Datapages, Inc.Print this page

Early Geological Maps of West Virginia

Peter Lessing

J.-E. Guettard produced the first geological map of North America in 1752 without ever visiting the continent. After that inauguration to the annals of cartography, over 90 geological maps were produced that showed all or parts of West Virginia and the Appalachians up to 1897 when the West Virginia Geological Survey was formed. Their quality, accuracy, scale, and content varied widely. Many were plagiarized over and over; others were translated into different languages. Some were reprinted several times with only minor changes; a few were anonymous. Some were in black and white, whereas others were colored by hand until the advent of chromolithography.

Significant contributions over nearly 150 years of geological mapping, after Jean-Etienne Guettard (1752) produced the first geological map, include the following.

In 1755, Lewis Evans showed the location of the Allegheny Front and the locations of coal, petroleum, clay, salt, and "elephant bones." The first geological map printed in America was by William Maclure in 1809. All editions were copper-plate engravings and water colors were applied by hand. Parker Cleveland (1816) used Maclure's geology on a map in his textbook, which was widely read through two editions. The first map to show geology west of the Mississippi was by John Howard Hinton (1832). David Dale Owen actually published his map in 1846 to establish his original work (from 1842) that was used, unacknowledged, by James Hall. In 1843, James Hall used non-Wernerian rock units and established determinations of stratigraphy using paleontology.

Charles Lyell (1845) compiled maps from Owen, Hall, Rogers, and his own travels in North America. The first chromolithograph was printed by Jules Marcou (1855) to show geology all the way to the West Coast. In 1865, Frederick Miller made a detailed map showing private coal lands. Charles Henry Hitchcock and William Phipps Blake (1872) prepared a geological map of the entire United States that was used for the 9th census.

In 1875, Jedediah Hotchkiss and William Barton Rogers published Rogers' geology of Virginia, work which was done in 1835-1841. Jedediah Hotchkiss (1880) made a detailed map of coal seams, including a geological section and column. Then in 1882, he published an early mineral resources map showing coal, limestone, and iron ore.

Israel Charles White (1888) delineated the major coal groups of the Appalachian basin, accompanied by 152 measured sections. One of the earliest maps to show folding and faulting along the entire Appalachian chain was prepared by Bailey Willis in 1892. Arthur Keith (1893) published the first significant stratigraphy of the Blue Ridge and Great Valley, and in 1894, the first West Virginia folio of the hundreds produced by the USGS. The first publication of the West Virginia Geological Survey was by Israel Charles White and Russell Love Morris in 1899.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91031©1988 AAPG Eastern Section, Charleston, West Virginia, 13-16 September 1988.