Research


New York State Engineer and Surveyor Map and Plan Books of the Location and Construction of the State's Canal System

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
These volumes address the enlargement of the Erie and Champlain canals; building of the Oswego, Cayuga and Seneca, Chenango, Black River, and Genesee Valley canals; and appropriation of lands for canal use. They contain drawings, maps, diagrams, tracings, and profiles of much of the State's canal system and its related structures and provide detailed information concerning the location, dimensions, specification, and construction of related canal structures.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
313.5 cubic feet (137 volumes containing approximately 5,500 maps and an equal number of other items)
Inclusive Dates:
approximately 1827-1905
Bulk Dates:
bulk 1850-1880
Series Number:
B0292

Arrangement

Numerical by volume number.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of volumes containing maps, plans, drawings, diagrams, tracings, cross sections, and profiles of much of the state's canal system and related structures. In addition some volumes contain field notes, correspondence, estimates, bills of quantities, and contract specifications. The volumes were apparently compiled by office of the State Engineer and Surveyor from work done over several decades by its staff and that of the Canal Board (the employees of the Canal Board worked at the direction of the State Engineer). The State Engineer was responsible for the planning, construction, and maintenance of the state's canals, and was the office of record for filing of many canal documents. It is likely that the gathering of the various documents into volumes was continued by the successor agency, the Department of Public Works. Within the series are volumes which are parts of other series now in the Archives. For example, volume 21 is actually volume 11 of Series A0848, Canal System Survey Maps.

Overall the volumes deal with the enlargement of the Erie and Champlain canals; the building of the Oswego, Cayuga and Seneca, Chenango, Black River, and Genesee Valley canals; and the appropriation of lands by the state for canal use. There are also a few surveys, maps, and plans for lesser known projects such as the Shinnecock and Peconic Canal, the Connewango Canal, the Long Island Canal, and a proposed canal from Ogdensburgh to Lake Champlain. In addition to general surveys and letting maps, there are profiles and also surveys and plans for canal extensions and feeders. The volumes also provide detailed information concerning the location, dimensions, specifications, and construction of related canal structures. These structures include weigh locks; aqueducts; locks; waste weirs; culverts; bridges; trussings; dams; gates; bulk heads; lock irons; tow paths; slope walls; proposed gun boat locks; basins; docks; abutments; reservoirs; sluices; and lock houses.

The card index to this series (series B0293, Card Index to Western Division Canal Maps, Plans, Estimates, and Related Structures) follows a two part organization that provides a useful structure for describing the records. One part pertains to volumes containing maps and descriptions of land appropriations made by the state for canal use; the other pertains to volumes containing maps, plans, drawings, and other representations of locations of the canals and their related structures. This may reflect the organizing scheme according to which the records were brought together.

Some maps show land appropriations made pursuant to Chapter 79 of the Laws of 1895. Surveys were conducted by the office of the State Engineer and Surveyor in response to this law, which appropriated nine million dollars for canal improvements. Most of these maps date from 1899 to 1904. Other maps are dated earlier than this authorizing law. Maps show land permanently appropriated and are predominantly tracings done on architect's linen. They are usually one per sheet. Many are bound together sequentially by stamped number which appears in the upper right corner. The maps include some or all of the following features: narrative survey descriptions of appropriated land; standard title, including name of property owner(s) and the town in which the land is located; scale (frequently 1 inch = 100 feet); acreage; cultivation and condition of land; base lines (lines parallel to the center of the improved Erie Canal); blue lines (state owned land); towing path; offset lines (for measuring distances along the length of the canal); appropriation lines; spoil lines; line of the old canal; measurements of magnetic bearings;

highways, railways, and outlines of some buildings (e.g., houses, sheds, barns) and the names of some businesses (e.g., cooperage, cement and fertilizer companies); directional symbols and notes on the magnetic bearings (e.g., from what point the bearings were taken); inked references, usually found in the lower left corner, to field books by book and page numbers; name of preparer, often with date, usually found in the lower right corner; certification block signed and dated by the Superintendent of Public Works stating that the map is accurate and is made from an actual survey (signed and dated by Resident/Division Engineer), that it was examined by the State Engineer on a certain date, and that it was filed in the Office of the State Engineer and Surveyor; location of gas pipe monuments (from which parcel measurements were taken), and some canal-related structures (e.g., bridges, aqueducts); penciled annotations, apparently not part of the originals, referring to field notes or other maps (e.g., "same as 743"); and a sequential stamped number in the upper right corner.

The location maps, plans, and structural drawings, designs, and specifications sometimes have sparse identification, and the information present varies with the type and form of representation. Sheets are often pasted onto pieces of brown paper. These pages are numbered consecutively in the lower right corner, and bound into volumes. The representations may contain all or some of the following: a general title, sometimes giving division of the canal and/or type of structure (e.g., "Culvert on Sections") and a more specific title for each individual item on the same page (e.g., "longitudinal section", "end elevation A"); name of preparer, usually in upper right corner of the map sheet; date and scale, more common on blueprint plans than on the drawings or details; an index at the fore of the volume, referring to the page number; an examination and approval block, some of which are signed and dated by the State Engineer and Surveyor/Deputy, stating that the plan was adopted by the Canal Board; others have a block of separate certifications signed and dated by the Division Engineer, State Engineer, and Clerk of the Canal Board respectively; reference to the project's authorizing law, which varies widely because separate laws authorized specific projects; and penciled identification numbers found in the upper right corner of the map sheet.

Some notes on the plans indicate they were exhibited at lettings in particular locations on certain dates. Sometimes this information takes the form of a certification statement signed and dated by the Resident Engineer.

Many maps are cut into sections and bound as continuous pages. They apparently are location maps. Many seem to date from the 1850s. The maps show some or all of the following: the location of locks and other structures along the canal; land immediately adjacent to the canal and nearby property, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water; scale, often both horizontal and vertical, and in the case of lift locks, lift is given in feet; a type of legend whereby specific map sites are numbered and then identified in a separate block (e.g., 1 for tavern, 2 for grocery, 3 for lock house); and estimates of quantities excavated.

The mixed nature of the series means that each volume may contain originals, tracings, photostats, and blueprint copies of a variety of representations. Originals and tracings are done in pencil or ink, on paper or architect's linen. Many items have been pasted onto paper before binding. Many of the maps, plans, diagrams and drawings are impressively done in charcoal or watercolors. Many maps date from the period of the first canal enlargement. They contain beautifully detailed cartouches, including those of noted New York surveyor David Vaughan. Handwritten lists of materials are sometimes present, stapled to related plans.

Sizes of drawings on the sheets vary widely; range of size in several sample volumes was 29 x 73 cm to 36 x 137 cm. Some sheets are folded to fit the volume. Volume sizes also vary, with the smallest measuring 42.5 x 58.5 cm and the largest 83 x 103 cm.

Some volumes containing plans have indexes at the fore referring to page numbers within the volume. The records were apparently counted and numbered before, as pencil marks appear on the sheets.

The material appears to have been arranged at one time (apparently before it was bound) according to canal, but that original order has been lost. Volumes pertaining to the 1835 enlargement of the Erie Canal, for instance, are scattered throughout the series. Volumes are numbered on their bindings and these numbers do not coincide with the volume numbers that appear on the title pages (when present) of material within them. The date that the volumes were marked as to their present numerical order is unknown.

B0292-06: This accretion consists of two volumes of canal maps and several unbound canal maps. One volume of tracings on architect linen is a copy of volume 88, a survey of the Black River Canal (1857). One volume is a survey of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal (ca. 1903). The remaining unbound maps depict a section of the Enlarged Canal (1875) in western Wayne County from Waynesport to Newark.

Items Online

New York State Archives Digital Collections

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Use of Records

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of this material.

Alternate Formats Available

Scanned images of a small sample of canal drawings are available at the New York State Archives.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series B0293 Index to Map and Plan Books of the Location and Construction of the State's Canal System, indexes this series

Series B1510 Copies of maps of location and construction of the state's canal system showing enlarged Erie Canal, contains copies of the maps found in this series

Series B1567 Canal plans, drawings, and blueprints, contains related records.

Other finding aids

B0292-83 and -85 combined: A single volume list of general contents is available for these volumes that were formerly described in separate accessions.

A partial item list is available for the 34 volumes that were part of the 1983 accession (formerly B0292-83).

Custodial History

These volumes, commonly referred to as "Structure Books," represent an artificial series made up of records from several series which were previously brought together at an unknown date, apparently under the auspices of the office of the State Engineer and Surveyor and the Department of Public Works. The volumes were transferred to the Archives in two accessions, in 1983 and 1985, and staff retained the present order to facilitate access by use of the only available index.

Several sheets were unlawfully alienated from this series before its initial accession into the State Archives in August 1983. In 1991 they were legally recovered by the State Archives. For further information contact chief, Bureau of Archival Services. Maps in accretion B0292-06 were transferred to the New York State Museum from the Syracuse Division Office of the Canal Corporation and subsequently transferred to the State Archives.

Access Terms

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Detailed Description

Dates Contents Item
1851 Enlargement of the Erie Canal: Oriskany to Stanwix, Sections 118-119, part 1 of 2

28-6
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Saratoga County, part 1 of 2

35-1A
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Saratoga County, part 2 of 2

35-1B
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in the City of Schenectady, part 1 of 3

35-6A
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in the City of Schenectady, part 2 of 3

35-6B
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in the City of Schenectady, part 3 of 3

35-7
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Rotterdam, part 1 of 2

35-11A
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Rotterdam, part 2 of 2

35-11B
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Montgomery County "The Noses", part 1 of 2

35-20A
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Montgomery County "The Noses", part 2 of 2

35-20B
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Montgomery County "The Noses", part 1 of 2

35-21A
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Montgomery County "The Noses", part 2 of 2

35-21B
1851 Map showing the Erie Canal in Montgomery County section 75

35-23
1857 Map showing location of the Erie Canal in Watervliet

60-23
1852 Map showing the Erie Canal improvements at lock 27: Phillip’s aqueduct

60-28
1850 Black River Canal Section 30, locks 97-102, part 1 of 2

69-13
1850 Black River Canal Section 30, locks 97-102, part 2 of 2

69-14
1851 Reservoir of North Branch of Black River, part 1 of 3

69-20
1851 Reservoir of North Branch of Black River, part 2 of 3

69-21
1851 Reservoir of North Branch of Black River, part 3 of 3

69-22
1851 Reservoir of South Branch of Black River, part 1 of 2

69-24
1851 Reservoir of South Branch of Black River, part 2 of 2

69-25
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Cohoes Falls

54-7
1857 Enlarged Erie Canal, Saratoga County

54-12
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Saratoga County

54-17
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Saratoga County

54-18
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal Lock 21 Upper Mohawk Aqueduct

54-27
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Montgomery County, Section 44

54-42
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Yankee hill, Section 47

54-48
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal Section 50

54-51
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal Section 54

54-58
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal Sections 54-55

54-59
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal Sections 55-56

54-61
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal Section 65

54-66
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Watervliet and the West Troy basin

70-15
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal Section 27 and Section 28 in Schenectady County

70-57
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Boonville “Boater”

71-1A
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Leyden

71-10
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Lyons Falls Terminus, at the meeting of the Black River and the Moose River

71-21
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Boonville alongside the Black River

71-31
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Boonville near Alder Creek Flow

71-39
1857 Map of New York state showing the canal system

88-3
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Boonville “Gorge” with Lock 44, Lock 45, Lock 46 and Lock 57

88-46
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal from Boonville to Port Leyden, based on the survey of 1850

88-60
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Lock 74, Section 24

88-61
1857 Map showing the Erie Canal in Lewis County, Section 25

88-63
1851 Enlargement of the Erie Canal: Oriskany to Stanwix, Sections 118-119, part 2 of 2

28-7
1857 Frontispiece of volume 71: Maps of the Black River Canal including the Black River feeder from Boonville to its termination.

71-0T