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Sheboygan Harbor, Wisconsin

James D. Graham, U.S. Topographical Engineers

Harboring Resentment
An 1856 map of the Sheboygan harbor documents the town’s frustration with the federal government.

Although this map was produced by the U.S. Topographical Engineers, it contains an interesting disclaimer:

The harbor piers, here laid down, were constructed entirely by the local authorities of the City and County of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The United States had no agency in their construction whatever.

Behind the statement lies a record of local exasperation with the federal government. Early developers repeatedly requested funding from Congress to help with harbor improvements. Congress did pay for construction of a lighthouse in 1839, but the small community had to pay for other early harbor improvements with local money. Finally, in 1852, Congress appropriated a modest amount for the harbor.

Incoming settlers and goods and outgoing lumber and agricultural products made Sheboygan a busy port and shipbuilding center. Lake Michigan served as Sheboygan’s major artery of transportation until the 1870s.

This map is number 43 in a series of harbor plans produced by James D. Graham, a major in the Topographical Engineers. Graham produced it before the Civil War, as part of his annual report to the Topographic Bureau. At the time, Graham was in charge of harbor improvements on Lake Michigan. The map was lithographed in Chicago, Graham’s headquarters.