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Sketch Map of River Hooghly from Hooghly to Ulabaria showing Jute and Cotton Mills, Factories, Presses and Port Commissioners Ferry Service Route 1920. Published under the authority of the Calcutta Port Commissioners by the Deputy Conservator of the Port.



Calcutta: Survey of India Office, 1920.


Heliozincograph in red and black, dissected into sections and mounted upon original cloth with original marbled endpapers, mss. owner’s inscription of “Saunders 29-8-[19]21” to cloth verso (Good, some mild staining due to the natural oxidization of the glue from the cloth backing), 85 x 59.5 cm (33.5 x 23.5 inches).

A seemingly unrecorded and highly engaging map depicting Calcutta and the neighbouring stretch of the Hooghly River, home to India’s largest concentration of industrial facilities, including many which concern Bengal’s globally renown and longstanding jute and textile sectors, made during the post-WWI/Roaring ’20s economic boom, the map labels 122 factories and plants, and delineates the river ferry service, railways and roads which service them; the map made for the Calcutta Port Commissioners, drafted by the Bengali cartographer R.S. Ghose, and published in Calcutta by the Survey of India Office.

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Bengal had for centuries been the epicentre of the textile trade in South Asia, and during Mughal times it was responsible of over 50% of the Indian Subcontinent’s production.  From the 16th century onwards, the mass export of Bengali textiles was economically and cultural transformative for both India and Europe.


During the 18th century, Calcutta (founded by the English East India Company in 1690) rose to become the leading textile and general industrial centre in India.  It served as the capital of British India from the 1750s until 1911, as well as being the Subcontinent’s largest city and literary centre.  It was also a hotbed of revolutionary sentiment, notably since the late 19th century, as the main base of the Indian Independence movement.


By the early 20th century, Calcutta and its environs represented one of Asia’s greatest manufacturing centres, and during World War I it became one of the leading sources of provisions for the Entente war effort.  By this time, Calcutta area had developed a very diverse and sophistical industrial profile, that not only relied upon textile production, but had expanded into all kinds of manufacturing, notably of chemicals and building supplies.  Especially important was the production of high quality, ultra-durable industrial fabrics and rope, notably made from jute, a fibre from the Corchorus plant that grew abundantly throughout Bengal.  Calcutta’s factories exported jute worldwide, for making sacks and containers for agrarian and manufactured goods, as well as for shipping (ropes).


Most of the factories and plants in the Calcutta area were located on or very near the banks of the Hooghly River, and in proximity to the area’s extensive railway network, forming some of Asia’s most extensive concentrations of industrial complexes.


The Calcutta Port Commissioners oversaw much of the system that transported industrial goods within the Calcutta area, as well as those headed out of the region for export.  During the immediate post-WWI period, industrial production in greater Calcutta was booming, while the manufacturing and transportation system functioned in a very orderly fashion, before the hypergrowth of Calcutta, which commenced in the 1930s, gradually made the situation chaotic.


The Map in Focus


The present map was created in 1920, during the industrial boom that commenced in World War I and continued into the Roaring ’20s.  Its purpose was to showcase the locations of the Calcutta area’s major factories and plants, as well as the transportation networks that connected and supported them.  The work was sponsored by the Calcutta Port Commissioners, drafted by the Bengali cartographer R. S. Ghose, and published in Calcutta by the Survey of India Office.


The map is focused upon the Hooghly River and shows the outline of the ‘Town of Calcutta’ with the citadel of Fort William, in the lower left, and with its coverage extending along the river from Hooghly, in the north, down to Ulabaria, in the southwest.  The Calcutta ‘Port Commissioners Office’ and ‘Government House’ are labelled in Calcutta city.  All towns are carefully marked on both sides of the Hooghly, major roads are depicted, while the railway system is carefully delineated, anchored by the E.I. Railway (East Indian Railway), on the east bank of the Hooghly, and the E.B.S. Railway (Eastern Bengal State Railway), on the west bank, with various spur lines connecting the key industrial estates.


Importantly, the locations of all major factories and plants are shown on the map, while the lengthy register of text, in red, upper left, headed as ‘Mills, Factories & Presses’, lists 122 of the Calcutta area’s principal industrial facilities.  This includes jute mills and presses; rope works; cotton mills; wool mill; cloth mill; paper mills; glass factory; chemical works; electricity plant; gun and shell factory; flour mills; lime kiln; brick field, etc.  To the right of the entries for the factories are listed the ‘Agents’ for each establishment.  In many cases the map vaguely outlines the main buildings of the individual industrial facilities.


On the map itself, two systems of red lines mark the routes and named stations of the special ferry service operated by the Calcutta Port Commissioners that connected many of the industrial estates and neighbourhoods in the immediate vicinity of Calcutta city.  The ferry network, with reliable and frequent service, played a vital role in transporting people and goods to and from the factories.


The map is seemingly unrecorded, with the present example being the only known survivor.  This is not surprising, as the map would have been made in only a limited print run for the use of public officials, managers of major industrial facilities and logistical experts, and while available for sale for the price of 2 rupees, 8 annas, was not really intended for public consumption.  Moreover, such maps made for practical use in India tended to have a very low survival rate.


References: N/A – Map Seemingly Unrecorded.