Studying the West, 1874

 The 1874 Hayden Survey visited Colorado. The team included surveyors and geologists, photographers and artists. They travelled with horses and mules through remote and rugged territory to record geographic features of the state.

Photographers captured surveyors working in precarious places.


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They made detailed notes about each photograph:

 “Arastra Gulch, looking up from across the Animas, which is here sunk far out of sight, in the gorge running across the foreground of the ravine. The wrecks of the old arrastras, that were put in some 12 or 14 years ago, in Baker’s time, have given the gulch its name. It was also worked in that time for gold in placers, but with no success. It is now more favorably known through its silver mines, which are among the richest of this region. San Juan County, Colorado. 1874.”

Sometimes they took stereo photographs   like this one of Dr. Hayden looking over the shoulder of sketch artist Walter Paris.

Sketch of rock formation by a Hayden Survey artist.

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Photographs by William Henry Jackson from the U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library

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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.