Part 2: The Columbia River Maps and Meteorological Calculations of David Douglas: An Archival Discovery
This is the second in a two-part blog in which David G. Lewis, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Native Studies at Oregon State University, tells the story of discovering some previously unknown documents from Pacific Northwest explorer David Douglas within Adam Matthew Digital's collection Age of Exploration.
David Lewis uncovered these documents within a collection of documents from Edward Sabine, a military explorer and the secretary of the Linnaean Society. Sabine had helped David Douglas with his publications at the Linnaean Society and as a result, the two explorers had entered into regular correspondence.
The first part of this blog can be found here.
After uncovering the professional relationship between Sabine and Douglas, I continued to question, where did the collection of David Douglas papers come from? At first, I thought these papers were left at Fort Vancouver, and somehow transferred to Great Britain after Douglasâ€™ demise in 1834. However, I found a report by Sabine, from the Kew collections, that detailed a collection of documents which came from Hawaii; the remainder of his possessions in Hawaii after Douglasâ€™ demise in a pit trap. The documents and other effects had been packed up in Hawaii, and shipped to John Douglas, Davidâ€™s brother. Later, John sent the scientific papers to Edward Sabine, likely so he could make some sense of them. Sabine organized and published some data out of the Douglas papers. He included Douglasâ€™ locations in his comprehensive charts of world magnetic readings.
Sabine had the collection until his death. Later, they were given to the National Archives as part of the Sir Edward Sabine collections. Collections such as this, when they arrive in archives, can be somewhat disorganized, so it is understandable that no one has thought to analyze the collection further than a simple archival organization.
Further research in the Report of Canadian Archives, where a copy of a British correspondence collection was sent, has revealed a timeline for the transfer of the collection.
March 23, 1834 â€“ Report of death of D. Douglas, who fell into a pit for capturing wild bullocks.
June 11, 1834 â€“ Three cases containing objects left by D. Douglas have arrived, John Douglas, his brother, is to attend and open the cases.
June 21, 1834 â€“ Edward Sabine â€“ He shall be happy to receive Douglasâ€™s papers.
June 30, 1834 â€“ Edward Sabine â€“ Box received containing books and papers of the late David Douglas
Later Sabine detailed in letters that among the papers sent to him were one volume of field sketches, three papers of magnetic dip observations, and seven papers of meteorological observations. I believe that the collection included in Adam Matthew Digitalâ€™s Age of Exploration are the field sketches and meteorological observations from Douglas. There remains to be found in the collections additional Douglas observations, some 13 volumes which have yet to be identified.
The overall significance of the discovery of the maps drawn by Douglas has yet to be determined. They add significantly to the information already detailed in his journals. The maps are from Douglasâ€™ 1826 journey up the Columbia River. The maps begin at Fort Vancouver and on each map page Douglas notes camp sites and sometimes descriptions of the land and vegetation with drawings of landforms. He created a system of organizing the maps so that they line up perfectly. Some pages are full of writing, and the script is recognizable as that of David Douglas. The notation is at times difficult to read as the pencil has smudged.
By capturing images of the pages from the Adam Matthew Digital collection, I was able to realign them in the correct order, and digitally fix two pages which had been cut in half. I also undertook a project to align each map to Douglasâ€™ journal entries. The languages used on the maps and the journal match perfectly. The dates of the campsites, in the journal and on the map, also matched perfectly. A few maps suggest areas of the river which are not well detailed in his journals, the maps then being the only records.
These final confirmations prove that the maps and the geolocation pages are without a doubt from David Douglas. This discovery, once fully published, will significantly add to the history of regional explorations. My discovery of the collection, while living in Salem, Oregon, some 5000 miles away from the British Isles, also points to the need for scholars of diverse research backgrounds to gain access to worldwide collections.
Read part one in this two-part blog series here.