Research

New York State Department of Public Works Charts and Maps of the State 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:
This series consists of 64 charts and maps of the Erie Canal from Waterford to Buffalo, and of the Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals. They were seemingly prepared by the Department of Public Works to aid ships or boats in navigating canal waterways. Navigation charts are mixed with survey maps perhaps to aid production of charts for additional uncharted canal areas.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
1 cubic foot (1 volume containing 64 col. maps and charts):annotated, folded ;25 x 144 cm or larger folded to volume size of 51 x 76 cm.
Inclusive Dates:
circa 1923
Series Number:
B0392

Arrangement

Numerical by map number and roughly geographical from eastern to western New York.

Scope and Content Note

This one-volume series consists of 64 charts and copies of maps of the Erie Canal from Waterford to Buffalo, and of the Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals. They were seemingly prepared by the Department of Public Works to aid ships or boats in navigating canal waterways.

In this series original navigation charts are mixed with copies of survey maps that might have been intended to aid production of charts for additional uncharted canal areas.

All of the navigation charts follow a similar format. Printed base maps prepared from surveys made by the State Engineer and Surveyor date from 1917 to 1925. They are hand annotated to show location and type of buoys and buoy numbers. These original maps would logically be published later as navigation charts. Buoys furnish directional points of reference to sailors, especially at night, and allow for safe passage within the marked canal channel. The base maps show: city, village, town and county boundaries; bodies of water and islands; roads and bridges; railroads; and streets and buildings.

Charts are generally identified by a title block giving lock numbers, coverage area, name of canal, sheet number, and issuing office (usually the Commissioner of Canals and Waterways). The charts have differing scales, and a few have scales done in both feet and miles. A legend usually appears; although similar symbols are used, their meaning changes from chart to chart. Chart dimensions are not standard, but range from 46 x 99 cm or larger folded into a volume size of 51 x 76 cm. All have a distinct neat line (the lines that bound the body of a map). Charts generally designate white or red lighted buoys that may have either white or red lights. Buoy numbers written in black or red would appear to follow state standards of the time indicating starboard or port designations. Various notes also appear on some charts giving additional information on distances, directions, bearings, and water depth. Some charts also have insets devoted to particular terminals.

In addition to the charts are what appear to be intermediate blueprint copies (i.e., blue lines on a white background) of survey maps. These prints are entirely distinct from the charts although they are placed within the generally westward directional sequence of the volume and are numbered sequentially with the charts. They appear to be survey maps that may have been intended as base maps for potential further charting of the canal system. These maps pick up where the charts leave off, at a geographical point near Palmyra where the Erie Canal leaves the Seneca River. This break-off point seems to coincide with the point where the artificial cut of the canal begins. Hypothetically, it seems that the navigation charts were produced only to the point where the canal ditch began to be cut "unnaturally" (that is, independently of natural waterways) on to Buffalo.

These prints share the same attributes of the base maps of the navigation charts, but they are not annotated in any way. The maps have no attribution of responsibility, and have no title, lock number, or other identifiers. They contain no printed or other legends, notes, or inserts. Sheets are sometimes cut off arbitrarily; there are no neat lines. Most maps contain a scale in feet, although scales vary. The maps are slightly larger than the charts, ranging to the largest size of 25 x 145 cm. They are sometimes folded twice to fit within the volume size.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Restricted: Use under supervision or with assistance of archivist due to fragile condition.

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