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A Perry’s Mining Map census

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

One of the most beautiful pieces of Kootenaiana ever produced was Perry’s Mining Map of 1893. It’s admired for its cartography and plethora of unusual place names, many of which appear for the first — and sometimes last — time.

David Rumsey Map Collection/Stanford University

The map, measuring 26 by 40 inches, was drawn by T.P. O’Farrell, based on surveys by Charles E. Perry, and lithographed by Rand and McNally of Chicago. It was exhibited as part of the BC mining display at the World’s Fair in Chicago that year.

At the time, the Nelson Tribune called it “a masterpiece of draughtsman’s and engraver’s art. The taste with which it is got up makes it an admirable advertisement of the country and reflects great credit on the originators of the idea and upon Mr. O’Farrell to whom the beauty of the etching and originality of the design are due.”

The map’s precision was a major achievement, given that only a couple of years earlier, even things like the length of Slocan Lake were unknown.

Perry, formerly of the Royal Engineers, laid out the townsites of New Denver, Trout Lake City, and Cody, among others, and worked on the CPR’s Slocan subdivision, constructed in 1897. Perry Siding was named in his honour.

Copies of the map became available to the public in the fall. How many were printed isn’t known, but the provincial government initially bought five and by the end of 1895 acquired another 250 from the Columbia and Kootenay Steam Navigation Co., Perry’s agents.

We know how much they cost, thanks to an ad in the Nelson Miner of Oct. 7, 1893, seen at right: the pocket version originally went for $2.50, a half-mounted version was $3, and a fully-mounted one was $4 — equivalent to a day’s wages or more for the average miner, although they were probably not the intended buyer.

Consequently, the map didn’t sell that well. Two years later, when Perry created another colour map of the Slocan mining camp, he included advertising to defray the cost of printing. In 1898, Thomson’s Stationery of Vancouver had Perry’s Mining Map remaindered at $1 each, along with many other West Kootenay maps.

You can buy a reproduction on paper from Touchstones Nelson or on canvas from Cartolina Cards in Nelson.

This is a census of surviving original copies, in no particular order.

1) Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, Nelson: This copy is in excellent condition. A facsimile is also part of the permanent exhibit.

2) Chamber of Mines of Eastern BC, Nelson: Poor condition. Unfortunately, at some point, someone took scissors to this copy and cut out a portion of the top, perhaps thinking it would look artistic.

3) and 4) Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections: While the library is old enough that the copies could have been purchased new, that’s probably not the case, as they don’t bear a library stamp on them. Both are in good shape. One appears to have had conservation work done on it. It had been glued to a larger sheet of paper at some point. A small piece on the left side is missing. The map is flat, but some of the original folds are visible. One was ripped and others show some soiling. The other copy has been glued to cloth and trimmed. A small part of the decorations on the top and sides are missing. The map is flat but some of the original folds are visible. Overall it looks a lot more yellow and dirty than the other copy. The second copy was also reproduced on microfiche.

5) and 6) Royal BC Museum: One copy in the Human History collection is in fair condition. It was stored rolled with a strip of wood attached to the top of bottom, and there is a slight tear on the edge near one of the attachments. In 2013, the dowels were removed and the map was cleaned, repaired, and flattened. A note on the back says “Miss Earl’s office.” A second copy in very poor shape is in a research reference file.

7) and 8) University of BC, Rare Books and Special Collections: Two copies, although I am not sure of their condition.

9) Yale University, Western Americana collection: This copy, complete with the gilded pocket (pictured at right), turned up in an estate sale in Nova Scotia and sold on eBay for $2,358 US in 2010. The California map dealership that bought it in turn sold it to Yale for $6,500 US.

10) Stanford University, David Rumsey map collection: This copy has been made available online at extremely high resolution.

11) Rossland Museum and Archives: Pocket copy. The pocket is part of the permanent exhibit.

12) and 13) Two copies in private collections.

14) One copy with a government branch that requested anonymity. It is glued and folded into a clean but faded red leather pouch. There is some wear on the folds, as it has been opened and refolded dozens of times.

So it is scarce, but not nearly the rarest West Kootenay map. By contrast, no copies are known to survive of a bird’s-eye-view of Nelson drawn by Augustus Koch in 1898. We only know of its existence thanks to a foggy glass negative held by the BC Archives.

Although their map was a commercial bust, Perry and O’Farrell would probably be pleased to know we are still admiring their handiwork 125 years later.

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11. Nov. 2018

Very interesting Greg - I'm still waiting for the Bird's Eye Map to turn up somewhere. I had an interesting experience in a Seattle Map shop earlier this fall - looking through a pile of vintage posters and maps - and flipped over an original Seattle birds eye view done by none other than Augustus Koch. The stylistic similarities were immediately apparent with the missing Nelson Birds eye. Close!

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