Survey maps relating to the "1854 Survey" in the Western Division

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

These maps were created to show changes to the narrow and crooked parts of the Erie, Oswego, and Cayuga and Seneca canals in order to admit larger boats. They typically depict property boundaries and names of property owners; character or cultivation of the land; bodies of water; roads and streets; railroads; and prominent buildings and private dwellings, often showing owners' names; lines; boundaries of State-owned and appropriated land.
ca. 6 cu. ft. :49 rolls containing about 55 col. maps ;32 x 183 cm or larger, bulk of maps 63.5 x 533 cm.
Inclusive Dates:
[ca. 1830-1890
Series Number:


Numerical by roll number.

Scope and Content Note

The series consists of 55 survey maps of the Western Division of the Erie Canal. The maps were prepared by the office of the State Engineer and Surveyor as part of its duties to survey, map, and engineer the state's canals.

According to a plan to undertake the temporary completion of canal enlargement, Chapter 16 of the Laws of 1854 authorized the Canal Commissioners to "bottom out" the Erie, Oswego, and Cayuga and Seneca canals in their narrow and crooked parts, in order to admit large boats. As a result, the State Engineer undertook new surveys, maps, plans, and estimates covering nearly the entire lines of the work to be completed, which were presented to and approved by the Canal Board. These are the new maps created to show the proposed changes.

Some maps have a section number at the top and clearly marked neat lines (the lines that bound the body of the map). Flag emblem cartouches mark directions and the terminal points of some sections. Maps typically give the following information: property boundaries and names of owners; character or cultivation of the land (trees, orchards); bodies of water; roads and streets; railroads; and prominent buildings and private dwellings (such as barns, shops, breweries), often extensively and by owners' names.

Colored lines and numbers and special shadings appear consistently throughtout. Pasted onto some maps is a printed block of explanatory remarks that functions as a legend. These remarks would seem to apply to all rolls, and include the following information: a red line represents the inner angle of the towing path and is the base line of the survey; transverse red lines are offsets; dotted lines are at right angles with the base, and the full lines bisect the angles of the curve; figures at the extremities of the offsets give distances to the blue lines, which are state boundary lines; figures on the offsets are the distances from the beginning of the tangent to the points indicated; dotted blue lines are old blue lines; and yellow tint represents land from which the appropriation is made.

Occasionally information is provided as approximate acreage for a specific location, various profiles of the canal at the center or at the front line of the towing path. These profiles sometimes indicate: the surface of the old canal and the average cut of the old canal bottom; the location of culverts and the arch, chords, and surface on the berm side (the bank of the canal opposite the tow line); and water levels.

The maps are done by hand in pencil, ink, and water color. Sometimes penciled notations remain where printing was later done over in ink; in other instances corrections to inked names have been made in pencil. The maps are labeled on the back as to division, town, map number, section number and directional coverage (e.g., "west of Brockport"). When this identification occurs on a cover paper wrapper, the date of the annotation is given along with the initials of the annotator. The year 1894 sometimes appears on the cardboard tubing that houses some rolls.

Scale is often both vertical and horizontal, but it is only given on some maps. Typical scale is 20 feet to one inch, or sometimes two chains to one inch.

These maps are quite large. Map dimensions range from 31.7 x 182.8 cm to 63.5 x 701 cm. The average size is approximately 63 x 533 cm.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

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

Related Information

Other finding aids

Container list and reel list available.

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