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From the Serial Set: Visualizing Yellowstone

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.

Black and white map depicting the physical geographical characteristics of the Yellowstone National Park.

United States Department Of The Interior, Hayden, F. V., Hergesheimer, E., Bien, J. & Geological Survey Of The Territories, U. S. (1871) Yellowstone National Park. [S.l] [Map] Library of Congress Geography & Map Division //hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g4262y.ye000023.

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.)

Black and white map of the political and physical borders of Yellowstone National Park. Boundary lines include the Park itself in blue, the Timber Reserve in green, the boundaries according to Senate Bill no. 1763 in pink, and the boundaries according to Senate Bill 1302 and House Bill 7 in yellow.

Yellowstone National Park boundaries. [S.l] [Map] Library of Congress Geography & Map Division, //hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g4262y.ye000018.

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.

Watercolor painting depicting the Castle Geyser erupting in the background, with a blue spring basin in the foreground. The sky is gray and the surrounding landscape is red and rocky.

“Castle Geyser and Beautiful Spring. Upper Geyser Basin.” (1882) From “Report on the Geology of Yellowstone National Park” reprinted in Serial Set vol. 2056. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

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)

Watercolor illustration depicting the reddish rocks and slopes of the Great Canyon of the Yellowstone River. The sky is a pale blue. Outcroppings of trees are visible atop some of the rocky peaks.

“Grand Canon [sic] of the Yellowstone River.” (1882) From “Report on the Geology of Yellowstone National Park” reprinted in Serial Set vol. 2056. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

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.)

Watercolor illustration of the Great Blue Spring, a blue pool in the midst of reddish, rocky land. The sky is pale blue with gray clouds, and a rock formation with faded green shrubbery is visible in the background.

“Great Blue Spring. Lower Geyser Basin.” (1882) From “Report on the Geology of Yellowstone National Park” reprinted in Serial Set vol. 2056. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

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!

Watercolor illustration depicting the pink terraces, reddish-pink rock faces along a hill with flat tops. Hot springs are indicated amongst the rock in pale blue pools. A winding trail runs to the left hand side of the rock, depicting three hikers. The sky is pale blue and white steam rises from the hot springs.

“Pink Terraces. Mammoth Hot Springs Gardiner’s River.” (1882) From “Report on the Geology of Yellowstone National Park” reprinted in Serial Set vol. 2056. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

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