A New York dealer in antique maps and rare books claims to have found the first map of Salt Lake City.
Paul Cohen, of Cohen and Taliaferro, recently obtained the original sheepskin plat map of the "Great City of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake" and plans to have it on display at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, which runs April 7-10.
"This is a major cartographical discovery, probably the most important Mormon document in private hands," Cohen said. "I can't think of any cartography more significant for Salt Lake City. This is map No. 1 of your city. How many other cities can say that? I don’t think any other city in the world can say that."
According to Cohen, Brigham Young assigned Henry Sherwood and Orson Pratt to survey the Salt Lake Valley on July 28, 1847. Sherwood, the city's first surveyor, used ink and thick, flexible sheepskin to create the plat map, which he signed and retained during the city's construction years.
Sherwood passed the plat map to his successor, Jesse W. Fox, who used it in planning other Utah cities settled by Mormons, Cohen said.
One of several references to the map was found in a Deseret News article published in 1893. Under the headline, "Salt Lake's First Survey," Elder George Q. Cannon, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote about Fox showing him the map.
The map, which measures 21.5 by 11.25 inches with one end nailed to a wooden roller, remained in the Fox family for several generations. Cohen obtained it from a member of the family, he said. He declined to discuss the map's financial value.
"As the earliest map of one of the most important and intriguing cities in America, the plat is a fundamental document in Mormon and western history," said Cohen, an author and longtime cartographer in the rare map business.
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