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A Selective Bibliography of Exploration
Relating to the United States


by William H. Goetzmann
University of Texas at Austin

Part III. Post Civil War Exploration

Much of the exploration of the United States after the Civil War was undertaken by four great western surveys sponsored by the U.S. government, i.e., those of Powell, King, Hayden and Wheeler. The best book on this subject is Richard Bartlett, Great Surveys of the American West, Norman, OK, 1962. But for more detail see Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire, op. cit., and especially pp. 355-389 on the important California Geologic Survey. Also see Thomas Manning, Government in Science: The U.S. Geological Survey, 1867-1894, U. of Kentucky Press, Lexington, KY, 1967.

The first of the sweeping explorations and surveys was not a federal undertaking but a state project harkening back to the state geological surveys in the East in the first half of the 19th Century. For a prototype see Michele L. Aldrich, New York State Natural History Survey, 1836-1842, Ithaca, NY, 2000, or Keene Ferguson, Geology and Politics in Frontier Texas, 1845-1909, U. of Texas Press, Austin, TX, 1967. The best books on The California Geological Survey—a dramatic exploration of California's Sierras, are Clarence King, Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, J.R. Osgood, Boston, MA, 1872, repr. Frances Farquhar, NY, 1935, and Lippincott, Philadelphia, PA, 1960. Edwin T. Brewster, Life and Letters of Josiah Dwight Whitney, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1909, and William H. Brewer, Up and Down in California, Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT, 1930.

The "Great Surveys" begin with the army sponsored Wheeler Surveys beginning in 1869. See Lt. George M. Wheeler, United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian, Washington, Annual Reports, 1869-1883 and Final Reports I-VII (1889) plus 14 Unclassified Publications. The only biography of Wheeler is Doris O. Dowdy, George Montague Wheeler: the Man and the Myth, Ohio Univ. Press, Athens, OH, 1993. This is an exposé of Wheeler more than a biography. Clarence King's survey was confined to the western 40th parallel and was called United States Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel, Annual Reports to the Secretary of War, 8 vols., 1871-1878 and, an important 7 vols., of Final Reports including King, Systematic Geology, plus an atlas. The best biography of King is Thurman Wilkins, Clarence King, a Biography, revised and enlarged, U. of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 1988. But also see Asbury Harpending, The Great Diamond Hoax, James H. Barry, San Francisco, 1913, repr. U. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1958. Ferdinand V. Hayden's Survey was entitled United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, Annual Reports, Washington, D.C. 1867-1878, and Thirteen Final Reports, Washington, D.C. 1873-1890, plus a long series of bulletins down to 1882 and eleven "Unclassified Publications" all Washington, D.C. 1872-1877. The most important of Hayden's surveys were in 1871 and 1872 when, with a photographer and later the artist Thomas Moran he entered and explored the Yellowstone region. William H. Jackson's photos and Thomas Moran's paintings helped earlier lobbyists and the lobbyist, N.P. Langford create the world's first national wilderness park. Hayden was not the discoverer of the Yellowstone Park area. The best account of that is N.P. (Nathaniel Pitt) Langford, The Discovery of Yellowstone Park, 1870, NP, 1905, repr. Pb U. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1972. Also see Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire, op. cit. pp. 401-406. There are two recent biographies of Hayden: Mike Foster, Strange Genius: the Life of Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, Roberts Rinehart, Univ. of Colorado Press, Boulder, CO, 1994., and James G. Cassidy, Ferdinand V. Hayden, Entrepreneur of Science, U. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2000. Other books that relate to Yellowstone are Thurman Wilkins, Thomas Moran, Artist of the Mountains, U. of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1998 and Aubrey L. Haines, The Yellowstone Story, A History of Our First National Park, repr. Univ. Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 1977. An account of Hayden's excursion in Jackson Hole south of Yellowstone is Orrin H. Bonney and Lorraine G. Bonney, Battle Drums and Geysers, Sage Books the Swallow Press, Chicago, IL, 1970.

John Wesley Powell, the fourth of the "Great Survey" leaders began by a daring expedition down the raging Colorado River in 1869. His account which conflates his two trips down the river is John Wesley Powell, Report Upon the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1875, repr., Dover Press, NY, 1967. A good account of Powell's second trip down the Colorado is Frederick Dellenbaugh, A Canyon Voyage, Putnam & Sons, NY, 1908, repr., Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT, pb 1962. Powell's exploits are recorded as Reports of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. They begin with his accounts of his first two Colorado River expeditions printed as 42nd Cong., 2nd Sess., H.R. Misc. Doc. 173 and 43rd Cong., 1st Sess., H.R. Misc., Doc. No. 265, 1874 and Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries, Explored in 1870, 1871 and 1872, under the direction of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1875, and continue with a series of classic "Final Reports" which include his Report on the Uinta Mountains, 1876, G.K. Gilbert's Report on the Henry Mountains, 1880, and Powell's important Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States: With a More Detailed Account of the Lands of Utah, 1877. For Powell and the eventual creation of the United States Geological Survey and the Bureau of American Ethnology see Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire, op. cit., pp. 530-601. The best biographies of Powell are William C. Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, Princeton, NJ, 1962, Wallace Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1954, and repr., Penguin, NY, 1992. And most recently, Donald Worster, A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell, Oxford U. Press, NY, 2001.

Introduction || Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 || Conclusion

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