The Queen Charlotte Islands (since 2009 officially known as Haida Gwaii), located 55 km off the coast of mainland British Columbia, possess a unique character with an extraordinary wealth in natural wonders and resources. For 13,000 years the archipelago has been the home of the Haida nation, a culturally sophisticated people, perhaps best known internationally for their totem poles. The Spanish mariner Juan Pérez was the first European to encounter the islands in 1774, and the archipelago was named the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1787 by the Captain George Dixon of the British navy.
The Charlottes were of little interest to Europeans until gold was discovered there in the early 1850s. The influx of America miners caused much tension with the Haida, compelling the British to move in to shore up their de jure claim to the islands, which briefly became a distinct crown colony (although it was directly governed from Victoria).
The islands were rich in timber, fish and minerals, and the intensified European presence proved disastrous for the Haida. European diseases decimated their population, which fell from 30,000 at the being of the 19th century to only 350 in 1900. The present map was made in the 1920s, when the British Columbia government was seeking to revive the island’s economy by attracting new investment, industry and settlement.
The map was separately issued by the B.C. Department of Lands, predicated upon the most recent trigonometrical surveys. Much of the island is divided into rectangular survey lots, variously designated for crown use or private exploitation. The mapped area features fascinating notes on the quality of the land and various historical incidents, such as the location of the ‘First gold mining in the Province 1852’ at Mitchell Inlet, on west coast of Moresby Island.
The ‘Legend’ below the title identifies the symbols and colour-coding used to identify various features, including: Surveyed Lands alienated are coloured buff; Surveyed Lands under reserve against pre-emption are coloured light bluff; Surveyed Timer Licenses are coloured green; Statutary Timber Lands are marked with a yellow cross; Surveyed lands not coloured are open to pre-emption; Land and Timer Surveys are marked with numbers; Government Reserves are outlined in pink; Indian Reserves are coloured red; while symbols denote Mining Offices; Post Offices; Villages; Lighthouses; Telephone Lines; Hospitals; Schools; Canneries; Radio Stations; Triangulation Stations; roads and trails (of various levels); Power Stations; rivers and lakes; elevation contours and spots hights.
The negative space around the islands features amazingly detailed notes on the Charlottes and its attributes, under the headings of General comments (noting that the islands have an area of 3,952 sq. miles and a population of 642 permanent white inhabitants, 642 Natives, 120 Japanese and 249 transient white residents), Roads, Mining, Grazing, Fisheries, Agriculture, Forests, Climate, Game and Fur.
The ‘Marketing Diagram’, in the lower left corner, is an abstracted geographical diagram that shows the Charlottes’ proximity to various markets and industrial facilities in the Pacific Northwest, variously in Alaska, British Columbia and Washington State.
The present map, as a large, separately issued ephemeral work is, not surprisingly, rare. While we can trace 8 examples institutional holdings, we cannot trace any sales records.
References: OCLC: 367569988 / 75270803 / 428073978.