George Gauld was a Scottish painter and marine surveyor, active in America from the 1760s onwards. In 1764 Gauld was appointed by the Admiralty as ‘Surveyor of the Sea Coasts & Harbours of Florida’, as he himself termed the role, tasked with covering not only the Florida peninsula, but also the extent of the Gulf coast as far as the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans.
Gauld was a talented and diligent surveyor; over the next 20 years, he produced a large number of manuscript charts and surveys. Unfortunately, he was not to publish any in his own right in his lifetime; his plan of Tampa Bay was pirated for William Stork’s ‘History of Florida’ (1765) and his chart of Pensacola Harbour was published by Joseph Frederick Wallet des Barres.
His surveying work was brought to an end with the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, when attacks by American privateers made the task too dangerous; he returned to Pensacola, and served as a volunteer during the siege of that place by the French and Spanish in 1779. When the town fell, the victorious Spanish demanded that he surrender his manuscript, but he was able to negotiate an arrangement whereby the Spanish could copy the charts, returning the originals to Gauld. These he carried away with him into captivity, in Havana, then to New York and then on to London. Gauld died shortly after, presumably from the privations of his imprisonment. However, Gauld’s death left his wife, Ann, in dire straits; his executor negotiated the sale of the manuscripts to the London map publisher, William Faden, who saw several of the charts into print, from 1790 onwards; Faden later sold the chart side of his business to the Admiralty, and these materials formed the basis of the early Admiralty charts of Florida, the Gulf Coast and the treacherous waters of the region.