information such as who are the people doing the surveys in each area and a heaping dose of  math Math MATH! So much math!

 These reports are incredible resources for people who want to do in depth coastal research.  As I was flipping through the pages of the 1858 volume, however, I came across an appendix which popped out at me – it wasn’t the more dry scientific measurements, rather it’s statistics about shipping in and out of San Francisco.

The appendix (no.44) entitled “Directory for the Pacific Coast of the United States” is chock full of information which crosses all sorts of information needs.  The appendix is actually an extended report 8 years in the making on San Francisco Bay and port activity.  It has such bits of information such as in the year 1857, 1,328 vessels entered San Francisco from other American ports, 130 that entered were American vessels from foreign ports and 125 were foreign vessels from foreign ports making a total of 1,583 vessels that came to San Francisco that year (349).   Also according to the appendix, “At the end of the fiscal year , June 30, 1855, there were registered, enrolled, and licensed, at the custom-house of San Francisco, owned wholly or in part by citizens of California, 702 steam and sailing vessels engaged in trade upon the Pacific” (348).  The breakdown of that number is as follows: 

There’s more information in this wonderful resource including the average amount of gold shipped out of the state (351), value of exports of California for a three year period (350) and clipper passages times from 1850-1857 (346).

If any of these tidbits excite you, then stop on by the library and check out our U.S. Coast Survey Reports.

U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, Showing the Progress of the Survey During the year 1858. Washington: William A. Harris, Printer, 1859.

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