NC ROCKS! Geological maps of North Carolina

A variety of maps, including political maps, terrain/topographic maps, and transportation maps all share at least one thing in common: They receive far more attention than geological maps. Yet, some of the most colorful and attractive maps are those depicting our geology.

The first geological map of North Carolina and, in fact, the first geological survey of any state conducted at public expense, was drawn by Denison Olmsted in 1825.

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The following comments about this manuscript map are taken directly from the NC Maps web site:

This map was prepared by Denison Olmsted (1791-1859) while professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina as a result of his geological survey of the state in 1824 and 1825 under the direction of the state Board of Agriculture. As the map reflects, Olmsted chiefly examined the piedmont region of the state; but as is indicated in the inscription appearing in the lower right corner, Olmsted intended the map to be only a preliminary outline with additional information being added by successive examinations. A legend appears in the bottom left identifying the colors used to indicate deposits of various rocks and minerals.

The first published geological map of the entire State was included in Elisha Mitchell’s Elements of geology : with an outline of the geology of North Carolina: for the use of the students of the University. Published in 1842, the book included a small map of North Carolina that had last been seen in Anthony Finley’s series of General Atlases from 1824-1834. The Finley imprint at bottom center was removed, and a series of dashed lines indicating major geological features was added to the engraved plate. Additionally, applied hand coloring followed a geological rather than political theme. Unfortunately, there is no key on the map defining the various lines or coloring. (A subsequent NC Map Blog post provides a complete cartobibliography for this map.)

From the North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
From the North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

In the latter half of the 19th century, a series of geological maps by W. C. Kerr were published, including the following map that was included in North Carolina: Its Resources and Progress; Its Beauty, Healthfulness, and Fertility; and Its Attractions and Advantages as a Home for Immigrants, compiled by the Board (Bureau) of Immigration, Statistics, and Agriculture, and published in Raleigh in 1876.

From the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
From the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Want to see more geological maps of North Carolina? Check out these images from the NC Maps web site, found by using the search term “geology” on the NC Maps home page. On a future post, we’ll show a few local/regional North Carolina geological maps that haven’t yet found their way to the NC Maps web site. Comments, questions, or suggestions? Please use the “Leave a Reply” box below. Thanks!


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