Every so often, our team comes across a Serial Set volume that contains photographs, maps, or plates. These visuals preserve moments in time, and in cases of geographical surveys, the early impressions of a landscape.
In 1871, geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden led the first of his federally-funded explorations into the Wyoming territory that would later become Yellowstone National Park. According to the instructions quoted by Hayden in his second annual progress report, the success of the expedition was reliant upon “secur[ing] as full material as possible for the illustration of [the] report,” including the sketches and photographs.
I searched through the Library’s digital collections to see if any visuals were already preserved, and learned that Thomas Moran’s work is a part of the Popular Graphic Arts Collection. Moran was the artist who accompanied Hayden on the first expedition in 1871. Hayden’s later expeditions were preserved by the Smithsonian Institution, including his 1872 Geological Survey.
According to an 1870 letter from the Secretary of the Interior, which estimates the distribution of the Union Pacific Railroad grant funds to three survey areas, $40,000 was granted to Hayden and his team for their first expedition to explore the Wyoming territory. (H. Exec. Doc. 230, 41st Cong., 2d Sess. (1870) reprinted in Serial Set vol. 1425.)
Shortly afterwards, Yellowstone was established as a national park. In 1872, President Grant signed “An Act to set apart a certain Tract of Land lying near the Head-waters of the Yellowstone River as a public Park” into law. The land was placed under the control of the Department of the Interior, and “all persons who shall locate or settle upon or occupy the [land]…shall be considered trespassers and removed therefrom.” (ch. 24, 17 Stat. 32, 33.)
In 1882, the Report on the Geology of the Yellowstone National Park was published as part of the 12th annual report of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. Volumes 2056 and 2057 of the Serial Set contain the reports of this expedition, along with a new set of illustrations. Paleontology and zoology of the region were covered in the first volume, while the second volume focused on the geological features. These included thermal springs, geysers, lakes, and basins.
The report includes a geographic narrative of the landscape. “The surface features of the Park present a great diversity of character.” (p. 4) “A great part of [the Yellowstone] range is…igneous, and consists chiefly of volcanic conglomerates, the Paleozoic and metamorphic rocks appearing in many places beneath them.” In contrast, the West Gallatin Range “is almost exclusively sedimentary…its chief summit, Electric Peak, is the highest in the Park.” (H. Misc. Doc. 62 pt. 2, 47th Cong., 1st Sess. (1882) reprinted in Serial Set vol. 2057)
The watercolor illustrations included in this post are classified as chromolithographs and credited to “Thomas Sinclair & Son.” The following are from the second volume of the report. (H. Misc. Doc. 62 pt. 2, 47th Cong., 1st Sess. (1882) reprinted in Serial Set vol. XXIV.)
Stay tuned for more visual updates from the Serial Set, and the eventual full digitization of the text and media as it appears in the collection!