Surveying the American West

In 1867 Congress authorized the first survey of the western territories of the United States. The purpose was to study the geology and natural resources of this vast area.

The Liberty Cap, Pleasant Park, Douglas County, Colorado. 1874.

Four great surveys were led by: Clarence King, graduate of Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School; Ferdinand V. Hayden, M.D., a medical doctor who had been exploring the Great Plains since 1853; John Wesley Powell, Professor of Geology at Illinois State Normal University; and Lieutenant George Wheeler, an Army Engineer. In addition to trained surveyors and geologists, these teams included artists and photographers who captured images of the areas being mapped and writers who described not only the landscape but the experiences of the team.

Photo by William Henry Jackson from the 1874 Hayden Survey.


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