The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently finalized the processing of the Benjamin Morgan Harrod Atlases. The collection consists of two atlases once belonging to Harvard-educated civil engineer and architect Benjamin Morgan Harrod (1837-1912), who served on the Mississippi River Commission (MRC) from 1879-1904. Both atlases represent the work of the MRC to investigate the river’s outlet, levee and jetty systems.
The first atlas, Preliminary Map of the Lower Mississippi River ( 1881 through 1885) establishes the commission’s attempt to document the river system between the Ohio River and the Head of the Passes, Louisiana. Engineer Edward Molitor drafted most of the sheets, engraved the title page and compiled the index maps. Sheets provide depth soundings and topographical information for areas near the river; they illustrate cutoffs, landings, and post offices; and record names of property owners. Some sheets – (5) Johnson’s Landing, (18) Madison Parish, (22) Shreve’s Cutoff and (28) New Orleans – include penciled annotations.
The second atlas, larger in format, bears the cover title, Detail Charts of the Lower Mississippi River. Based on surveys conducted in the 1870s, the charts record soundings between the Ohio River and the Head of Passes. Under the direction of MRC President and United States Army Corps of Engineers Major Cyrus Ballou Comstock (1831-1910), New York lithographer and cartographer Julius Bien (1826-1909) printed the 69 chart sheets in 1890 (detail image above).
Image above: United States Mississippi River Commission. Survey of the Mississippi River [Projected from a trigonometrical survey made in 1876-77 and 1879-80]. St. Louis, MO: Mississippi River Commission, 1890. [Note: Title on the cover is Detail Charts of the Lower Mississippi River from the Mouth of the Ohio River to the Head of Passes, Louisiana]. Julius Bien, lithographer.