BECAUSE POWELL’S WORK proliferated in so many directions and influenced in so many ways so many kinds of people, not only during his lifetime but since, a proper list of writings consulted in the preparation of his biography would be enormous. It would, ideally, cover everything of importance on the physical history and development of the West after the Civil War; and through its extension into the history of exploration, of the Indian, of the earth sciences, and of irrigation and reclamation, it could be indefinitely lengthened back into the past and on into the future. I have therefore omitted any formal bibliography from this book.

All titles directly utilized or specially germane are cited in the notes. There are some which have been used and quoted so consistently throughout the text that they deserve a summary listing:

Adams, Henry, The Education of Henry Adams (Modem Library ed.).

Bell, William A., New Tracks in North America (London, 2nd ed., 1870).

The Century Association, Clarence King Memoirs (New York, 1904).

Clawson, Marion, Uncle Sam’s Acres (New York, 1951).

Darrah, William Culp, Powell of the Colorado (Princeton, 1951).

Dellenbaugh, Frederick, The Romance of the Colorado River (New York, 1902).

DeVoto, Bernard, The Course of Empire (Boston, 1952).

Garland, Hamlin, A Son of the Middle Border (New York, 1925).

Gilbert, Grove Karl, et al., John Wesley Powell, a Memorial (Chicago, 1904).

Malin, James C., Grasslands of North America (Lawrence, Kansas, 1947).

Peffer, Louise, The Closing of the Public Domain (Palo Alto, Calif., 1951).

Schuchert, Charles, and C. M. LeVene, O. C. Marsh, Pioneer in Paleontology (New Haven, 1940).

Shannon, Fred A., The Farmer’s Last Frontier (New York, 1935).

Smith, Henry Nash, Virgin Land (Cambridge, Mass., 1951).

Stanton, Robert Brewer, and J. M. Chalfant, Colorado River Controversies (New York, 1931).

Webb, Walter, The Great Plains (Boston, 1931).

In addition, the Reports of the United States Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, J. W. Powell in Charge, especially G. K. Gilbert, Report on the Geology of the Henry Mountains (Washington, D. C., 1877); J. W. Powell, Report on the Geology of the Eastern Portion of the Uinta Mountains and a region of country adjacent thereto (Washington, D. C., 1876); Powell, Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions (Washington, D. C., 1878); and Clarence Edward Dutton, Report on the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah (Washington, D. C., 1880).

Also the Annual Reports and Bulletins of the United States Geographical and Geological Survey of the Territories, which accumulated into a bulky library between 1867 and 1878.

Also the Annual Reports of the United States Geological Survey, as well as the valuable series of Geological Survey Monographs, especially C. E. Dutton, The Tertiary History of the Grand.Canyon District, with Atlas (Washington, D. C., 1882).

Also the Annual Reports of the Bureau of Ethnology, especially those between 1879 and 1902; and certain publications of the Smithsonian Institution, especially J. W. Powell, Report on the Exploration of the Colorado River of the West (Washington, D. C., 1875).

For other government publications, particularly those bearing upon the history of the several bureaus considered here, see the notes to the chapters in question.



1 The best short discussions of William Gilpin are in Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land, (Cambridge, Mass.), pp. 35-43; and in Bernard DeVoto, “Geopolitics with the Dew on It,” Harper’s Magazine, CLXXXVIII (March, 1944), 313-23. So far as I am aware, the only biography is that by Hubert H. Bancroft, History of the Life of William Gilpin. A Character Study (San Francisco, 1889).

2 An extraordinarily provocative study of the whole notion of a Great American Desert, together with the opposed myth of the West as the “Garden of‘the World,” is Smith’s Virgin Land, cited above. It will be apparent throughout this book that I have. drawn heavily upon Mr. Smith’s scholarship and conclusions. A summary of the travelers from Pike on who contributed to the belief in such a desert between the 100th meridian and the Rocky Mountains may be found in Ralph C. Morris, “The Notion of a Great American Desert East of the Rockies,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XIII (1926-27), No. 2, 190-200. Mr. Morris’ list is representative, though it might be almost indefinitely expanded. In fact, until settlement began to creep out into the semi-arid plains in the sixties, there was little attempt to controvert the notion of a desert; the principal opposition to the notion came from immigrant brochures or as a result of local patriotism. One of the most effective gestures in this direction was Henry Worrall’s cartoon, “Drouthy Kansas,” first printed on the cover of the Kansas Farmer for November, 1869, and later reproduced in C. C. Hutchin son’s Resources of Kansas, 1871, an immigrant come-on. Even as early as 1866, when Bayard Taylor visited the Colorado mountains, the debate between disparagers and local patriots was on, and Taylor, like many other travelers, felt himself called upon to cast a vote. He sidestepped the issue and closely approximated the truth by seeing not a desert but a steppe, eminently suitable for grazing and with arable oases. Powell’s position in this continued debate, which involved great questions of policy, law, and planning, was absolutely central. At the same time, as Mr. Smith points out, it was one of Powell’s scientific contemporaries and later employees, Dr. Cyrus Thomas, who noted the cyclic increase in rainfall and stream flow following the first settlement and gave official sanction to the folk belief, strenuously promoted by town builders and speculators, that tree planting and sod breaking altered the climate in man’s favor. For Thomas’ cautious and apparently justified statement, see the Preliminary Field Report of the United States Geological Survey of Colorado and New Mexico, 1869. (Hayden Survey, 3rd Annual Report, 1868.)

3 The furious destruction of the buffalo after the coming of the railroad needs no copious documentation. It is one of the shameful memories of the nation. Colonel Henry Inman, in The Old Santa Fe Trail, p. 203, estimated on the evidence of Sante Fe freight reports that the haul of buffalo bones during the seventies and eighties from Kansas alone was 300,000 tons, which represented approximately 31,000,000 buffalo. Colonel Dodge estimated that in 1872 a half million and in 1873 three quarters of a million hides went east by the three western railroads. Amplification of these statistics may be found in E. P. Oberholtzer, The History of the United States since the Civil War (New York, 1917-37), II, 488, and Dan Elbert Clark, The West in American History (New York, 1937), pp. 587-90. Clark mentions a pile of buffalo bones twelve feet high and a half mile long beside the Santa Fe tracks.

4 James C. Malin, in The Grasslands of North America. Malin rightly treats Powell as one of the pioneers in understanding the true problems of the plains, but seems even at this date to bristle at Powell’s “deficiency terminology,” and he puts himself in the awkward position of applauding both Powell and Gilpin for their vision of plains resources and possibilities. Professor Malin, in fact, seems almost as intent upon proving that there is no desert in Kansas as was Reuben Gold Thwaites, who summarized the feeling of the turn of the century in his Brief History of Rocky Mountain Exploration (New York, 1904). “Pike,” wrote Mr. Thwaites, “appears to have been the first to describe the fine grazing plains of Nebraska and western Kansas as a ’desert’ ‘a barrier,’ he says, ‘placed by Providence to keep the American people from a thin diffusion and ruin.’ It took over half a century to destroy this myth of a Great American Desert, for which Pike was responsible. When more gigantic systems of irrigation than now exist shall slake the thirst of these parched plains lying upon the eastern slope of the Rockies; when what is at present being done for comparatively narrow districts at the base of the hills shall be extended as far east as the rainy belt, this desert shall everywhere blossom as the rose. The cattle ranches are fast being subdivided into homesteads, and the cultivable area is rapidly growing before our eyes. We hear now and then the cry of the alarmist; that the limit of settlement in the great West is clearly in sight; but there is still room for tens of millions of vigorous colonists in the upper valleys of the Missouri, the Platte, and the Arkansas, and the great plains stretching north and south between them. The Great American Desert of our childhood may yet become the garden of the land.”

There could not be a more perfect demonstration of Henry Smith’s “garden of the world” syndrome, and in fact Thwaites in talking thus is uncritically repeating the optimism and repudiation of facts that marked William Gilpin. Professor Malin, resenting deficiency terminology and insisting that dust storms are a natural and by no means alarming part of plains life, and have occurred since before settlement and the breaking of the sod, seems to be straining toward the same defensiveness that made Kansas break its neck to put on a gaudy show at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876, two years after drouth and grasshoppers had cleaned the whole state down to the grassroots. And Thwaites’ faith in larger and larger irrigation works presupposes an indefinite amount of water, which is against the facts, or some Martian system of reservoirs and canals like that proposed by Cyrus Thomas in the seventies. This called for a dam from the Platte to the Arkansas, parallel with the Rockies, so as to impound a lake forty miles wide and more than two hundred long against the foot of the mountains. See the U. S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, 3rd Annual Report, 1868, pp. 140-41.


1 Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, p. 52.

2 The thesis of Frederick Jackson Turner is of course peculiarly applicable to education. Education on the frontier was less a matter of schools than of books and men, and especially of men’s attitudes toward books, and men’s hunger for what books contained. Part of the essential background for a homemade education was deprivation, and this was a condition that successive frontiers all provided.

3 I have made no attempt to cover in any detailed way the early years of Major Powell’s life, or to track down his personal relations with his family, his Civil War record, his genealogy, or any of the routine data of the biographer. Since I am attempting only the biography of a career, and that because of the way in which it heightens the typical, I have chosen to deal only with the quality of Powell’s education, which is where both his personal distinction and his typicalness are rooted. Details of his boyhood and youth and war service are available in William Culp Darrah’s useful Powell of the Colorado; in Grove Karl Gilbert, et al., John Wesley Powell, a Memorial; and in W. M. Davis, Biographical Memoir of John Wesley Powell, National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs (Washington, February, 1915).

4 On frontier education, see Meredith Nicholson, The Hoosiers, especially Chapter III, “Bringers of the Light”; also Edward Eggleston’s novels The Hoosier Schoolmaster, The Circuit Rider, and The Hoosier Schoolboy, further light is shed by many of the striking autobiographies of men who grew up out of a frontier background: John Muir, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth; John Burroughs, My Boyhood; William Dean Howells ; A Boy’s Town; Hamlin Garland, A Son of the Middle Border. It would be unwise to omit Mark Twain’s accounts, either fictional or otherwise, of a boyhood on the Mississippi, or to neglect later, imported documents such as Ole Edvard Rölvaag’s Peder Victorious, or Marie Sandaz‘s, Old Jules, or Willa Cather’s plains novels, especially 0 Pioneers and My Antonia. Lincoln’s boyhood is of course part of American folklore; it is given magnificent treatment in Sandburg’s Lincoln, the Prairie Years. The documentation, in fact, is endless; the way the frontier American boy and girl got their education is still so close to our memory and so entangled with our habits of thinking and believing that even after the basic condition of deprivation is outgrown we continue to act and believe in many things according to patterns established in the backwoods of Indiana or the prairies of Illinois or the windy plains of Dakota a hundred or seventy five or fifty years ago.

5 For this first experience in promotion of a scheme within a political context, see Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, pp. 73-82; Lindley Morris, “John Wesley Powell,” unpublished M.A. thesis, Illinois State Normal University (Bloomington, Illinois, 1947); Proceedings, Illinois State Board of Education (1858-75); and the 25th Illinois General Assembly, “An Act concerning the board of education and the Illinois Natural History Society,” Illinois Laws (1867), pp. 21-22.

6 An application to the Smithsonian during this visit brought only the loan of scientific equipment, in exchange for the data Powell’s party should collect. In the following April Powell went again, and again approached Grant, this time with a request for free rations for twenty-five men. Grant approved, but General Eaton, then commissary general of subsistence, disapproved on the ground Powell was neither a member of the army nor a civilian employee of the government. He suggested a special enactment of Congress as the only recourse, which meant calls on Senator Trumbull and Representative Cullom, as well as on Professor Henry, who introduced Powell to Garfield. After numerous objections, and a spirited support from Trumbull, the Senate authorized the drawing of rations for twenty-five men. The principal justification urged in Powell’s behalf was his proposed exploration of the unknown Colorado River and his intention of studying irrigation possibilities in the mountain region.

What Powell actually got out of Congress before 1870 was meager; they looked upon this unknown with suspicion, apparently afraid that he would set an expensive precedent, though for the past two years they had given F. V. Hayden a budget, of $5000 to conduct a geological survey of Nebraska, and the year before had embraced Clarence King’s proposed survey of the 40th parallel.

7 See Schuchert and LeVene, O. C. Marsh, Pioneer in Paleontology. It was the discovery of Protohippus parvulua, a veritable missing link in the history of the horse, that conclusively clinched the theories of Darwin and Huxley. What diggers thought were human bones, dug out of a well, Marsh seized upon with a sure and trained comprehension only possible to a thorough professional.


1 Accounts of the 1868 Powell expedition have been consulted in the following sources: Rocky Mountain News, August 19, 20, 25, and September 1, 1868, and August 9, 1873; Denver Post, September 7, 1935; four letters from Sam Garman to Gertrude Lewis, preserved in the Milner Library, Illinois State Normal University; the diary of William N. Byers for 1868, in the Western History Division of the Denver Public Library; William N. Byers, “First Ascent of Long’s Peak,” The Trail, VII, No. 5 (October 1914); L. W. Keplinger, two articles with the same title as that of Byers, in The Trail, VII, No. 8 (January, 1915), and XII, No. 1 (June, 1919); Thomas F. Dawson, “Lost Alone on Bear River Forty Years Ago,” The Trail, XI, No. 2 (July, 1918); Bloomington Daily Pantagraph (August 27, 1868); and the diaries of Lyle Durley and Rhodes Allen, both of these last available to me through the kindness of William Culp Darrah of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. There is additional information, though somewhat garbled by bad memory and personal animosity, in the recollections of Jack Sumner and Billy Hawkins, cited in Note 3, below, and some refutation of the Sumner-Hawkins accounts in a letter from L. W. Keplinger to Robert Brewster Stanton, November 1, 1919 (Box II of the Stanton Papers, New York Public Library). The Sumner-Hawkins version is developed in R. B. Stanton and J. M. Chalfant, Colorado River Controversies. Some of the party’s activities are reported in Samuel Bowles, The Switzerland of America: A Summer’s Vacation in the Parks and Mountains of Colorado (Springfield, Mass., 1869), pp. 81 ff.; and in Bowles, Our New West. Records of travel between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean (Hartford, Conn., 1869), pp. 502-3.

2 The status of natural science in the Rockies in 1868 was still remarkably uncertain. Collections and observations had been made by Lewis and Clark, Pike, Long, Emory, Frémont, Gunnison, Captain W. W. Anderson, Captain W. L. Carpenter, Lieutenant C. A. H. McCauley, Lieutenant Colonel T. C. Henry, and others, but the peculiarly hazardous conditions of early collecting had caused the loss not only of many of the collections but of notes as well. Lewis arid Clark’s collections were never used as effectively as they might have been; Maximilian of Wied lost practically all of his 1833-34 collections in the burning of the steamboat Assinibolne on the Missouri; Pike’s account is scientifically undocumented; Say and James, scientists with Long’s expedition, suffered constant loss from the wetting and spoiling of specimens, and some of their notes were carried off by deserters; Frémont’s collections were mainly lost. Especially in the region of the Colorado Rockies, there was little that could be called scientifically definite until about 1850, and not too much afterward until the late sixties, when Meek, Hayden, Powell, Marsh, and others had begun their expeditions. See Joseph Ewan, Rocky Mountain Naturalists (Denver, 1950), pp. 1-12 and passim..

3 Sumner’s grudge has been taken up and exploited by several people, notably in Stanton and Chalfant, Colorado River Controversies, and W. W. Bass, Adventures in the Canyons of the Colorado (Grand Canyon, Ariz., 1919). Sumner’s reminiscences are reprinted in Colorado River Controversies; they constitute a revision and slight alteration in detail, though not in tone, of a spiteful letter he wrote from Hanksville, Utah, to the Denver Post on October 13, 1902, after Powell’s death. The original letter is in the Colorado Historical Society archives. Hawkins’ account is reprinted in the Bass booklet and in Colorado River Controversies. Both the Sumner and Hawkins recollections are full of egregious errors of fact, as is a letter from Jack Sumner’s son to Clyde Eddy summarizing his father’s experiences and grievances, which is now in the files of the Utah State Historical Society. The whole controversy is a melancholy and spiteful affair. I have discussed it in detail, hoping thereby to scotch a good many persistent misconceptions, in “Jack Sumner and John Wesley Powell,” Colorado Magazine, XXVI (1949), 61-69.

4 Taylor comments on Sumner’s skill and daring in Colorado: A Summer . Trip, 1866 (New York, 1867).

5 At least the somewhat boastful and tainted testimony of his reminiscences. Sumner’s later tendency was to take credit for all invention, all good management, and all resolution that were demonstrated on the expedition.

6 Because of the grab-bag methods of his early expeditions, and because of confusion that later arose between Illinois State Normal University, the Natural History Society, and the Smithsonian as to who owned parts of the collection, and most of all because of Powell’s own failure to label and catalogue the specimens he brought back, neither the first nor second Rocky Mountain Scientific Exploring Expedition did much to clarify natural science in Colorado. Powell left the Normal museum before he had time to tidy it up, so that whatever the botanical activities of the ladies, they remain unrecorded. But Nellie Thompson later, while living at Kanab with the Powell Survey party, contributed plant specimens to Asa Gray (1872), and there is an astragalus thompsonae that Sereno Watson named for her, as well as a Pentstemon pumilus var. thompsoniae that records her association with Gray. See Ewan, Rocky Mountain Naturalists, p. 321.

7 These constitute a series, on August 19, 20, and 25, and September 1, and reproduce in ampler form the notes in his diary for the same period. My account of the ascent of Long’s Peak is taken from these letters, from Garman’s letters to Gertrude Lewis, and from Keplinger’s articles in The Trail. The Byers article in The Trail is a reprint of his September 1, 1868, letter to the Rocky Mountain News.


1 An account of this junket appears in Samuel Bowles, The Switzerland of America (Springfield, Mass., 1869), pp. 82 ff., and in essentially the same form in his Our New West (Hartford, Conn., 1869), pp. 502-3. See also O. J. Hollister, Life of Schuyler Colfax (New York, 1886), pp. 325 ff.

2 Hollister reports that the wedding ring for Nellie Wade was made from gold dust presented to Colfax in the mountains by a Colorado miner (p. 327, note).

3 Bowles’ trip was part of the extraordinary rush of journalists and editors and artists who after the end of the war began interpreting the opening West, its natives, flora, fauna, scenery, resources, and opportunities, for eastern readers. Horace Greeley, John Hanson Beadle, Samuel Bowles, and L. P. Brockett among the editors; Frenzeny and Tavernier, Alfred Waud, Theodore Davis, Alfred Mathews, Joseph Becker, and Henry Worrall among the artists; Alexander Gardner, T. H. O‘Sullivan, W. H. Jackson, among the photographers, were only a handful among hundreds. The popular journals of the time, especially Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s Monthly, and Century, show a heavy proportion of Western articles and illustrations, and the flood of books by transcontinental travelers can never be said to have ceased entirely. An extremely informative study of the illustrators who made up part of this journalistic gold rush is Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West: 1850-1900 (New York, 1953).

4 The map upon which Powell depended was apparently a General Land Office map drawn by Gorlinski, which was in turn based, presumably, upon various Army reconnoissances and upon the rectangular surveys of the General Land Office so far as they had been extended. The most detailed maps of the region he was planning to enter may or may not have been available to Powell. Clarence King’s maps of the Uinta region were not yet completed, and Macomb’s expeditionary map, drawn by F. W. von Egloffstein in 1859 when Macomb attempted to reach the junction of Green and Grand, would not be published until 1876, though the map bears the date 1860 and may have circulated in the sixties. I have seen no evidence that Powell was yet acquainted with John Strong Newberry, Macomb’s geologist, though the two later became close friends. Unless he had Macomb’s map, Powell thus had to rely on the Gorlinski map (see Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, p. 108, note), the reports of Frémont, Ives, and Berthoud, and the Pacific Railroad Reports, especially those of Lieutenant Gunnison and Lieutenant Beckwith (Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, made under the direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-54, II [Washington, 1855]). The map to accompany Beckwith’s report was published in Vol. XI. It was drawn by von Egloffstein from notes by Richard Kern, and perpetuated several early misconceptions, notably in calling what was later known as the Gunnison River the Grand, and calling the Grand above its junction with the Gunnison, the Blue. It left just as blank as the Gorlinski map that tantalizing region along the Green and Colorado between the Uinta Valley and the mouth of the Little Colorado.

5 In spite of the fact that every mile of the canyons has been surveyed and resurveyed, this sort of tale is common even today. The appetite for the marvelous dies hard.

6 The evidence that Powell had talked to White comes only from the journal of George Y. Bradley, though Sumner’s journal also mentions the White claim (with derision). I have not encountered anyone who has run the Colorado canyons, or knows them well, who credits White’s tale. Robert Brewster Stanton painstakingly traced the story down, interviewed White and others, and came to the conclusion that White was sadly mistaken, though he may not have deliberately lied. Stanton believed that White had run only the final minor stretch of canyons, now part of Lake Mead, from the Grand Wash Cliffs to Callville, and was never in the Grand Canyon proper at all. (Colorado River Controversies, pp. 70-93.) Yet as late as 1917 there were champions of White’s claim to the glory of first running the river. See Thomas F. Dawson, “The Grand Canyon,” an article giving the credit of first traversing the Grand Canyon of the Colorado to James White, a Colorado gold explorer, who it is claimed made the voyage two years previous to the expedition under the direction of Major J. W. Powell in 1869. 65th Cong., 1st Sess., Senate Document No. 42. Dawson makes much of the fact that Powell knew of White’s voyage, and so gained courage to run the river. There is no doubt, from the evidence of Bowles, Bradley, and Sumner, that Powell did know of White, and had perhaps talked to him. Neither is there any doubt that both he and his men thought White’s yarn a fable. Years later, Powell told William H. Brewer of Yale that he was convinced before he ran it that the Colorado had no falls. His reason was not White’s story, but the scientific conclusion that a river so loaded with silt would very soon scour its bed down to something like an even grade. See Wm. H. Brewer, “John Wesley Powell,” American Journal of Science, XIV (November, 1902).

7 A search of the archives of the Denver Public Library’s Western History Division, as well as those of the Colorado Historical Society, has produced little on any of these mountain men except Sumner and O. G. Howland. What little is known of each of them is summarized by Darrah in Utah Historical Quarterly , XV (1947).


1 Sources for this part of the 1868 expedition are the Allen and Durley diaries; Garman’s letters to Gertrude Lewis; Dawson, “Lost Alone on Bear River Forty Years Ago;” and to some extent Sumner’s letter to the Denver Post and his reminiscences in Colorado River Controversies.

2 Powell Bottoms is a mile or two below the Rifle Junction, about three miles below Meeker. Nathan Meeker, when he was made Indian agent to the White River Utes in 1878, utilized as agency buildings some of the cabins erected by Powell’s party. A letter from Meeker to Powell dated December 12, 1878, nine months before Meeker and all his men were massacred, shows not the slightest premonition that the Utes were restive. On the contrary, Meeker optimistically outlines the improvements he is making, and invites Powell back to observe the changes that have been made. (National Archives, Powell Survey, Letters Received, VIII, No. 50.)


1 Captain Macomb, working down the incredibly cut-up sandrock country toward the junction, had got close enough to see from a high point what he thought must be the confluence of the canyons of the Grand and Green, but had been unable to get down to the rivers. As I have pointed out (Chapter 4, note 4) Newberry’s geological report, though earlier in time than Powell’s exploration, was not published until 1876, the year after Powell’s Exploration of the Colorado River of the West appeared. Macomb’s map may have been available to him, though he never mentioned it, as one might have expected him to do if he knew of it. In modem maps the Grand is called the Colorado.

2 As it turned out, the river party was kept much too busy to pan the sandbars, and the loss and spoilage of provisions kept them from loitering in the canyons. Later Jack Sumner spent several years prospecting in the area. It was while he was working a river placer that Robert Brewster Stanton ran across him on December 13, 1891, and got the first intimations of the ill will with which Powell’s former helper regarded the Major. (Colorado River Controversies, p. xli.)

3 Here too Sumner, and after him Stanton and others, have misstated or misinterpreted facts. Sumner, in conducting his campaign of sour grapes and vilification, claimed that through Senator Trumbull Powell had obtained a government appropriation of $10,000 for the 1869 expedition. He bitterly charged that the boatmen were not paid, that supplies were stingily bought, and so on. Actually Powell had no appropriation whatever aside from the right to draw rations. For a full and specific statement of how his expedition was financed, see his letter to the Chicago Tribune, dated from Green River, Wyoming on May 24, 1869, and published on May 29. It is reprinted with other documents of the expedition in Utah Historical Quarterly, XV, (1947).

4 Now the University of Illinois.

5 The wages paid, or not paid, to the boatmen is one of the most angrily debated details of the expedition. Sumner and Hawkins, in their late attacks, charged Powell with turning them loose all but penniless at the mouth of the Virgin. As he points out in his May 24 letter to the Chicago Tribune, the only money he had for wages was obtained by commuting some of the meat ration into cash. The $75 he is said (Colorado River Controversies, p. 211) to have given Sumner, as well as the few dollars he distributed among the others, probably represented all he had beyond what was necessary to get himself and Walter back east. He gave the two remaining boats to Sumner, Hall, and Bradley. (See Stegner, “Jack Sumner and John Wesley Powell.”) The whole controversy about wages seems to have arisen after Sumner got the erroneous impression that Powell had a government subsidy and was holding out on the men. That it was not something immediate and incurable, a result of the river trip itself, is indicated by the fact that Sumner would have gone on the 1871 expedition if deep snows had not held him up in Colorado, and by the further fact that Hawkins, the other irreconcilable, was for several years after 1870 a packer with Powell Survey parties in southern Utah. There are letters from him to Powell, dated as late as January, 1879, which show him full of friendship and camaraderie — and anxious for a continued job with the survey. Powell Survey, Letters Received, II, No. 33; IX, No. 240.

6 Otis Marston of Berkeley, California, an intense student of the Colorado River and its expeditions, is contemptuous of Powell’s boats. It is impossible not to agree that the craft were clumsy, heavy, and ill suited to the actual conditions on the river, but it may be argued in defense of Powell that those conditions were not known when the party started from Green River. The relative importance of strength and maneuverability would have been easy to misjudge.


1 Eventually, steamers went upriver as far as the mouth of the Virgin.

2 I have put the Adams story together out of a number of sources: the reminiscences of Billy Hawkins, in W. W. Bass, Adventures in the Canyons of the Colorado — lively but unreliable; “Petition of Samuel Adams praying compensation,” Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 17, 41st Cong., 2nd Sess.; “The Colorado River Expeditions of Samuel Adams,” House Miscellaneous Document No. 37, 42nd Cong., 1st Sess.; “Report submitted by Mr. Washburn for the Committee on Claims, February 17. 1875,” Senate Report No. 662, 43rd Cong., 2nd Sess.; letters from R. M. McCormick to J. W. Powell, April 20, 1872, and from Powell to McCormick, same date, Powell Survey, Letters Received, I, Nos. 59-66, 67.; a collection of newspaper references noting Adams’ activities at various times, kindly furnished me by Otis Marston of Berkeley, California; eleven letters from Adams to the San Francisco Chronicle beginning March 8, 1872; and Adams’ own manuscript journal, which exists in two versions in the Henry E. Huntington Library. I have carefully examined and transcribed this journal and compared it with its printed version. It is contradictory and full of plain lies, which grow more extravagant with each editing. The letter from Powell to McCormick and the report of Senator Washburn for the Committee on Claims are basic documents. The first especially summarizes all of Powell’s contacts with Adams, establishes the fact that Hawkins’ “young scientific duck” at Green River was the good captain, and disposes of Adams’ “claims” point by point.

3 On Dickson, see Bernard DeVoto, Across the Wide Missouri, Chapter X; there is a short account of Gibson in Wallace Stegner, Mormon Country (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1942), pp. 128-35.

4 Captain Johnson’s activities on the lower Colorado are summarized in Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, The Romance of the Colorado River, pp. 144-55. The official account of the Ives expedition is the Report upon the Colorado River of the West, explored in 1857 and 1858 (Washington, 1861).

5 A copy of this letter, together with one from General Humphreys to Secretary of War Belknap and three from Adams to Congressman Austin Blair and J. I. Burns about his claims, is preserved with the Adams journal in the Huntington Library.

6 Letter, J. W. Powell to R. M. McCormick, April 20, 1872. Powell Survey, Letters Sent, I, Nos. 59-66.


1 The most recent and most authoritative accounts of the 1869 Powell expedition down the Colorado are Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, and the Utah Historical Quarterly, XV (1947), in which most of the original documents are published and to which several scholars, including Mr. Darrah and Dale L. Morgan, have contributed introductions and notes. The sources include the diary of George Y. Bradley, the partial diaries of Powell and Sumner, and letters of Powell, Walter Powell, and O. G. Howland. Mr. Darrah’s account is based entirely upon these original sources; its weakness is that Mr. Darrah does not personally know the river and its canyons. In my own account I have utilized — some of them through his kindness — the sources known to Mr. Darrah, plus one that has come to light since the publication of Mr. Darrah’s book. This is the first part of Jack Sumner’s journal, covering the stretch from Green River to the mouth of the Uinta. Otis Marston, who discovered it in the files of a St. Louis newspaper, is properly the one to discuss it first. It is enough here to remark that it is rather fuller, and with more literary flourishes, than the long-known second half, and that it corroborates the Bradley journal and the Howland letters on the details of the wreck at Disaster Falls. None of the original journals indicates any of the wrangling, bad feeling, or failure of command that have been later charged against Powell by Sumner, Hawkins, Stanton, and others. Not even Sumner’s does; his newly discovered journal, in fact, contradicts some of his later statements.

2 Beckwourth, in The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth (1856), says that he rescued General Ashley from this cataract, which he seems to have located either at the foot of Brown’s Hole or at the mouth of Flaming Gorge — in Beckwourth’s words, “where the river enters the Utah mountains.” Actually, Ashley’s journal, long supposed to be that of William Sublette, and now in the Missouri Historical Society archives, indicates that Ashley’s near-drowning occurred in what Powell would name Split Mountain Canyon, and Beckwourth’s own account indicates elsewhere that when Ashley’s detachment ran the canyons of the Green, Beckwourth was clear over on the other side of the Uintas with Clyman’s and then with Fitzpatrick’s brigade. The whole story of the “Suck,” as well as that of the rescue of Ashley, is fable based on hearsay, and its only purpose was the glorification of Beckwourth.

3 On the Risdon affair, see The Rocky Mountain News, (July 5, 6, and 7, 1869). There are echoes, of varying degrees of gullibility, in many newspapers of the time. The Rocky Mountain News, because of Byers’ close connection with the Powell party, was harder to fool than most; but the whole Risdon episode, in itself a half ghoulish, half amusing piece of backwoods effrontery, is a convincing testimonial to the lack of public knowledge about the area into which Powell was penetrating.

4 On the Hook Expedition, see Dellenbaugh, The Romance of the Colorado River, p. 249, and The Rocky Mountain News (July 16, 1869).

5 Records of the river trip as far as the mouth of the Uinta are thus Howland’s two letters to the Rocky Mountain News, Powell’s five to the Chicago Tribune, Walter Powell’s one to the Chicago Evening Journal, and the first part of Sumner’s journal, all of these published shortly after being written; in addition, letters from Major Powell to Henry Wing and Richard Edwards, President of Normal University, were sent to the papers by their recipients. Of the records not immediately published there were a letter from Andy Hall to his brother, Powell’s own journal and field notes, and the journal which George Bradley kept secretly throughout the journey and which is now in the Library of Congress. All of these except the first part of Sumner’s journal and the letter from Hall are in the Utah Historical Quarterly, XV (1947). It is significant that as the hardships increased, and the expedition went deeper into the wilderness, there were no more communications to the press. Not even after the successful conclusion did any member write up his experiences for the papers, though Powell the following winter made numerous lecture appearances, and wrote a preliminary and important account of the whole expedition which appeared in an English publication, William A. Bell’s New Tracks in North America. Bell talked him into doing this article when they met in the cars on the trip home. The first part of Powell’s field diary has never been found, and is not likely to be of great value if it ever is, unless it is much more full and detailed than the surviving notes. The “official” record of the voyage, though as we shall see subject to much doubt in details, is of course Powell’s Exploration of the Colorado River of the West. It has been reprinted twice, once as The Canyons of the Colorado (Meadville, Penn., 1895, with additions and alterations), and once as First Down the Grand Canyon, in Nelson Doubleday’s Outing Adventure Library, 1915. In this the second and more scientific section is omitted.

6 If, as is probable, Powell had read the classic accounts of western explorations, he would have found plenty of precedent and justification for caution. The most spectacularly successful exploration in all our history, that of Lewis and Clark, was notably sober in its methods. By contrast Zebulon Pike, plunging recklessly over the Colorado Rockies in winter, brought his expedition to near-disaster, crippled some of his men for life, and made himself a sitting duck for the Spaniards to take into custody. Frémont too, in 1848, through his. own recklessness underwent the most ghoulish of trials in the San Juan Mountains, and some of his survivors survived by falling back upon man-meat. Frémont was just as reckless, though in the second instance more successful, when he crossed the mountains westward in midwinter in 1853. On the other hand, the expedition of Major Long in 1820 had suffered if anything from a lack of resolution. It seems clear that Powell did not lack resolution; it is just as clear that he did not intend to fail for lack of reasonable precaution.

7 A distorted version of Ashley’s river explorations, that in The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, was for many years the only one. With the publication of Ashley’s papers, which did not occur until 1918, guesswork about Ashley’s movements was largely eliminated. He made the trip by bullboat through all the Uinta canyons, but left the river after a short attempt to go on through Desolation Canyon below the Uinta Valley. From there he went overland following the Strawberry to its source and thence north and finally east to his rendezvous on Henry’s Fork. See Harrison Clifford Dale, The Ashley-Smith Explorations and the discovery of a central route to the Pacific, , 1822-1829, with the original journals. (Revised edition, Glendale, Calif., 1941. )

8 See particularly The Education of Henry Adams, pp. 309-13, and David A. Dickason, “Henry Adams and Clarence King, the Record of a Friendship,” New England Quarterly, XVII, No. 2 (June, 1944).

9 William Lewis Manly, in Death Valley in ’49 (San Jose, Calif., 1894), tells the story of his trip down the Green in an abandoned barge. He too, like Ashley, left the river in Uinta Valley, discouraged by the Ute chief Walker from trying to go farther in the attempt to reach California by water. Considering the kind of boat they started in, and the rafts they ended with, it was a blessing that they ran into Walker’s band and that Walker, thinking them “Mormonee” as distinguished from “Mericats,” gave them good advice.

10 For the diamond swindle, see The Century Association, Clarence King Memoirs, and James H. Wilkins, ed., The Great Diamond Hoax, and other incidents in the life of Asbury Harpending (San Francisco, 1913). In this, as in other matters relating to King, I have leaned heavily on the findings of Harry Crosby, in “So Deep a Trail: A Biography of Clarence King” (Stanford University unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 1953).

11 Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1869.

12 Sumner, Journal, June 20, 1869.

13 In his letter to The Rocky Mountain News, July 17, 1869.

14 J. W. Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River of the West, p. 25.

15 One contributing cause of the wreck, as of a lot of their later trouble, was the sluggishness and lack of maneuverability of the boats.

16 Later experience on the river has demonstrated that a free-running boat, especially if unloaded, will generally halt of itself in an eddy or reversing current. The Powell party, without means of knowing this, had every apparent reason to think the Maid of the Canyon was lost.

17 Dated June 18, 1869; published August 20, 1869.

18 Rocky Mountain News, July 17, 1869.

19 Renamed, on the second expedition, Split Mountain Canyon.

20 The mouths of White and Uinta have changed their relative position since 1869. The Uinta (now called the Duchesne ) now enters the Green nearly opposite the mouth of the White.

21 Sumner, Journal, July 6, 1869.

22 Captain Pardon Dodds, the agent, was away at the time, and Powell dealt with an assistant named Lake. Dodds was later employed as a guide and packer by Powell’s survey, and for a while was a partner with Powell in a Uinta Valley cattle ranch.

23 Letter to the Denver Post, October 13, 1902. See also Stegner, “Jack Sumner and John Wesley Powell.”

24 The amount of actual dislike for Walter Powell is hard to assess. The late and unreliable reminiscences of Sumner and Hawkins make much of it, and ornament their tales with instances of near-fights, always heroically broken up by Hawkins or Sumner, between Walter Powell and Dunn, or Dunn and the Major. Bradley’s journal, aside from reporting an increasing dissatisfaction as supplies dwindled and danger grew, makes no specific recording of such incidents; neither does Sumner’s journal, and neither do any of Powell’s several versions of the trip. But Walter Powell, hurt mentally by the war, was not asked to accompany the second expedition, and according to Darrah (Utah Historical Quarterly, XV, 89) was by the early seventies so unstable that he could not work regularly. He never recovered from his derangement. It is entirely probable that he was a difficult companion on such a tense and strenuous trip as this one.

25 The original of this letter is in the library of the Grand Canyon National Park. It is published in the Utah Historical Quarterly, XVI-XVII, 506-7.


1 Accounts differ on the character of this stretch of river. Sumner’s journal mentions on July 7 that there is no timber in the canyon, though there is on the summits. The expedition was led to name the stretch Desolation Canyon, and Bradley speaks of the especially desolate view from the rims. But E. O. Beaman’s photographs taken in 1871 show straggling trees, and Otis Marston, one of the most experienced of modem river boatmen, has found cottonwoods and greenery all the way along Desolation — perhaps grown since 1869, since cottonwoods are short-lived and fast-growing trees. The natural bridges, he says, are two: one high on the skyline, and one at the head of a side gorge.

2 This rescue, which is the subject of one of the more imaginative illustrations in Powell’s 1875 Scribner’s articles about the voyage, might well have been thought somewhat colored and dramatized if it were not for the corroboration of Bradley’s journal entry for July 8: “In one place Major having but one arm couldn’t get up so I took off my drawers and they made an excellent substitute for rope and with that assistance he got up safe.”

3 Here again Marston disagrees with the 1869 journals. Bradley’s journal for July 9 speaks of “a succession of rappids or rather a continuous rapid with a succession of cataracts for 20 miles.” Sumner’s journal for the same date records “20 miles with that number of rapids, some of them very bad.” Marston, in a note to the author on February 6, 1953, says, “If they found 20 miles of continuous cataracts the river must have changed. I can find no evidence of a change that marked.” Powell’s own field journal is missing the entries from July 7-19, inclusive. The records of the second Powell Expedition are of little value for comparison because the second expedition ran this stretch more than a month later in the season, and in very low water.

4 Some of Powell’s later detractors, notably Stanton and Chalfant, have made much of the fact, established first in Hawkins’ reminiscences, that Powell wore a life preserver, as if this fact somehow reduced the heroism of his exploration. It is hard to see how the wearing, of a life preserver by a one-armed man is in any way shameful, or why Powell’s failure to mention the existence of the preserver in his Exploration constitutes deliberate suppression of facts.

5 See Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economfcal Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, made under the direction of the Secretary of War, in 1853-54, Vol. II (Washington, 1855).

6 As has been indicated before, Macomb’s map does not seem from any outward evidence to have been known to Powell. It was published in Captain J. N. Macomb, Report of the Exploring Expedition from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Junction of the Grand and Green Rivers of the Great Colorado of the West, in 1859 (Washington, 1876).

7 Sumner; Journal, July 16, 1869.


1 My account of Adams’ journey down the Blue and the Grand is taken from his manuscript journal. Though there is no real reason for giving much credence to any single detail in either of the versions, I have in general stuck to the original draft, as likely to be somewhat closer to what Adams thought he saw at the time. A dressed-up version, prepared in connection with Adams’ claim for compensation from the United States, is in Colorado River Expeditions of Samuel Adams, House Miscellaneous Document No. 37, 42nd Cong., 1st Sess.

2 Adams, Journal, July 12, 1869.

3 There is some reason to believe that Powell’s first plan was to explore the Grand rather than the Green. At least there is an item in the Rocky Mountain News for November 6, 1867, which reports Powell’s departure for the east, and continues: “He will return to the territory next spring to prosecute his scientific labors, and will go down the Grand to its junction with the Colorado River.”

4 Adams, Journal, August 1, 1869.

5 Fragmentary second version of Adams’ journal bound in with the first; single page numbered 17.


1 The writing of this report and the vexed question of its reliability is discussed in Part II, Chapter 5.

2 Powell, Exploration, pp. 7-9.

3 Bradley, Journal, July 23, 1869.

4 See Bass, Adventures in the Canyon of the Colorado.

5 Bradley, Journal, July 29, 1869.

6 Ibid., July 30, 1869.

7 Ibid., July 31, 1869.

8 See Powell, Journal, August 4, 1869, where he calls the Paria “Ute Creek.” Sumner’s journal reads, for August 4, “Pulled out early and made a run of 38 miles, that brought us to the old Spanish Crossing between Salt Lake and New Mexico, called the Escalanta ‘El vade de los Padres.’”

9 The modem highway or rail crossings of the Green-Colorado canyons are precisely where the crossings were in Powell’s time — at Green River, Wyoming; at Jensen, in the Uinta Valley; at Greenriver, Utah, the old Spanish or Gunnison’s Crossing; and at the mouth of the Paria where the ferry has been superseded by the Navajo Bridge. There have been none added except the ferry at Hite, the old Dandy Crossing, at the upper end of Glen Canyon, which permits an undependable connection between Hanksville and Blanding, Utah. A bridge was scheduled to be built at Hite in the summer of 1953.

10 Bradley, Journal, August 4, 1869.

11 For the story of the Brown-Stanton Expedition, see Robert Brewster Stanton, “Through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado,” Scribner‘s, VIII (November, 1900), 591-613; and F. A. Nims, “Through Mysterious Cañons of the Colorado,” Overland Monthly (March, 1892), pp. 253-70. There are secondary accounts in Dellenbaugh’s Romance of the Colorado River and in Lewis R. Freeman, The Colorado River, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (New York, 1923). The Stanton papers, including Stanton’s diaries and notebooks, are in the New York Public Library.

12 Lieutenant Ives, after fighting his way upriver as far as the mouth of Diamond Creek, led a party overland across the Colorado Plateau to the Hopi towns and across the Navajo country to Fort Defiance. It was a side excursion from this land party that tried unsuccessfully to reach the mouth of the Little Colorado.

13 Bradley, Journal, August 10, 1869.

14 Ibid.

15 Sumner, Journal, August 10, 1869.

16 Bradley, Journal, August 11, 1869.

17 Though the name “Grand Canyon” was in use before his expedition, Ives used the name “Big Canyon” in his report and map. Powell chose to return to “Grand Canyon,” and his choice has stuck.

18 Powell, Exploration, p. 80.

19 Jacob Hamblin, Henry Miller, and Jesse Crosby, three Mormons, took a sixteen-foot skiff from the foot of Grand Wash Cliffs to Call’s Landing, later Callville, in 1867. In his Exploration, Powell says ( p. 102) that he had the manuscript journal of that two-day trip with him on his own, so that he had fairly accurate information about the river below the Grand Wash. No copy of the Hamblin-Miller-Crosby journal is now known to exist. All of this stretch of river, which before Powell had been traversed by Ives, Hamblin, and probably James White, is now under Lake Mead. See Utah Historical Quarterly, XV, 71, note.


1 In practice, the moving power of a stream is conditioned by numerous unpredictable factors such as the smoothness of the bed, the straightness of the course, and so on. An early and extremely lucid discussion of the corrasive and moving power of streams is in G. K. Gilbert, Report on the Geology of the Henry Mountains, in which Gilbert develops many observations first made by Powell himself.

2 Evidence of the morbid effect of being confined in the dark and narrow inner canyon is contained in most of the river journals. The imaginary effects upon people who have not been there or who let their imaginations run free are much more extreme, as in many of the early canyon illustrations, where towering height, acute narrowness, and cavernous darkness are wildly exaggerated. In this key, simply as random examples, see the picture of James White losing his companion, George Strole, in Bell, New Tracks in North America; or the illustrations made by F. W. von Egloffstein for the Ives report — the first pictures made of the Grand Canyon — which are reproduced elsewhere in this book; or Frederick Dellenbaugh’s painting, “Running the Sockdologer,” reproduced in his Romance of the Colorado River, p. 329; or many of the Thomas Moran woodcuts illustrating Powell’s Exploration of the Colorado River of the West.

3 Bradley, Journal, August 22, 1869. Bradley several times remarks how much farther it is from the Little Colorado to Grand Wash than they expected it to be from Mormon estimates. The reason is simply that through the plateaus into which it has cut the Grand Canyon the Colorado runs a very tortuous course. At its junction with the Little Colorado it is flowing almost due south; it shortly swings west, then northwest, then almost south again, then north, then again west, then southwest, then south, and then, with many minor twists, northwest to its break out of the Grand Wash Cliffs.

4 They seem to have had no special trouble with Dubendorff Rapid, a mile below the end of the Middle Granite Gorge, though it is held by modem boatmen to be one of the twenty stiffest on the river.

5 Stanton thought this rapid the worst on the entire Colorado, but Julius Stone, on his excursion in 1909 (Julius F. Stone, Canyon Country [New York, 1932]), found it neither so rough as Powell’s report had led him to expect, nor obscured by any turns. Except for a brief time when a flood scoured it out in 1952, the rapid has long been buried under Lake Mead silt, but photographs taken before the lake filled in show it as a straight reach with a creek coming in on each side to form an almost perfect cross. It was up the northern cross canyon that the Howlands and Dunn made their way out onto the Shivwits Plateau. Powell’s statement that after running the rapid they were out of sight of the three men is certainly an error — an error which is perhaps less damning if we remember that Powell’s notes by this time were almost in code, and that he never saw this rapid again, since the second Powell expedition left the river at Kanab Wash. Stone, a contentious and literal-minded man, was undoubtedly right in rejecting some of Powell’s detailed statements of fact; he was undoubtedly wrong in others, for he was himself deceived by the profound changes that a difference in water level can make in the canyons. Otis Marston’s investigations of river history have indicated that Separation, while it existed, capsized more boats than any other on the river. (Letter of February 6, 1953.)

6 Bradley, Journal, August 27, 1869.

7 The only corroboration for this dramatic story of Powell’s is in Hawkins’ reminiscences, notoriously unreliable and written down years later, after he could have read the Powell report and could easily have confused details in it with things actually remembered. Nevertheless, Hawkins does report that Powell got stuck on a cliff and had to be rescued by oars pressed into crevices so as to afford him a foothold. The difficulty is that Hawkins places the incident far back in the Canyon of Lodore, on the day when Powell was on the cliff and the camp was swept by a flash fire, the day when Hawkins lost most of the messkit in the Green. It is conceivable that Hawkins was right, and that Powell deliberately moved the story for dramatic effect to a more climactic place in his narrative. But Hawkins within two lines of telling this story has jumped from Lodore to the junction of Grand and Green, and is so obviously scrambling his memories that his account is worth very little.

8 Bradley, Journal, August 27, 1869.

9 Ibid.

10 Powell, Exploration, pp. 98-9.

11 Bradley, Journal, August 28, 1869.

12 There is little point in dragging a reader through the dreary controversy over the precise status in history of the three who left the party. Powell himself never called them deserters, and in his report spoke of them as “faithful men.” Much of the debate was stirred up by the omission of the names of the three from the Powell monument on the south rim of the Grand Canyon — an omission which, however unfortunate, can hardly be blamed upon Powell, since he had been a dozen years dead when the monument was unveiled.

13 Powell’s detractors, concentrating on the details, in which he was sometimes unmistakably inaccurate, have questioned his statement that the party waited and shot off guns to see if the three would not rejoin them. Both Powell’s account in Bell’s New Tracks in North America and his Exploration say that they waited two hours. Sumner’s journal mentions no wait. Bradley’s, probably the most reliable, says, “The three boys stood on the cliff looking at us [while the party was bailing out after running Separation Rapid] and having waved them adieu we dashed through the next rapid and then into an eddy where we stopped to catch our breath and bail out the water from our now nearly sunken boats.” It was perhaps to this second wait, still within range of the three if they wanted to rejoin the boat party, that Powell referred, though from Bradley’s record it would not seem to have lasted anything like two hours.

14 Powell, Journal, August 28, 1869.

15 This was Lava Cliff, which according to Otis Marston was briefly uncovered in 1952 by the same flood that scoured out Separation Rapid. It seems to have been more scary than dangerous. (Letter of February 6, 1953.)

16 Omaha Republican, September 16, 1869.



1 In attempting to appraise the relationship of Washington as scientific center with the West as scientific frontier I have naturally relied heavily upon the many series of government scientific publications of the eighteen-seventies and eighteen-eighties. These include the reports, monographs, and bulletins of the King, Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler Surveys (see L. F. Schmeckebier, Catalogue and Index of the Publications of the Hayden, King, Powell, and Wheeler Surveys, United States Geological Survey Bulletin 222 [Washington, 1904]); the Annual Reports, beginning in 1879 in each case, of the United States Geological Survey and the Bureau of Ethnology; the Contributions to North American Ethnology begun under the Powell Survey and completed under the Bureau of Ethnology; the monographs of the Bureau of Ethnology and the United States Geological Survey; the Annual Reports of the General Land Office; and certain reports of the Office of Indian Affairs, especially J. W. Powell and G. W. Ingalls, Report of Special Commissioners on the Condition of the Ute Indians of Utah; the Paiutes of Utah, northern Arizona, southern Nevada, and southeastern California; the Go-si-utes of Utah and Nevada; the northwestern Shoshones of Idaho and Utah; and the westem Shoshones of Nevada, and report concerning claims of settlers in the Mo-a-pa Valley, southeastern Nevada. Washington, 1874. The same Washington in which these reports and monographs and bulletins were prepared and pub lished is reflected in Henry Adams’ Education and in his letters of the period (see Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Letters of Henry Adams, 1858-1891 [Boston, 1930], and Harold Dean Cater, Henry Adams and His Friends[Boston, 1947]), as well as in his novel Democracy (New York, 1908) and in the letters of his wife (Ward Thoron, Letters of Mrs. Henry Adams, 1865-1883 [Boston, 1936]). I have found extremely useful Allan Nevins’ Hamilton Fish, the Inner History of the Grant Administration (New York, 1936), and a number of other biographies and autobiographies, especially: Scbucbeit and LeVene, O. C. Marsh, Pioneerin Paleontology; Allan Nevins, Abram S. Hewitt: with Some Account of Peter Cooper (New York, 1935); The Century Association, Clarence King Memoirs,: G. R. Agassiz; ed., Letters and Recollections of Alexander Agassiz, with a Sketch of His Life and Work (Boston, 1913); Simon Newcomb, Reminiscences of an Astronomer (Boston, 1903); N. S. Shaler, Autobiography (Boston, 1909); G. R. Brown, ed., Reminiscences of William S. Stewart of Nevada (New York, 1908); Carl Schurz, Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, 3 vols. (New York, 1908); Joseph Schafer, Carl Schurz, Militant Liberal (Evansville, Wis., 1930); U. S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (New York, 1885-86); T. C. Smith, The Life and Letters of James Abram Garfield, 2 vols. (New Haven, 1925). The general history of the period is best summarized in Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Modern America, in A History of American Life, Vol. VIII (New York, 1927); and E. P. Oberholtzer, The History of the United States since the Civil War (Toronto, 1917-37). There is a very useful brief article, “Science in Washington: A Historical Survey,” by Paul H. Oehser of the Smithsonian, in the American Association for the Advancement of Science Centennial Program (Washington, August 26, 1948). And perhaps most revealing of all sources, though they are cited here only piecemeal as they happen to be used, are the extensive letter files of the various western surveys, the United States Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Ethnology, all in the National Archives, and other manuscript and letter material preserved in the libraries of the United States Geological Survey and the Bureau of Ethnology. Across a period of two or three decades, these letters give a peculiarly intimate cross-section of the ideas and personalities of American science.

2 Mark Twain, Letter to an unidentified person, 1890. In Bernard DeVoto, ed., The Portable Mark Twain (New York, 1946), p. 775.

3 Henry Adams, Democracy, an American Novel, p. 10.


1 John Wesley Powell, Report on the Geology of the Uinta Mountains, Chapter I.

2 The Plateau Province which Powell delimited was more precisely defined by Captain Clarence Edward Dutton in the course of his geological studies under Powell’s direction. See especially Dutton, Report of the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah, Chapter I.

3 The history of the Spanish Southwest is a separate and extensive field of learning almost a separate religion whose bibliography is far too large even to sample here. For Father Escalante’s diary, the document which most centrally touches the region of Powell’s interest, see Herbert E. Bolton, Pageant in the Wilderness (Salt Lake City, 1950).

4 Harrison Clifford Dale, The Ashley Smith Explorations. One of the most vivid accounts of the mountain-man breed, though the book does not touch more than the fringes of the Plateau Province, is Bernard DeVoto’s Across the Wide Missouri.

5 In Vol. XI of the Pacific Railroad Reports, published in 1861.

6 It might be said to have begun with Columbus or even with Columbus’ predecessors, for as Bernard DeVoto brilliantly demonstrates in The Course of Empire (Boston, 1952), it is possible to look upon the opening of America as an episode in the search for the Great South Sea or the Northwest Passage, and the events of America’s westering as milestones on the road to Asia. He thus takes the Lewis and Clark expedition not so much as the beginning of something as the final act of a long historical drama.


1 Testifying before a House investigating committee in May, 1874, when the question of the consolidation of the surveys was up for consideration, Powell said that a member of the Appropriations Committee which had given him his first appropriation had been the cause of this error. “A member of that committee asked me what was done with the collections. I told him that they went to the Smithsonian Institution, and I said that if there was any question about it, it might be inserted in the law. He said that he would have that attended to and he made a memorandum of it. It seems that afterwards, seeing this memorandum, that the collections were to go to the Smithsonian Institution, he accidentally sent my whole work there.” (House Report No. 612, 43rd Cong., 1st Sess., testimony on May 20, 1874). There is no reason to believe that Powell ever tried to correct the error, but one result of the 1874 investigation of the Western surveys was to send his outfit back to the Department of the Interior and make it a second but autonomous division of Hayden’s Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. It remained under Interior until 1879, when the surveys were finally consolidated in the United States Geological Survey.

2 Bell, New Tracks in North America.

3 J. W. Powell, “The Personal Characteristics of Professor Baird,” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1888 (Washington, 1890), pp. 739-44.

4 There are brief biographical sketches of all these early members of the Powell Survey in the Utah Historical Quarterly, XV, XVI, and XVII-the volumes in which many of the known journals of both river expeditions are reproduced. See also Frederick S. Dellenbaugh, A Canyon Voyage (New York, 1908), a detailed account of the second trip. This was for many years the only published account of that trip except for Beaman’s series of articles entitled “The Cañon of the Colorado and the Moqui Pueblos,” Appleton’s ]ournal, XI (April-May, 1874).

5 For a summary of the history and work of all these early surveys, see G. P. Merrill, The First One Hundred Years of American Geology (New Haven, 1924), and C. L. and M. A. Fenton, The Story of the Great Geologists (New York, 1945). There is also much information as well as a judicious evaluation of the work of many western geologists in Herman LeRoy Fairchild, The Geological Society of America, 1888-1930 (New York, 1932). Fairchild concludes (p. 47), “The explorations of the western part of America during the years 1867-1890, with the wonderful discoveries in structure, dynamics, and in the evolution of the vertebrates, probably make the most brilliant chapter in the entire history of geology.” Actually it was Powell, with his co-workers Gilbert and Dutton, who did the most enduring work in pure science, especially in physiography and geophysics. The geological work of both King and Hayden has suffered much more than theirs with time.


1 Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, p. 152.

2 From the beginning he expressed his confidence that the three could not have been guilty of the atrocity the story charged them with — a fact which in itself may be taken as evidence that his feelings towards the Howlands and Dunn were not vindictive. See Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1869.

3 Jacob Hamblin’s journal up to the year 1858 is in the Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City. His reminiscences are incorporated in James A. Little, Jacob Hamblin, Faith Promoting Series (Salt Lake City, 1881). He has been the subject of two full-length biographies: Paul Bailey, Jacob Hamblin, Buckskin Apostle (Los Angeles, 1948), and Pearson Corbett, Jacob Hamblin, the Peace-maker (Salt Lake City, 1952).

4 The most objective account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, written from within the Church but free of all impulses to whitewashing, evasion, and scapegoating that earlier “official” accounts have had, and without the implacable anti-Mormonism of the Gentile accounts, is Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre (Palo Alto, Calif., 1950).

5 Otis Marston believes that they took him to the river somewhere near the mouth of Whitmore Wash, and points out that for some reason, either mistrust of Powell or fear that prospectors and others might learn of the route and use it, they carefully refrained from revealing to him the comparatively easy horse trail down the Parashont. (Letter of November 15, 1952.)

6 Powell, Exploration, p. 129. The pictures which Powell’s photographers, especially Jack Hillers, took among these plateau bands in the next few years constitute one of the more valuable parts of the Bureau of American Ethnology’s collection of Indian pictures. They have been discussed by Julian Steward, “Notes on Hillers’ Photographs of the Paiute and Ute Indians Taken on the Powell Expedition of 1873,” Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, XCVIII, No. 18 (Washington, D.C., July 21, 1939).

7 It is instructive to compare Powell’s approach with that suggested or advocated by more “orthodox” members of his generation. For example, the editor of the Topeka Weekly Leader remarked on June 27, 1867, his opinion of “Lo, his squaws and papooses, and his relatives and tribe, a set of miserable, dirty, lousy, blanketed, thieving, lying, sneaking, murdering, graceless, faithless, gut-eating skunks as the Lord ever permitted to infect the earth, and whose immediate and final extermination all men, except Indian agents and traders, should pray for.” (Quoted by Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, p. 66.) Compare also Lieutenant George Wheeler, who lost three men from his 1871 expedition in the Wickenburg stage massacre, and who wrote in his Geographical Report, not published until 1889: “One cannot approach the subject of the Indian without reverting to the Stage Massacre near Wickenburg, Arizona (where three members of the expedition were murdered), long proven to have been committed by Indians professedly friendly, and being fed at the expense of the Government. Maimum, one of the Mohaves of the river trip, who had formed a great fondness for the ill-fated Loring, was largely instrumental in ferreting out these red-skinned assassins, and some of their number were finally found and punished by General Crook’s first command of the Military Department of Arizona. This is one of the evidences of the mistaken zeal, of the then peace-at-any-cost policy, that for so long a time applied to settlement of the Indian problem. Unfortunately, the bones of murdered citizens cannot rise to cry out and attest the atrocious murders of the far-spreading and wide-extending border lands of the Great West, and while the fate of the Indian is sealed, the interval during which their extermination as a race is to be consummated will doubtless be marked in addition to Indian outbreaks, with still many more murderous ambuscades and massacres.” Report upon the United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian, in charge of Capt. George M. Wheeler, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, Vol. 1, Geographical Report (Washington, 1889), p. 35.

8 Powell, Exploration, p. 129.

9 Some of his experiences among the Hopi are told in “The Ancient Province of Tusayan,” Scribner’s Monthly, XI (December, 1875), 193-213.

10 For the peace conference with the Navajo, see Paul Bailey, Jacob Hamblin, Buckskin Apostle, pp. 317-25. The sad tale of Tuleta is told in the journal of W. C. Powell, Utah Historical Quarterly, XVI-XVII, 481-82. Clem Powell was a little uneasy about meeting Tuleta in 1872 for fear he would have held a grudge against the Major.


1 See discussion of Powell’s juggling of facts in his report, in Part II, Chapter 6, post.

2 Beaman’s equipment on the second river trip was said to have weighed a ton. The lamentations of Clem Powell, who as photographer’s assistant had the job of packing the portable dark room, fill his journal. It was to some extent the weight and clumsiness and difficulty of the wet-plate equipment which led to experimentation with dry-plate methods. William Bell, photographer with Wheeler’s Survey in 1872, experimented with dry-plate negatives, though Powell’s men, viewing his negatives when the parties met near Kanab, were not impressed by the results. James Fennemore, in 1935, told me that he had invented the dry-plate camera while with Powell on the Colorado in 1872. His claim is not quite accurate, as an examination of the histories of photography will show; it is evidence only of the eagerness that stronger and heartier men than Fennemore had to rid themselves of the incubus of wet-plate equipment in the field. So far as I know, the first dry-plate equipment used in the West was that taken by T. H. O’Sullivan on the King Survey in 1868.

3 Dellenbaugh’s book is lively and is based upon more than his own journal, but it is inaccurate in some details and suffers from a not unlaudable desire to protect Powell against the charges that had by that time been leveled against him. Since 1908 other diaries and other records have come to light, and we can document every day of the second voyage with considerable precision. The journal of Almon Thompson, edited by Herbert Gregory, was published by the Utah Historical Quarterly, VII, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 (1939). It contains a number of unfortunate editorial errors of fact, but the text itself, since Thompson was for long periods in command of the expedition, is of first importance. The journal of F. M. Bishop, edited by Charles Kelly, appeared in the Utah Historical Quarterly, XV (1947), along with a collection of his letters. (Many of Bishop’s papers, including the original journal, are now in the archives of the Utah State Historical Society.) Volumes XVI and XVII of the Quarterly are devoted to the journals of Stephen V. Jones, John F. Steward, and W. C. Powell, with notes by Dale Morgan, Dr. Gregory, Charles Kelly, and William Culp Darrah. These three volumes of the Quarterly, plus the earlier one containing Thompson’s journal, brought together materials previously widely scattered and to some extent unknown. Since I have not seen fit to describe the second river trip in detail, I have rarely indicated specific sources. All the above journals, as well as Dellenbaugh’s two books and his early account of the voyage published in eight installments in the Ellenville, New York Journal in 1886, plus Beaman’s serialized story entitled “The Canon of the Colorado and the Moqui Pueblos,” Appleton’s Jou»iol, XI (April-May, 1874), have provided material for this chapter.

4 Thompson’s diary scolds him for this.

5 For C. R. Savage, a Mormon convert who became one of the West’s great photographers, see Robert Taft, Photography and the American Scene (New York, 1938), pp. 272-73, 491.

6 Still known as Potato Valley. In it, now, is the little town of Escalante, on the spectacular road that links the Bryce Canyon country with the Capitol Reef National Monument by way of the Aquarius Plateau.

7 See C. E. Dutton, Geology of the High Plateau of Utah,. pp. 1-5. With regard to the historical extension of the name Wasatch, Dale L. Morgan writes me, “There is a curious paradoxical irony to this [Dutton‘s] determination of where the ’Wasatch proper’ ends. For it was Frémont who first applied the name, on Joe Walker’s authority, in 1844, and as originally bestowed, the name applied to the mountains lying south of the great bend of the Sevier. It was only in the fifties that the name migrated north. Now geographers deny the name entirely to its place of origin.” (Letter of April 21, 1953.) In other words, the “Wasatch Mountains” were originally the chains of high plateaus; now they are the range which overlaps the plateaus at Mount Nebo, near Nephi, Utah.

8 Diary of Almon Harris Thompson, June 6, 1872.

9 Powell and Thompson had distinguished precedent for missing the mouth of a tributary. Lewis and Clark overlooked the mouth of the Willamette, which they called the Multomah, both going and coming on the Columbia, and Clark had to go back down river a second time before he satisfied himself that there was really a river where the Indians said there was. I have not myself seen the mouth of the Escalante, and cannot comment on the reasons why it was twice overlooked. Dellenbaugh, passing it in the Cañonita after Thompson’s party finally reached the Colorado at the mouth of the Dirty Devil, said “it was narrow and shallow and would not be taken at its mouth for so important a tributary.” (A Canyon Voyage, p. 210).

10 Diary of Almon Harris Thompson, June 9 and June 10, 1872.


1 Dutton testified that the exchange of ideas among the three of them had been so complex, and his debt to Gilbert and Powell so immense, “that if a full accounting were demanded it would bring me to bankruptcy.” (“Mount Taylor and the Zuñi Plateau,” United States Geological Survey Annual Report VI, 1885.)

2 Julius Stone, in Canyon Country, and Stanton and Chalfant, in Colorado River Controversies, have attacked these discrepancies in detail, with the general aim of discrediting Powell. These attacks are intertwined with the Sumner-Hawkins attacks; the fact that the names of the Howlands and Dunn were left off the Powell Monument at Grand Canyon after Powell’s death has been made, by some alchemy, Powell’s fault, and added to the evidence of his failure to give credit to the men of the second expedition, until the whole body of charges begins to give a picture of Powell as a publicity-mad egoist willing to suppress either individuals or the truth to gain his ends. As this present chapter attempts to show, there is a legitimate criticism to be made of Powell’s treatment of his report; it is not true that there was any such sinister conspiracy against his men as his critics maintain, or that he was so culpably careless with the truth. The one reference to the second expedition in the Exploration is a statement of intention: “We have determined to continue the exploration of the cañons of the Colorado. Our last trip was so hurried, owing to the loss of rations, and the scientific instruments were so badly injured, that we are not satisfied with the results obtained, and so we shall once more attempt to pass through the cañons in boats, devoting two or three years to the trip.”

3 “Report on the Survey of the Colorado River of the West, April 30, 1874.” House Miscellaneous Document No. 265, 43rd Cong., 1st Sess.

4 By 1873 Wheeler’s parties had already run foul of Hayden’s in Colorado, and had nudged into territory that Powell might well have considered his own by right of prior exploration. Wheeler took boats up the Colorado as far as the mouth of Diamond Creek in 1871, and announced in his report that “the exploration of the Colorado River may now be considered complete” — though Powell’s boats had gone down that stretch two years earlier, and Ives had gone up it twelve years before Powell. Wheeler’s field parties of 1872 were working in the Kanab area when Powell’s were. And since, with the King Survey closing up its work, Wheeler had the full weight of the War Department behind him, Powell might, like Hayden, have been uneasy about the possibility of being shouldered out. The feud, in other words, began almost with the inauguration of the Powell and Wheeler Surveys; it erupted in a congressional investigation in 1874, and came to a head in the consolidation proposals of 1877 which two years later resulted in the formation of the United States Geological Survey. See Part III, Chapters 1-5, for discussion of this consolidation.

5 An indication of popular interest in the canyons is the fact that John W. DeForest’s novel Overland contains an episode in which the protagonists, like James White, take to the river to escape Indians while on a westward journey from Santa Fe. The book was published in 1871, and presumably written the previous year. It could thus have been inspired either by newspaper accounts of White’s tale, or similar accounts of Powell’s exploration. Since Powell’s first report, that in Bell’s New Tracks, did not appear until 1870, and then only in England, it does not seem that DeForest could have had any very detailed information on Powell’s trip. Clem Powell in his journal, June 26, 1871, reports reading in the March Galaxy “a story called ‘Overland’ taken from the Maj’s lecture of his going down the Grand Cañon.” Whether this represents supposition or information it is hard to say. DeForest’s reputation as a pioneer realist, gained from his Miss Ravenal’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty, could not have been increased by Overland, which is a romantic and sensational yarn.

6 In 1895 it was reprinted (though only after a considerable period of shopping around by Powell) as The Canyons of the Colorado (Meadville, Pa.). In 1915 its first half was reprinted, with an introduction by Horace Kephart, in Nelson Doubleday’s Outing Adventure Library. Besides the Scribner’s version, and the short account in Bell’s New Tracks, parts of what later became the second half of the official report were published as “The Physical Features of the Colorado Valley” in Popular Science Monthly, VIII (1875), 385-99, 531-42, and 670-80.

7 On the success of this venture, which was purely personal and separate from the official duties of his Survey, see Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, p. 182. After Beaman’s abrupt departure from the expedition, Powell bought up his rights to the views he had already taken; later he negotiated an agreement with Hillers similar to that which he had had with Beaman, which split the proceeds 40-30-30 among Powell, Thompson, and the photographer.

8 See Thompson’s and W. C. Powell’s journals, February 1 through 8, 1872.

9 Powell Survey, Letters Received, II, No. 36.

10 Ibid., No. 60.

11 Ibid., No. 88.

12 Ibid., No. 89. Alden’s reason was that there was not enough completed to make a book.

13 Ibid., Nos. 190-192.

14 “Some Remarks on the Geological Structure of a District of Country Lying to the North of the Grand Canon of the Colorado,” American Journal of Science and the Arts, 3rd ser., V, 1873, 456-65.

15 “John Wesley Powell, Proceedings of a Meeting Commemorative of His Distinguished Services,” February 16, 1903, Proceedings of the Washington Academy of Sciences, V (1903), 99-187.


1 See, for example, Holmes’ comments in his report on the San Juan Division, 10th Annual Report of the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, 1876. Also G. P. Merrill, The First One Hundred Years of American Geology (New Haven, 1924), p. 546.

2 G. K. Gilbert, Lake Bonneville, United States Geological Survey Monographs, I, Washington, 1890.

3 Gilbert’s career is most thoroughly treated in William M. Davis, Biographical Memoir of Grove Karl Gilbert, 1843-1918, Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, XXI (1927).

4 See Journal of W. C. Powell, November 20, 1872.

5 Many of Powell’s associates testified to the extraordinary open-handedness with which he gave away his ideas. See Dutton, “The Geological History of the Colorado River and Plateaus,” Nature, XIX (1879), 247, 272; also G. K. Gilbert, “Powell,” Science, October 10, 1902: “He was extremely fertile in ideas, so fertile that it was quite impossible that he should personally develop them all, and realizing this he gave freely to his collaborators. The work which he inspired and to which he contributed the most important creative elements, I believe to be at least as important as that for which his name now stands directly responsible... ”

6 G. K. Gilbert, et al., John Wesley Powell: A Memorial to an American Explorer and Scholar. Reprinted, with slight changes, from The Open Court, Vols. XVI and XVII (Chicago, 1903).


1 There is no biography of Dutton. A discussion of whatever literary interest he may possess is in Wallace Stegner, “Clarence Edward Dutton,” unpublished University of Iowa thesis, 1935, and in Stegner, Clarence Edward Dutton, an Appraisal (Salt Lake City, 1936). See also Yale University, Biographical RecordClass of Sixty (Boston, 1908 ), pp. 95-100.

2 Though Dutton worked with the Powell Survey, the Public Lands Commission, the United States Geological Survey, and the Irrigation Survey for more than fifteen years, he never relinquished his commission, having each year to be “loaned” by an elaborate routine of requests from Interior to War Department, special orders, and special acts of Congress. He returned to army duty in the autumn of 1890.

3 On April 17, 1906, he read before the National Academy of Sciences a paper entitled “Volcanoes and Radioactivity.” It was published at Englewood, New Jersey, as a pamphlet, and appeared also in the Journal of Geology, XIV, 259-68, and in Popular Science Monthly, LXVIII, 543-50.

4 Gunnison in 1853, and Frémont a few months later in the same year, and with many variations from Gunnison’s route, made their way from Gunnison’s Crossing up through Castle Valley and over the Wasatch Plateau into the valley of the Sevier, but they did so with great labor, and no highway engineers have yet seen fit to follow them, though it is possible to trace their route by back roads.

5 C. E. Dutton, Report on the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah, pp. 208-9.

6 C. E. Dutton, The Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District, United States Geological Survey Monographs, II (Washington, 1882), 26.

7 Ibid., pp. 153-54.

8 Ibid.

9 See Thomas Hornsby Ferril, “Rocky Mountain Metaphysics,” Folksay (Norman, Okla., 1930 ).

10 Henry Van Dyke, “Daybreak in the Grand Canyon of Arizona,” Scribner’s, LIV (September, 1913), 275-78.

11 John Gould Fletcher, “The Grand Canyon of the Colorado,” in Breakers and Granite (New York, 1921), pp. 95-99.

12 Harriet Monroe, “The Grand Canon of the Colorado,” Atlantic, LXXXIV (December, 1899), 815.

13 Joaquin Miller, “Grand Canyon of the Colorado,” Overland, n.s., XXXVII (March, 1901) 786-90.

14 The original letter, which is apparently not preserved, drew an amused reply in a letter from King to Dutton, October 12, 1880. In King Papers, Huntington Library, King MSS — Letter Book, 1879-82, pp. 154-56.

15 Dutton was not the only one. Indeed, I do not recall a single report of western exploration, from Lewis and Clark to Powell and Dutton, which does not fall back upon architectural terminology the moment it encounters horizontal strata and bare rock.

16 Now called the Navajo Sandstone.

17 The term is still in use, though it is more precisely applied.

18 Dutton, Tertiary History, pp. 58-59.

19 Ibid., pp.‘141-42.

20 Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes, discussed in Part VI, Chapter 9.


1 The problem is discussed, with relation to both the land and the types of Western hero and heroine, in Smith, Virgin Land, pp. 81-120.

2 The words are those of Moran’s friend W. H. Jackson, in “With Moran in the Yellowstone,” Appalachia, XXI (December, 1936), 149.

3 The best accounts of this summer are those of William Henry Jackson, in Time Exposure (New York, 1940), and in the article “With Moran in the Yellowstone,” cited above.

4 Letter from Hayden to Moran in the possession of Miss Ruth Moran; quoted by Fritiof Fryxell, “Thomas Moran’s Journey to the Tetons in 1879,” Augustana Historical Society Publications, No. 2, 1932.

5 The originator of the project seems to have been Harry Fenn, a well-known illustrator who himself made the drawings for a number of chapters. The book is a valuable pictorial and textual record of what America knew and thought about itself in the seventies. It represents part of that same centennial curiosity that resulted in books like L. P. Brockett’s Our Western Empire: or The New West beyond the Mississippi (Philadelphia and Columbus, 1882). The widespread interest in the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, when the nation got another sort of graphic look at itself, is a further indication of public curiosity about the state and nature of the United States during this decade.

6 This mountain, and the first pictures of it — the painting by Moran and the photographs by W. H. Jackson — excited a peculiar and almost superstitious wonder. Like the wonders of the Yellowstone, it existed for years in a state of fable and rumor before it was actually pictured.

7 For the work of these and other artists in the West following the Civil War see Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West.

8 Diary of Almon Harris Thompson, July 4, 1873.

9 The National Cyclopedia of American Biography (1932 ed.), XXII, 24-25.

10 In G. W. Sheldon, American Painters (New York, 1879), p. 125. Quoted in Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, p. 250.

11 Stone, Canyon Country, especially pp. 55, 82.

12 Thomas Moran, The Yellowstone National Park, and the Mountain Regions of Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, and Utah. Described by Professor F. V. Hayden of the U.S. Exploring Expeditions to the Yellowstone. There are 15 chromolithographic reproductions of water-color sketches by Thomas Moran, artist to the expedition of 1871 (Boston, 1876). The last quotation I have seen of this in a bookseller’s catalogue lists it at $275.

13 Henry Adams, Democracy, an American Novel, pp. 113-14.

14 “William Henry Holmes, 1846-1933,” Cosmos Club Bulletin, V, No. 5 (March, 1952).

15 Many of these are bound together in Vol. XI, Pacific Railroad Reports.

16 Some but not all of the illustrations for Bulletin articles were reproduced in the Annual Reports.

17 9th Annual Report of the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, 1875, p. 22.

18 William Henry Holmes, “Journal of the Grand Canyon trip in 1880.” Bound with Random Records, Vol. V, a collection of Holmes’ papers preserved in the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

19 By inference from a letter from King to Dutton, October 12, 1880. In King MSS, Letter Book, 1879-82, pp. 154-56.

20 Dutton, Tertiary History, p. 144.

21 These are reproduced in Wheeler, Geographical Report, 1889.

22 Joseph Pennell, The Adventures of an Illustrator (Boston, 1925), pp. 82-83.


1 There is as yet no adequate study of Utah place names; the only work I know — and it is of limited usefulness and often of dubious accuracy — is the Utah Writers Project, Origins of Utah Place Names, Salt Lake City, 1940. For Arizona I have used Will C. Barnes, Arizona Place Names,University of Arizona Bulletin No. 2 (Tucson, 1935). On the whole question of names I have leaned very heavily upon George R. Stewart, Names on the Land (New York, 1945). The reports of early western explorations, if carefully searched, would give up very much more information about the naming of the Plateau Province than they have yet been forced to yield.

2 Origins of Utah Place Names lists it as of unknown origin. It is, of course, an echo of the Spanish pronunciation of La Virgin. George Stewart has pointed out in conversation that he knows of no other Spanish use of the word Virgin in place-naming, so that La Verkin may in fact be a Spanish pronunciation imposed upon an Anglo-American placename. It is also possible, but not at all probable, just to complicate the matter further, that the Virgin River was not named for the Virgin at all, but for Thomas Virgin, one of Jedediah Smith’s men.

3 The Green is another river whose name is lost in controversy. The Crows called it the Seedskeedee-agie, the Prairie Hen River. Very early the Spaniards were calling it the Rio Verde, and the mountain men simply translated the Spanish name. H. H. Bancroft suggested, erroneously, that it was named after a trapper in Ashley’s party. It is almost impossible that anyone seeing the upper river in low water would call it anything but the Green, for its color then is very marked, but the Spaniards probably named it from the green of its banks in a waste of bare rock. See Dee Linford, “Wyoming Stream Names,” Wyoming Fish and Game Department Bulletin No. 3 (Cheyenne, 1944).

4 Gilbert, Geology of the Henry Mountains, p. viii.

5 See Wallace Stegner, “C. E. Dutton — Explorer, Geologist, Nature Writer,” Scientific Monthly, XLV (July, 1937), 82-83, which briefly discusses and lists some of Dutton’s names.

6 Dellenbaugh, who himself participated in the mapping and naming of the Grand Canyon region, wrote me in 1935, just before his death, that he had argued with Dutton without effect on the propriety of Indian names and the impropriety of Dutton’s favored Oriental names. The letter is included in the Appendix to Stegner, “Clarence Edward Dutton,” University of Iowa unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 1935.

7 So at least says Charles Kelly, who is intimately familiar with the whole region and has made its history his lifelong study. Nevertheless, it is a courageous man who will assert that he knows the incontrovertible origin of any placename, much less an Indian one. And Indian informants are sometimes as confused about name origins in their own tongue as Americans are about names like La Verkin.


1 Letter of November 20, 1869, quoted in another letter from Humphreys to Belknap dated March 13, 1872, bound with Adams’ Journal in the Huntington Library.

2 Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, p. 183.

3 Letter, Powell to R. M. McCormick, April 20, 1872. Powell Survey, Letters Sent, I, Nos. 59-66.

4 Letter, Samuel Adams to Rep. Austin Blair, January 20, 1873, bound with Adams’ Journal in the Huntington Library.

5 Beaver Evening Tribune, May 15, 1915.



1 By the beginning of the year 1877 Hayden had published, besides ten increasingly elaborate Annual Reports, quarto monographs by Joseph Leidy, E. D. Cope, Cyrus Thomas, Leo Lesquereux, F. B. Meek, and A. S. Packard, and two volumes of Bulletins jammed with short or preliminary studies by many men, plus eight volumes of “Miscellaneous Publications” including everything from lists of photographs by W. H. Jackson to a handbook on the birds of the Missouri region by Eliott Coues plus a hamperful of “Unclassified Publications” — pamphlets and reprints and preliminary reports — plus a good many maps. Clarence King’s Annual Reports, incorporated in the Reports of the Chief of Engineers to the Secretary of War, seldom exceeded two pages, but three of his projected seven quarto final reports were finished: James D. Hague’s Mining Industry, Sereno Watson’s Botany, and Ferdinand Zirkel’s Microscopical Petrography. Also finished by 1877 were both his large folio Atlas incorporating all the topographical and geological work of the survey, and the Atlas to accompany Hague’s Mining Industry. Wheeler, besides progress reports and Annual Reports (the latter growing like Hayden’s until by 1876 it totaled 355 pages) had published two of his contemplated seven final reports, that by Gilbert, Marvine, et al., on Geology, and that by Yarrow, Coues, et al., on Zoology. In addition he had brought out a dozen or more miscellaneous publications, lists of birds, vertebrate fossils, meteorological readings, and the like, and an unspecified number of undated atlas sheets. See L. F. Schmeckebier, Catalogue and Index of the Publications of the Hayden, King, Powell, and Wheeler Surveys (Washington, 1904).

2 Josiah Whitney, with whose Geological Survey of California Clarence King had .his first field experience, had learned early and to his sorrow how practical-minded a legislative body can be, and had had to fight for appropriations against every sort of anti-intellectual criticism. King, enlightened by Whitney’s experience, took pains to see that his first publication was his most practical: Hague’s Mining Industry. The “impractical” scientific activities of the United States Geological Survey, especially the paleontological work carried on by Professor Marsh of Yale, came under similar fire in 1892 when Hilary Herbert of Alabama attacked the Survey in the Senate by ridiculing Marsh’s monograph on the Odontornithes, the “Birds-with-Teeth.” A man conducting a bureau of government science did well not to look too scientific.

3 Congress on April 15, 1874, requested information from President Grant on the possibility of consolidating the surveys operating west of the Mississippi. Hayden, Powell, the Secretary of War, and the Chief of the Army Engineers, General Humphreys, were first called on for opinions by letter, and later called for questioning. Powell, who had introduced into the controversy the further question of civilian or military control of a consolidated survey, supported a civilian control, but remained aloof from the squabbling that broke out between Hayden and Wheeler. The result of the 1874 investigation was to leave things pretty much as they were before, except that Powell was moved from the Smithsonian back to the Interior Department and the official name of his survey changed to “Geological Survey of the Territories, Second Division.” A secondary result was to bring into the open the antipathy between Wheeler and Hayden, an antipathy so outspoken that the committee rebuked them both; and probably to arouse Hayden’s suspicion of Powell as well, since Powell had obviously come off the best of the three. See, for the testimony in the case, House Report No. 612, 43rd Cong., 1st Sess. The episode is well covered in Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, pp. 207-11.

4 Before the 1874 investigating committee, Dr. H. C. Yarrow, a zoologist of the Wheeler Survey, testified that Hayden had told him, “You can tell Wheeler that if he stirs a finger or attempts to interfere with me or my survey in any way, I will utterly crush him — as I have enough Congressional influence to do so, and will bring it all to bear.” House Report No. 612, p. 62.

5 Henry Nash Smith, “Clarence King, John Wesley Powell, and the Establishment of the United States Geological Survey,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXXIV (June, 1947), 37-58.

6 Powell’s departure from Normal was somewhat chilly. His resignation, proffered on June 26, 1872, was accepted without comment, and there was an insistent attempt on the part of the university, through Jesse Fell, to obtain a clarification of the ownership of natural history collections which both Powell and the university claimed. Letter from Jesse Fell dated December 3, 1872, Powell Survey, Letters Received, II, No. 87.

7 Powell Survey, Letters Sent, I, Nos. 137, 139, 154-5.

8 Copies of the letters to both Garfield and Hewitt are preserved in Powell Survey, Letters Sent, I, Nos. 156-62. Newberry’s dislike of Hayden evidently grew from his feeling that his student and protégé, Henry Newton, had been wronged by Hayden’s interference. In his biographical memoir prefixed to Newton’s Report on the Geology of the Black Hills, 1880, Newberry is bitter and unmistakable, though he names no names: “Mr. Newton took great pains with his report, as he had done in the accumulation of facts, and in its preparation expended about eighteen hundred dollars from his own pocket, when it was quite uncertain whether this sum would be repaid him by the government. When presented to Congress its publication would have been immediately authorized except for a selfish and heartless opposition it encountered springing from the fear that it would betray the inaccuracy of previously published descriptions of the geology of this region. This opposition cost Mr. Newton his life, for when Congress deferred action on his report till another session he determined to employ a part of the interval in revisiting the Black Hills.... While engaged in this work he was attacked by typhoid fever, and died at Deadwood August 15, 1877.” Since Hayden’s “General View of the Geology of the Missouri Valley,” in the 4th Annual Report of the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, 1870, was the only real geological publication on the Black Hills region, there can be no doubt at whom Newberry’s bitterness is aimed.

9 After 1871, Hayden’s Annual Reports were illustrated with increasing lavishness, by woodcuts, line drawings, panoramas, maps, and lithographs, many of them made from Jackson’s photographs, and some of them in color. King’s finished reports were even more beautifully printed and illustrated. To compete, Powell’s had to be of comparable quality. Actually, we can thank the jealousy among the various early surveys for some of the most beautiful books about the West that have ever been produced. See Part II, Chapter 9, ante.

10 Powell Survey, Letters Received, VI, No. 74.

11 Ibid., Nos. 79-92.

12 Especially A. S. Packard and F. W. Pearson, both of Hayden’s survey. Much of their correspondence is in F. V. Hayden, Personal Letters Received, National Archives.

13 Powell Survey, Letters Received, V, Nos. 308-326.

14 F. V. Hayden, Personal Letters Sent.

15 The first part of this was published as An Introduction to the Study of Indian Languages in 1877, and was subsequently, used by all the amateur and part-time workers who collaborated in Powell’s studies of the Indian languages.

16 See Powell Survey, Letters Sent, I, Nos. 1036-7 and 1082-3.


1 Powell Survey, Letters Sent, II, Nos. 172 and 284.

2 Ibid., No. 351.

3 Ibid., Nos. 111-114.

4 These tactics, actually, he could have learned from Hayden, who in 1874 had appeared before the Congressional committee armed with a petition, signed by the most formidable names in American science, supporting the notion of civilian control of the consolidated surveys. House Report No. 612, 43rd Cong., 1st Sess.

5 Fred A. Shannon, The Farmer’s Last Frontier, p. 60.

6 See Henry Nash Smith’s penetrating discussion of these folk beliefs of the West in Virgin Land, especially Section III, “The Garden of the World.”


1 Thus Thomas Nuttall, pursuing his natural history studies on the frontier reaches of the Arkansas in 1819, found a surveyor running his lines on the land along the Cadron, and heard of another moving that way from the Great Prairie. At the time there were only squatters in the bottoms, and title was still being disputed among Cherokees, Osages, and the United States. Mr. Pettis, the surveyor, was laying out only the easily settled lands, ignoring the difficult and hilly sections not likely to be desired by frontier farmers. For his labors he was getting three dollars a mile. His activities, in that year and later, were being duplicated all along the western border. Thomas Nuttall, Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory during the Year 1819 (Philadelphia, 1821). (Thwaites, Vol. XIII), p. 165.

2 The ordinance of May 20, 1785, before the act creating the surveyor-general in 1789, specified that “the geographers and surveyors shall pay the utmost attention to the variation of the magnetic needle, and shall run and note all lines by the true meridian, certifying with every plat what was the variation at the time of running of the lines thereon noted.” But practice was never quite in step with intention, partly because of inaccurate instruments and methods, and partly because the system of contract surveying invited carelessness and venality. See Lowell O. Stewart, Public Land Surveys, History, Instruction, Methods (Ames, Iowa, 1935). Major Powell’s testimony before several Congressional committees indicated that he had little faith in the accuracy of the General Land Office surveys, and found the Land Office maps useless for anything but land parceling.

3 Report of the Commissioner of the General Land Office, 1876, p. 130.

4 The classical statement of the changes compelled by the conditions of the arid West is that of Walter Webb, The Great Plains. See also Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land; Joseph Kinsey Howard, Montana, High, Wide, and Hansome (New Haven, Conn., 1943); James C. Malin, The Grasslands of North America; and what underlies the thinking in all of these, Powell’s own Report on the Lands of the Arid Region.

5 Despite the efforts of speculators, local patriots, and visionaries such as Gilpin to deny the Great American Desert, and despite the undoubted exaggeration in that word “desert,” no one need be in doubt about the sharp change in climate that occurs somewhere between the 96th and 100th meridians. It can be felt on the lips and skin, observed in the characteristic plant and animal life, seen in the clarity and/or dustiness of the atmosphere, determined by measurements of rainfall and evaporation, tested by attempts at unaided agriculture. Practically every western traveler in the early years remarked the facts of aridity, though not all used the word “desert,” especially after the Kansas boom of the sixties had made the natives sensitive to supposed slurs. Part of the difficulty of adjustment, part of the continued misunderstanding of the facts, arose from the fact that the dividing line between sub humid and arid runs not along the state lines, but along a line about a third of the way west in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. The well-watered eastern third of Kansas might well resent being called a desert; the arid western portion might well believe for a time that it could use the farming methods and institutions that worked perfectly well only a few miles east.

6 Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Modern America, in History of American Life, Vol. VIII (New York, 1927).

7 Bayard Taylor, despite his attempt to be judicial in Colorado, A Summer Trip, was close to being converted to the popular optimism: “I am fast inclining toward the opinion, that there is no American Desert on this side of the Rocky Mountains.... I remember that as late as 1859, the lowest computation of the extent of the Desert was two hundred miles; yet in the Smoky Hill route I saw less than fifty miles to which the term could be properly applied... time and settlement may subdue even this narrow belt... there may some day be groves and farms on the treeless plains... wheat may usurp the place of buffalo-grass, and potatoes drive out the cactus.” Few people had a keener ear than Taylor for what people wanted to hear. It was only three years later that Science was corroborating the travelers, in Cyrus Thomas’ report on “The Agriculture of Colorado” in the Hayden Survey’s 3rd Annual Report. Thomas did guess rather lamely that the timber supply of Colorado would prove “not inexhaustible,” and his cautious tone as well as the circumspection of Hayden’s letter of transmittal indicated that the Hayden Survey had already begun to feel pressure from the Gilpin tribe whenever it ventured any “deficiency” judgment of Western resources.

8 Dan Elbert Clark, The West in American History, pp. 592-93. The most authoritative account of the beginning of the cattle drives is in Joseph G. McCoy, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade (1874; reprinted in facsimile by The Rare Book Shop, Washington, D. C., 1932). Pictures, including photographs, record the very earliest years. There is an Alexander Gardner photograph of cattle being loaded at the McCoy pens in Abilene, and drawings of cattle drives by Tavernier, Frenzeny, and Henry Worrall. See Robert Taft, Artists and Illustrators of the Old West, pp. 123-25, and his Photography and the American Scene, p. 278.

9 Jack Sumner, Journal, June 7, 1869.

10 Oberholtzer, History of the United States since the Civil War, III, 380.

11 The tunnel was begun on October 19, 1869, and reached the Lode on September 1, 1878. Ibid., II, 532 ff.

12 Fred A. Shannon, The Farmer’s Last Frontier, p. 55.

13 The sagas of pioneers attempting to break and hold a homestead in the arid belt have become part of our tradition and one of the great “matters” of our literature. Hamlin Garland’s Main Traveled Roads and A Son of the Middle Border, O. E. Rölvaag’s Giants in the Earth, and Mari Sandoz’s Old Jules are among the finest representatives of the literary type. See also Shannon, The Farmer’s Last Frontier, and Everett Newton Dick, The Sod House Frontier, 1854-1893 (New York, 1937).

14 The effects of the various land laws upon the individual farmer are discussed in Shannon, The Farmer’s Last Frontier, pp. 51-75; in Paul Wallace Gates, “The Homestead Law in an Incongruous Land System,” American Historical Review, XLI, No. 4 (July, 1936); and in Report of the Public Lands Commission, Senate Document No. 189, 58th Cong., 3rd Sess., Washington, 1904. This last brings up to date as of 1904 the findings of the Public Lands Commission of 1879-80, on which Powell served.

15 Shannon, The Farmer’s Last Frontier, p. 63, quoting S. A. D. Puter and Horace Stevens, Looters of the Public Domain (Portland, Ore., 1908), pp. 59-66.

16 On Henry Miller, see E. F. Treadwell, Cattle King (New York, 1931). Miller was no isolated phenomenon. In 1883 there were twenty cattle companies, with capitalization from $10,000 to $3,000,000, incorporated in Wyoming alone. The Union Cattle Company and the Swan Land and Cattle Company were each initially capitalized at $3,000,000. Swan controlled a range fifty by one hundred miles, on which it ran more than 100,000 cattle. John Iliff, a pioneer cattle king of Colorado, controlled thirty-five miles along the Platte, thereby dominating a huge range. See Clark, The West in American History, pp. 596-98, and Howard R. Driggs, Westward America (New York, 1942), pp. 283-86.

17 After 1875 the classification of public lands was a duty charged to both the Powell and Hayden Surveys by the Secretary of the Interior. The instructions to Hayden that year read in part, “It will be borne in mind that the ultimate design to be accomplished by these surveys is the preparation of suitable maps of the country surveyed for the use of the government and of the nation, which will afford full information concerning the agricultural and mineral resources, and other important characteristics of the unexplored regions of our Territorial domain.... In addition thereto, you will obtain the necessary information for the preparation of charts, upon which shall be indicated the areas of grass, timber, and mineral lands, and such other portions of the country surveyed as may be susceptible of cultivation by means of irrigation....” (Quoted in Hayden’s Letters of Transmittal, United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, 10th Annual Report, 1876.) Cyrus Thomas, Hayden, and Henry Gannett all reported on such land classification during the next three years. Powell was thus not the only advocate or student of land classification, though he may well have suggested the whole idea to Columbus Delano, the Secretary of the Interior. The problem was much closer to his interests than to Hayden’s. Actually, Powell’s Arid Regions was an innovation neither in its emphasis on irrigation nor in its advocacy of classification of public lands. What Powell did was to attack systematically, with an eye to the long-term public good and with the experience of a full decade, what others had approached halfheartedly or without adequate information, and he examined not only conditions, but the human consequences of conditions.

18 WPA, Utah, American Guide Series (New York, 1945), p. 98.

19 Though the Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, with a more detailed account of the lands of Utah, United States Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, J. W. Powell in Charge, 2nd edition, Washington, 1879, contains chapters on rainfall, water supply, the water requirements of different classes of irrigable lands, and detailed studies of the lands of the Salt Lake, Sevier, and Colorado River drainage systems in Utah, the meat of the book is in its first two chapters. The first summarizes the physical characteristics of the arid region that had up to then been too much ignored, and the second outlines the land system and the institutional modulations needed for the region: a statement of observable facts, and a policy derived from them.

20 One should never forget, in estimating the truly revolutionary character of Powell’s proposals, that not much more than a year before they were made, in the Centennial year marked by the Philadelphia Exposition, the hundred-year-old democracy was at as low an ebb in public morals and public and private morale as it has ever been. As Allan Nevins says, “... the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality. The cities, half of which had their counterparts of Tweed; the legislatures, with their rings, lobbyists, and bribe-takers; the South, prey of unscrupulous Carpetbaggers and Scalawags; the West, sacked by railway and mining corporations; Congress, with its Credit Mobilier, its salary grab, its tools of predatory business; the executive departments, honeycombed with thievery; private finance and trade, with greedy figures like Jay Cooke and Collis P. Huntington honored and typical — everywhere the scene was the same.” (Allan Nevins, Hamilton Fish, the Inner History of the Grant Administration, pp. 638-9.) Supporting all this was a hectic economic boom which collapsed in 1873, and after the collapse every smelly rathole in the government began to give up its vermin. James Watson Webb’s steal in Brazil, Van Buren’s steal at the Vienna International Fair, Schenck’s entanglement in the Emma Mine deals; the Credit Mobilier; the Whiskey Ring; the Indian Bureau scandals that disgraced Columbus Delano — they came so fast that one was hardly out of the headlines before another appeared: Congressmen, Senators, cabinet ministers, ambassadors, presidential advisors, Vice-Presidents, Grant himself, the whole government was afflicted with a moral infection as contagious as ringworm. Directly on top of this, or in the midst of it, Powell made his proposals for the development of the West.

21 J. W. Powell, “From Savagery to Barbarism,” Transactions of the Anthropological Society of Washington, III, 173-96.


1 House Executive Document No. 73, 45th Cong., 2nd Sess., Washington, 1878.

2 Henry Nash Smith has pointed out the great importance of Professor Henry’s death in the events leading up to the consolidation of the surveys. See “Clarence King, John Wesley Powell, and the Establishment of the United States Geological Survey”; also Virgin Land, p. 197.

3 Schuchert and LeVene, O. C. Marsh, Pioneer in Paleontology, is a valuable biography and sheds light on many of the developments of government science during the eighteen-seventies and eighties.

4 Abram Hewitt, “Consolidating the Western Surveys.” Speech in the House of Representatives on the General Appropriations Bill, February 11, 1879. In Allan Nevins, The Selected Writings of Abram Hewitt (New York, 1937), pp. 209-26.

5 Samuel Franklin Emmons, “Clarence King, Geologist,” in Century Association, Clarence King Memoirs.

6 Smith, “Clarence King, John Wesley Powell, and the Establishment of the United States Geological Survey.”

7 Powell Survey, Letters Sent, II, Nos. 775-6, 792-3.

8 Without making a careful check, I have noted, among the Letters Received of the Powell Survey within the one week of October 7-13, 1878, receipts for the Arid Regions report from the Salt Lake Herald, the Rocky Mountain News, the Alta California, and the San Francisco Herald, Evening Post, and Chronicle. There was evidently a concerted campaign to put review copies of the report into the hands of influential Western editors — an indication that its importance was quite as much political as scientific.

9 Powell Survey, Letters Received, VIII, Nos. 268-9, 270-1.

10 One sample of how this campaign was conducted is contained in Dutton’s letter to Professor A. G. Wetherly of the University of Cincinnati, a strong Powell supporter who had offered aid in promoting Powell into the headship of the combined surveys. Through a half dozen careful pages Dutton outlines Powell’s policies. These exactly reproduce — in advance — the National Academy’s recommendations. Powell Survey, Letters Received, VII, Nos. 139-45, 231. See also Powell’s letter to E. W. Ayres of the Kansas City Times — an equally careful and detailed summary of the Academy program or of Powell’s own Arid Regions proposals, as one wishes to read it. Letters Sent, III, Nos. 54-63. Also Powell to Wetherly, December 31, 1878, Letters Sent, II, Nos. 997-8.

11 Powell Survey, Letters Received, VIII, No. 86.


1 Powell Survey, Letters Received, VIII, No. 233.

2 Abram Hewitt, “Consolidating the Western Surveys.”

3 F. V. Hayden, Personal Letters Received, contains numerous reports from Packard and Pearson indicating that they had their ears (very unsuccessfully) to the ground. Darrah reprints several, all showing that Hayden’s scouts did not fear Powell, knew nothing of what he was up to, considered King the strongest opposition, but thought Hayden held a very strong position. Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, p. 247.

4 Powell Survey, Letters Sent, II, Nos. 982, 983, 984-5.

5 Smith, Virgin Land, esp. pp. 165-200.

6 The historical development of the garden-myth of the West, from F. V. Hayden’s 1867 guess that timber would increase on the plains following settlement, to the full elaboration of the theory by Samuel Aughey and Charles Dana Wilber, both chiefs of the tribe of Gilpin, is traced in detail in Henry Nash Smith, “Rain Follows the Plow: the Notion of Increased Rainfall for the Great Plains, 1844-1880,” Huntington Library Quarterly, X (1947), 169-93, and summarized in Virgin Land, pp. 179-83. It was Wilber, a speculator and town-builder, who coined the slogan, “Rain follows the Plow,” which, corroborated by Cyrus Thomas, did incalculable damage to western agricultural resources by encouraging grain farming where it should never have been attempted.

7 As I have pointed out earlier (in Part I, Chapter I, note 4), even a supposedly sober historian, Reuben Gold Thwaites, raised Gilpin to 200,000,000, as late as 1904. Malthus was not a popular scholar in the eighteen-seventies. Henry George attacked his views, Spencer Baird demonstrated that an acre of sea was ten times as productive of human food as an acre of land, the Midwest looked at its crops and bet its pile on the future.

8 Congressional Record, VIII, Part 3, 45th Cong., 3rd Sess.

9 20 Stat. L, p. 394, March 3, 1879.

10 Known as the Bureau of American Ethnology after 1894.

11 Pilling to E. E. Howell, March 17, 1879, Pilling to J. J. Stevenson, April 1, 1879, Powell Survey, Letters Sent, III, Nos. 379, 380.

12 Powell Survey, Letters Received, IX, No. 316.

13 The Education of Henry Adams, pp. 294-95, 322.

14 As late as 1885, when he published his volume Facts Concerning the Origin, Organization, Administration, Functions, History, and Progress of the Principal Government Land and Marine Surveys of the World (extracted from the report on the Third International Geographical Congress and Exhibition to which he was a commissioner and delegate), Wheeler was still ran corously asserting the right of the War Department to conduct western topographical surveys, a right interrupted by “the temporarily successful claim of certain geologists to the control of Government topographical map work” (p. 489).

15 This report actually took two forms. The first was the Report of the Public Lands Commission, Created by the Act of March 3, 1879, Relating to Public Lands in the Western Portion of the United States and to the Operation of Existing Land Laws (Washington, 1880). The second was Thomas Donaldson’s The Public Domain: Its History, with Statistics (Washington, 1884), which utilized and elaborated the commission’s findings.

16 Hilgard to Powell, December 12, 1878, Powell Survey, Letters Received, VII, No. 216.

17 On the founding of the Cosmos Club, see The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C., with a documentary history of the club from its organization to November 16, 1903 (Washington, 1904).



1 The Education of Henry Adams, p. 346.

2 My discussion of King is based primarily upon Harry Crosby, “So Deep a Trail,” the Clarence King Memoirs, the letter files of the United States Geological Survey and of the King, Hayden, and Powell Surveys, The Education of Henry Adams, the letters of Henry and Mrs. Henry Adams, and the King Papers (Hague Collection) in the Henry E. Huntington Library.

3 The Education of Henry Adams, p. 311.

4 Ibid., pp. 294-95.

5 United States Geological Survey, 1st Annual Report, 1880, pp. 3-4.

6 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 1879, Nos. 91, 109, 111; 1880, No. 10.

7 United States Geological Survey, 1st Annual Report, pp. 5-6.

8 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 1879, No. 91.

9 Ibid., 1880, No. 30.

10 Ward Thoron, Letters of Mrs. Henry Adams, p. 278.

11 The Education of Henry Adams, pp. 312-13.

12 Harold Dean Cater, Henry Adams and His Friends, pp. 83-5, 86, letters to Morgan dated July 14, 1877, and June 3, 1878.


1 The “pentalogic” divisions of the Science of Man were first elaborated in five essays in The American Anthropologist, n.s., I, II, and III, (1899-1901). These were reprinted in the 19th and 20th Annual Reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology.

2 Developed in Lewis H. Morgan, Ancient Society (New York, 1877).

3 Thus the Weekly People, official organ of the Socialist Labor Party, devoted much of its issue of November 26, 1938, to a discussion of Morgan, and advertised Ancient Society as “a companion work to Marx’s Capital.”

4 In “From Savagery to Barbarism.”

5 He stated and restated the “immeasurable difference” between animal and human evolution, insisting that human evolution is intellectual and no longer biotic. See “Human Evolution,” Transactions of the Anthropological Society of Washington, II (1883), 176-208; “Darwin’s Contributions to Philosophy,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, I (1882), 60-70 (also in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, XXV); “The Three Methods of Evolution,” Bulletin of the Philosophical Society of Washington, VI (1884), 27-52; and “Relation of Primitive Peoples to Environment, Illustrated by American Examples,” Smithsonian Report, 1895, pp. 625-37.

6 “On the Evolution of Language, as exhibited in the specialization of the grammatic processes, the differentiation of the parts of speech and the integration of the sentence; from a study of the Indian Languages,” Bureau of Ethnology, 1st Annual Report, 1881, pp. 1-16.

7 R. H. Gabriel, The Course of American Democratic Thought (New York, 1940).

8 The vital — or lethal — influence of trade upon some of the Indian cultures is traced in Bernard DeVoto, The Course of Empire, pp. 90-96.

9 Both Gallatin and Powell doubted the common assertion that the Indian race was being swiftly exterminated. See Powell, “Are Our Indians Becoming Extinct?” Forum, XV (May, 1893), 343-54.

10 Bureau of American Ethnology, 24th Annual Report, 1902-3, p. 37.

11 It is described at length, with extensive illustration, in Thomas Donaldson, “The George Catlin Indian Gallery,” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, showing the operations, expenditures, and condition of the Institution to July, 1885, Part V (Washington, 1886). The whole subject of early Western painting, both of the country and of the Indians, is only beginning to find its students. Robert Taft’s Artists and Illustrators of the Old West is invaluable; so is the Appendix, “The First Illustrators of the Far West,” in Bernard DeVoto’s Across the Wide Missouri. The Smithsonian Institution has published several short studies of painters of the Indian. These include David L. Bushnell’s several contributions: “Drawings by A. LeBatz in Louisiana, 1732-1735,” “Drawings by Jacques LeMoyne de Morgues of Saturioua, a Timucua Chief in Florida, 1564,” “Sketches by Paul Kane in the Indian Country, 1845-1848,” “Drawings by George Gibbs in the Far Northwest, 1849-1851,” and “Seth Eastman: the Master Painter of the North American Indian,” all in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections: LXXX, No. 5; LXXXI, No. 4; XCIX, No. 1; XCVII, No. 8; and LXXXVII, No. 3. See also John C. Ewers, “Gustavus Schon’s Portraits of Flathead and Pend d’Oreille Indians, 1854,” Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, CX, No. 7; John Francis McDermott, “Samuel Seymour, Pioneer Artist of the Plains and Rockies,” Smithsonian Report, 1950, pp. 497-509; and Julian Steward, “Notes on Hillers’ Photographs of the Paiute and Ute Indians Taken on the Powell Expedition of 1873,” Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, XCVIII, No. 18.

12 Albert Gallatin, “A Synopsis of the Indian Tribes of North America,” Archaeologia Americana, Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society, II (1836), 2.

13 Letter to G. F. Becker, April 4, 1882. King Papers, Letter Book, 1879-82.

14 Published as the single accompanying paper of the Bureau of Ethnology, 10th Annual Report, 1888-89.

15 J. W. Powell, “Indian Linguistic Families of America North of Mexico,” Bureau of Ethnology, 7th Annual Report, 1885-86.

16 F. W. Hodge compiled a list of the bureau’s publications and published it as a Bulletin in 1894-95. It contains all the major work of the bureau’s first phase, including the distinguished series of Annual Reports with their accompanying papers, the Bulletins, and the added volumes of Contributions to North American Ethnology, begun under the Powell Survey.

17 There are 435 glass negatives of Hillers’ Indian pictures preserved. See Steward, “Notes on Hillers’ Photographs of Paiute and Ute Indians.”

18 Matthew Stirling, the present head of the Bureau of American Ethnology, concurs in Holmes’ eulogy of Powell’s work in organizing ethnological research, but somewhat discounts his personal field work and his speculative contributions.


1 The Education of Henry Adams, p. 309.

2 Out of the report he prepared for the Bologna meeting, Wheeler published in 1885 his Facts concerning the Origin, Organization, Administration, Functions, History, and Progress of the Principal Government Land and Marine Surveys of the World, a useful volume, though marred in its American sections by self-glorification and by jealousy of rivals, especially Powell.

3 Later, WJ McGee read on the Major’s behalf, before the Berlin meeting of the International Geological Congress, an amplification and justification of the Geological Survey’s conventions. J. W. Powell, “Methods of Geological Cartography in Use by the United States Geological Survey,” Congrés Géologique Internationale, C. R. 3rd Sess. (Berlin, 1888), pp. 221-40.

4 As we shall see, this trick later caused him to undergo some intensive questioning by a Congressional investigating committee. Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 82, 49th Cong., 1st Sess.

5 The history of the United States Geological Survey is told in Institute for Government Research, Service Monographs of the United States Government, The Geological Survey (New York, 1918). A fuller and more comprehensive history of the Survey is being prepared for the Geological Society of America by Professor Thomas Manning of Yale.


1 For this summary discussion of the colossal subject of the mapping of the continent I have drawn on Erwin Raisz, General Cartography, 2nd ed. (McGraw-Hill, 1948); Wheeler’s Facts concerning the Origin... of the Principal Government Land and Marine Surveys of the World; Lieutenant Governeur Warren’s able summary of American government explorations West of the Mississippi, in “Memoir to Accompany the Map of the Territory of the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean,” Pacific Railroad Reports, XI (1859); Herbert E. Bolton, Pageant in the Wilderness; Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (New York, 1947); Bernard DeVoto’s three-part history of the early West, The Course of Empire, Across the Wide Missouri, and The Year of Decision; J. 0. Kilmartin, “Federal Surveys and Maps,” in The American Year Book, 1950; and a large body of the literature of western exploration from Lewis and Clark onward.

2 Miera’s map was not published until 1950, in Herbert E. Bolton, Pageant in the Wildemess, though it was used by cartographers from Humboldt on, and was enormously influential in establishing some of the facts — and fantasies — of the interior West.

3 Published by White, Gallagher, and White in New York, 1828. A copy is in the Huntington Library. The Humboldt map may be found in Alexander von Humboldt, A Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, translated from the original French by John Black (London, 1811).

4 United States Geological Survey, 4th Annual Report, 1882-83. Since Powell made topography central in his bureau’s activities, the report on mapping assumes great importance in the annual reports after 1882-83, though for the first two years of his administration the operations were largely clean-up of earlier work and preparation for the new comprehensive topographical survey.

5 Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 82, p. 689.

6 Letter, J. O. Kilmartin, Chief, United States Geological Survey Map Information Office, February 5, 1953. See also Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, “Status of Topographic Mapping,” Map B, 2nd ed. (July, 1950).

7 Letter, J. O. Kilmartin, February 5, 1953.

8 The Geologic Atlas of the United States is of course in existence, but like the topographic maps, it is in a state of constant revision and perennially postponed completion.


1 Paralysis agitans first crippled and then killed Hayden. He was on crutches for several years before his death.

2 For Cope’s career, appraised by a close friend, see Henry Fairfield Osborn, Cope, Master Naturalist (Princeton, 1931).

3 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 1883, Nos. 84, 107, 124, 323, 455. Powell’s letter to Cope dated May 31, 1883, is typical.

Dear Professor:

Your personal letter in relation to the progress of your work in the printer’s hands, is just received.

I think from its tone that you are in error in some of your surmises. It is my belief that no one but the Public Printer, the Foreman of Printings, yourself and myself, has had anything to do with the arrangement or presentation of your work, and no outside influence has been exerted.

Again I can assure you that I only desire your work executed in the best manner, and in the shortest possible time.

Your book has been in the hands of the printer for several years, and his accounts have been running all that time. The new administration of the office is much more prompt and efficient than the old, and Congress has given the Bureau large appropriations to clear off all old work. Almost all such work is now off their hands; and they are exceedingly anxious to finish all. I think I fully understand and appreciate his wishes in the matter, and believe his reasoning to be good.

The Geological Survey is dependent upon the Public Printer for the prompt publication of its materials, and tries to co-operate with him in all his methods for speedy publication and for the rigid and economic expenditure of public funds.

The many delays in your work, exhibited in the failure to furnish MS to the printer, and the many changes you asked, has caused the officers of the Printing Bureau to feel that they could not depend upon you for any regular prosecution of the work of publication; and it was only by argument and earnest solicitation by myself that they were induced to take it up before the entire manuscript and drawings or illustrations were in their hands.

This they did, in violation of the general rule of the office, making your case an exception. If you fail to push the work from week to week until it is completed, it places me in an embarrassing position with them.

I beg you to consider this, and urge you to forward the copy in the shortest time possible. If you drop it now, it is impossible for me to say when it can be taken up again. In the meantime your unfinished work remains in their hands, a constant source of irritation.

In view of all this, I think it would be well if you would consider the volume at least as closed, and furnish a title and index, and let it go forth to the world.

I have just received a letter from Dr. Hayden suggesting this course (I enclose a copy for your information). His recommendations for the arrangement of your two volumes meet with my approval.

Very respectfully,


4 Undated letter, Cope to W. H. Holmes, reproduced in New York Herald, January 12, 1890.

5 The purposes of the investigation and the testimony which it elicited are detailed in Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 82, cited previously. This is probably the best single source of information on the scope of the government’s scientific bureaus in the eighteen-eighties, and the clearest reflection of the sharp disagreement between advocates of government science and those who would leave scientific investigation entirely to private enterprise.

6 J. W. Powell, testimony before the Joint Committee of Congress, ibid., p. 179.

7 Ibid., p. 180.

8 Reproduced in the New York Herald, January 12, 1890.

9 Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 82, p. 689. Because of the necessity of cleaning up the jobs left over from the King administration, it was not until the season of 1884-85 that Powell’s mapping on the appropriate scales for topographical purposes began in earnest. See United States Geological Survey, 6th Annual Report, 1884-85.

10 His letter was read into the record with other Herbert Agassiz correspondence by Representative Herbert, Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 82, pp. 1014-15.

11 After the partners in 1886 investigated King’s conduct of the London office and found that he had neglected it shamefully, relied on a dishonest manager, failed to keep adequate records, mixed his personal and the corporate funds, and generally brought the company to the edge of ruin, there was a period when Agassiz apparently contemplated bringing King to law as a criminal. But that investigation of King’s affairs would not occur for another year, and there seem to have been no clear advance warnings to the partners of King’s carelessness. Anger at King and all his works cannot therefore be adduced as a motive for Agassiz’s letter. Presumably, without recognizing or admitting that the Coast and Geodetic Survey whose works he praised was also government science, and without admitting his own indebtedness to its organization and facilities, he felt a constitutional repugnance against the notion of science as a governmentally-sponsored matter. See Crosby, “So Deep a Trail.”

12 Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 82, pp. 1070-84.



1 See Herbert O. Brayer, “The Influence of British Capital on the Western Range-Cattle Industry,” The Journal of Economic History, Supplement IX (1949), 85-98.

2 Hamlin Garland, in A Son of the Middle Border, and O. E. Rölvaag, in Giants of the Earth, are as vivid reporters as any of the delights of a plains winter in a shack. Garland, of course, represented the “commuter,” who homesteaded his land with the intention of selling it. Rölvaag’s Per Hansa, and other immigrants like him, had no escape hatch; they had to stick it out or perish.

3 The effects of the drouth and of the collapse of the wild land-speculation boom in the eighteen-eighties are well summarized in Fred A. Shannon, The Farmer’s Last Frontier, pp. 308-9. Shannon says, in part, “In the intermediate area [what Powell called the subhumid zone, approximately between the 96th and 101st meridians] when crop failure became evident in the early fall of 1887, the inhabitants became panicky and began dumping their speculative holdings on the market. There was a deluge of mortgage foreclosures, extending on down through the panic year of 1893.... Often, however, the farmer welcomed foreclosure, for the mortgage was worth more than the land. Half the population of western Kansas moved out between 1888 and 1892, and large portions of the plains from Kansas to North Dakota were virtually depopulated. As late as 1891, at least eighteen thousand prairie schooners entered Iowa from Nebraska. Many immigrants from Kansas braved it out with signs painted on their wagons such as: ‘In God we trusted, in Kansas we busted.’ Twenty towns in western Kansas were reported as totally depopulated.”

4 In talking about homesteaders on the plains, I am drawing partly on the memories of a boyhood spent on just such a homestead from 1914 to 1919. Though it happened to be in Saskatchewan, it could as well have been in Dakota or Montana; though it happened to have been during the years of World War I, it could as easily have been in the eighteen-eighties. The conditions, the climate, the hopes, the people, the discomforts, the delusions — and the casualties — were identical. Saskatchewan in 1919 had learned practically nothing from the more than fifty years of attempts to break the plains in Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

5 Garland, A Son of the Middle Border, p. 308.

6 For Powell’s public opinions on the moral to be drawn from the Johnstown flood, and his attempt not only to allay popular fear of all dams, but to use the disaster as a moral imperative to over-all planning, see “The Lesson of Conemaugh,” North American Review, CXLIX (1889), 150-56.

7 Powell to the Secretary of the Interior, March 13, 1888, United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, XLI, Nos. 362-88.

8 The needs, conditions, and policies outlined in Powell’s letter of March 13 were essentially those on which he conducted his whole campaign for regional planning in the West during the next four years. They difler only in details, and in the greater amplification that years of experience had suggested, from those of the Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions ten years before.

9 The resolutions and acts bearing upon the initiation of the Irrigation Survey are listed in United States Geological Survey, 10th Annual Report, 1889, pp. 1-80. The organic law, like much of that authorizing Geological Survey activity, was multiple and circuitous. The Joint Resolution of March 20, 1888, had the force of law, but the Irrigation Survey was not officially instituted until the Sundry Civil Expenses Bill, passed on October 2, 1888 (24 Stat. L., 255) appropriated $100,000 for its operations. October 2, 1888, is therefore the true beginning date for the Irrigation Survey.

For the detailed activities of the Irrigation Survey, see United States Geological Survey, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Annual Reports, the last three of which have Irrigation supplements; Everett W. Sterling, “The Powell Irrigation Survey, 1888-1893,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XXVII, No. 3 (December, 1940), 421-34; Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, pp. 300-314; United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent and Letters Received, 1888-1892; and “Statement of Major J. W. Powell, Director of the Geological Survey,” Senate Report No. 1466, 51st Cong., 1st Sess., July 2, 1890, pp. 46-109, 131-36. There is also useful material in Effie M. Mack, “William M. Stewart,” unpublished University of California Ph.D. dissertation (Berkeley, 1930); G. R. Brown, ed., The Reminiscences of Senator William M. Stewart of Nevada; Harold H. Dunham, “Some Crucial Years of the General Land Office, 1875-90,” Agricultural History, XI (1937), 129-30; R. P. Teele, Economics of Land Reclamation, 1927, pp. 202-54; and Benjamin Hibbard, A History of the Public Land Policies (New York, 1924), pp. 562-63. I have relied primarily on the letter books, the Annual Reports, Senate Report No. 1466, and Sterling.

10 “Statement of Major J. W. Powell,” Senate Report No. 1466.

11 It is this Irrigation Survey, his second attempt to put into practice a sane reclamation policy for the West and to modify the land laws to preserve both natural and human resources, that makes Powell as important now as he ever was while alive. As we shall see, there is a clear line of development from his Arid Regions in 1878 to the multi-purpose river-control installations and the multi-bureaued federal administration of the Public Domain that we have known through much of the twentieth century and especially since the nineteen-thirties.


1 He paints his own portrait better than any one else could do it, in his Reminiscences and in his letters.

2 Powell to Secretary of the Interior John W. Noble, January 2,1889. United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-13, p. 242.

3 Frederick Jackson Turner, Frontier in American History (New York, 1920).

4 The most thorough presentation of the aims and accomplishments of the last real flare-up of agrarian radicalism is John Hicks, The Populist Revolt (St. Paul, Minnesota, 1931).

5 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-14, p. 27.

6 Ibid., pp. 263-73.

7 Ibid., 173-15, p. 3.

8 The inside account of the El Paso Dam and the machinations which prevented its being built is in Anson Mills, My Story (New York, 1918). See also George Wharton James, Reclaiming the Arid West, pp. 250-59; Powell of the Colorado, pp. 301-3; United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-16, p. 232; 173-14, pp. 316, 498.

9 The subject of water law in the West is so complex as to be utterly confusing to the layman. The best advice possible for anyone needing information in that direction is to see a lawyer, and not just any lawyer either, but one who has made a lifelong specialty of irrigation law. A general work intended for but not necessarily comprehensible to the layman is C. S. Kinney’s Law of Irrigation, whose full title is a true indication of the entanglements to be found therein: A Treatise on the law of irrigation and water rights and the arid region doctrine of appropriation of waters as the same is in force in the states of the arid and semi-arid regions of the United States; and also including an abstract of the statutes of the respective states, and the decisions’ of the courts relating to those subjects, 2nd ed., revised and enlarged to October 1, 1912 (San Francisco, 1912).

10 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-14, p. 464.

11 Stewart’s speech repeats Powell’s thesis of the history of irrigation agriculture, the effectiveness of irrigation as a civilizing agency, the notion that no settled agriculture historically appears except in lands which demand control of stream waters; and it borrows a host of Powell’s illustrations from the history of Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and the American Southwest. Compare J. W. Powell, “The Lesson of Conemaugh,” and also “The History of Irrigation,” Independent, XLV (May 4, 1893), 1-3.

12 This speech of Powell’s has been several times reprinted. See Reclamation Era, XXVI, 201-2, or Debates, North Dakota Constitutional Convention, 1889 (Bismarck, N.D., 1889), pp. 410-12.

13 Powell, “The Lesson of Conemaugh.”

14 Powell’s biographers and writers on reclamation generally seem to have overlooked this speech, which is of first importance in any study of Powell’s developing ideas for proper arid-land institutions. See Proceedings and Debates, Montana Constitutional Convention, 1889, pp. 803-23.


1 Journals and Debates of the Constitutional Convention, Wyoming, September 2-30, 1889 (Cheyenne, Wyo., 1893), contains stiff and recurrent arguments on the proper basis of water rights. It was the constitution-framers’ serious intention of setting a firm foundation of water law that led to their adoption of the Powell-Mead principle of water rights tied inseparably to land.

2 It is apparent from the transcript of the hearings before the Appropriations Committee, when the Irrigation Survey was not yet more than a vague idea, that Stewart and Powell had widely different views of what was necessary. One of the essential differences was the matter of preliminary topographical maps, the question of long-range vs. short-range planning. Senate Report No. 1814, 50th Cong., 1st Sess.

3 Proceedings and Debates, Idaho Constitutional Convention, 1889 (Cald well, Ida., 1912), pp. 1929-30.

4 For discussion of the meaning of the Acting Commissioner’s action, and of the political whirlwind that followed, see Sterling, “The Powell Irrigation Survey, 1888-1893.” A search of the letter books of the Survey and of the records of Congressional hearings and debates will document Sterling but not modify his conclusions. See also Darrah, Powell of the Colorado, pp. 299-314. Though few historians have made much of it, the closing of the entries was a most important event. No single action could have been a sharper blow at the typical Western expansiveness and wishfulness and optimism; hardly any act could have had such an immediate and explosive political reaction. Hardly any act could have posed the argument between fact and myth beyond the 100th meridian so dramatically. This was one of the major landmarks on the way to our contemporary land policies. The motive behind the closing of entries — the intention of partial predevelopment, of planned or steered settlement — is still heretical in some quarters in 1954 and was ten times as heretical in 1890.

5 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-15, p. 388.

6 The resentment and uncertainty of local water companies was compounded by the widespread conviction that water was, a States’ rights matter. The El Paso-Elephant Butte dam dispute was one evidence of how utter was the chaos that Powell was trying to compel toward order. Other evidences may be extracted from the letter books, especially United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-12, p. 384 (the relation between irrigation works on the upper Missouri and navigation and flood control on the lower Mississippi); 173-13, p. 148-(in whose interest was the survey being made?); 173-15, p. 3 (the Clear Lake protests from Senator Hearst’s constituents); 173-15, p. 13 (reasons for the segregation of the San Pitch reservoir site in Utah); 173-15, p. 388 (justification of request to segregate 8,000,000 acres of agricultural and forest and grazing land on the Snake River in Idaho and Wyoming); 173-16, p. 94 (answering questions of the Idaho Canal Company); 173-16, p. 155 (refusing an invitation to co-operate with George West of Greeley, Colorado, on a water deal); 173-16, p. 417 (private vs. government control of water); 173-16, p. 488 (a petition from the Florence Canal Company of Arizona to be confirmed in its title).

7 Much of this testimony is cited or summarized or repeated in Senate Report No. 1466, 51st Cong., 1st Sess., July 2, 1890; and in House Report No. 2407, 51st Cong., 1st Sess., June 4, 1890.

8 The most readily available expressions of these are in magazine articles. See “The Irrigable Lands of the Arid Region,” “The Non-Irrigable Lands of the Arid Region,” and “Institutions for the Arid Lands,” in Century, XXXIX and XL (March, April, and May, 1890); “The History of Irrigation,” Independent, XLV (May 4, 1893), 1-3;, “The Lesson of Conemaugh,” North American Review, CXLIX (August, 1889), 150-58; “Our Recent Floods,” North American Review, CLV (August, 1892), 149-59; “The New Lake in the Desert,” Scribner‘s , X (October, 1891 ), 463-68. The views expressed in these and others during the period are of course duplicated and elaborated in his testimony before Congressional committees and in the 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Annual Reports of the United States Geological Survey.

9 Powell’s statement before the House Appropriations Committee, House Report No. 2407.

10 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-16, p. 482.

11 House Report No. 2407.

12 Powell’s first defense against this was a long letter to Secretary of the Interior Vilas on May 31, 1890 (United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-17, pp. 166 ff.). The letter includes quotations from the records of committee hearings during the formative weeks of the Irrigation Survey, and these indicate that Powell based the idea of the Survey solidly on topography from the beginning. Stewart and the others had simply not understood how thoroughly he meant it. See also House Report No. 2407 and Senate Report No. 1466.


1 The New York Herald on January 12 and again on January 19, when the dispute was continued and amplified, broke one of the most rancorous squabbles in the history of American science. The Herald’s Hosea Ballou, who was actually Cope’s ghost writer, rehearsed all the charges and defenses, cited all the documents, many of which turned out to have been distorted or used without their authors’ permission, and lined up a formidable battery of scientists pro and contra Powell’s organization of government science. See also Schuchert and LeVene, O. C. Marsh, Pioneer in Paleontology, and Henry Fairfield Osborn, Cope: Master Naturalist (Princeton, 1931), for somewhat partisan but also somewhat sheepish and embarrassed accounts of the row. Everybody connected with the dispute had reason to be sheepish, for the nature of the attack was such that no matter who won, everyone lost.

2 See Part IV, Chapter 5, ante.

3 New York Herald, January 19, 1890.


1 House Report No. 2407, containing as it does Major Powell’s prepared answers to anticipated questions, constitutes a major document in the history of the Irrigation Survey. It gave Powell a chance not only to work on the opposition in Congress, but to broadcast his views to the public. This June 4 hearing and the July 2 one before the Senate Appropriations Committee represent the very peak and climax of his fight to institute planning in the West.

2 There had been no clear-cut definition of the arid lands throughout the entire controversy over the Irrigation Survey. Powell proceeded on a rational assumption and took in everything west of the 101st meridian, roughly. Finally, at the request of Commissioner L. A. Groff of the General Land Office, Powell on June 30, 1890, sent over a map indicating his understanding of what was meant by “irrigable lands” in the “arid regions.” “As I understand it,” he wrote, “the act of October 2, 1888, applies to these districts, the work of selecting reservoir sites, canal sites, and irrigable lands falls within these districts, and I am therefore of the opinion that the reservation of lands to be acquired from the General Government, only under the Homestead laws, after proclamation by the President, applies only to these districts.” (United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-17, p. 289.) True to form, within two days Senator Stewart was using this explanatory map as the root of all the misunderstandings of the past two years, and basing on it a renewed attack on Powell.

3 Except in the general definition of policy, Dutton was the head of the Irrigation Survey. Even before November 21, 1888, when he was officially commissioned by Powell to direct the hydrographic work, all letters regarding irrigation were referred to him without comment.

4 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-17, p. 208.

5 Senate Report No. 1466.

6 See Part IV, Chapter 5, ante.

7 Elimination of the hydrographic work left Dutton out of a job. Though he might have been expected to continue his special arrangement with the Geological Survey which had absorbed his best energies since 1874, his testimony before the Irrigation Committee and his disagreement with Powell on the propriety of concentrating funds from both appropriations on topography led him to return to regular Army duty. He apparently believed, and apparently told Powell, that the topographical work being done with Irrigation Survey funds was illegal, though the record, read now, indicates that the irrigation clique approved topography until they found out what it entailed. See Letter from C. E. Dutton, Jr., appended to Stegner, “Clarence Edward Dutton,” State University of Iowa unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, 1935.

8 The optimistic evolutionary aspect of Powell’s thought is nowhere so compactly developed as in his essay, “Sociology,” in American Anthropologist, n.s. I (July and October, 1899); but other essays in that series, which were to have been combined into the second volume of his novum organum, repeat the theme in manifold ways. See “Technology,” American Anthropologist, n.s. I (April, 1899); “Esthetology,” American Anthropologist, n.s. I (January, 1899); “Philology,” American Anthropologist, n.s. II (October-December, 1900); and “Sophiology,” American Anthropologist, n.s. III (January-March, 1901).

9 In a letter to a South Dakota correspondent on September 29, 1890, a month after the Senate had destroyed his Irrigation Survey and brought the General Plan to nothing, Powell wrote: “... I regret that a broader view of the subject could not have been taken and a sufficient appropriation made to carry on investigations in relation to all the waters of the arid and sub-humid regions which can be used in irrigation. Comparatively large appropriations should have been made and information given to the people at the earliest date and the largest extent. Such was my plan, and the House of Representatives deemed it wise, and the bill passed that body; but I was unable to represent the matter in such a convincing light as to carry the judgement of the Senate....

“Were it in my power, such an investigation of this country would be made as to secure full information for the people, so that in settling in the sub-humid region they would be aware of the fact that it is absolutely necessary in that country to provide against years of drought by storing sufficient water for the agricultural lands and by building the necessary irrigation works, and the investigation would be carried on so thoroughly that the people would know just where the water would be found and how it could be used....” United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-18, p. 151. His, aim, that is, was always primarily an informational one; his difficulty was that information could not be made available without its clashing with fantasy and the practical politics and speculation that depended on it.


1 United States Geological Survey, 12th Annual Report, 1890-91.

2 Congressional Record, Pt. 3, 45th Cong., 3rd Sess.

3 Shannon, The Farmer’s Last Frontier, p. 309.

4 O. C. Marsh, Odontornithes: a monograph on the extinct toothed birds of North America. United States Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel Report, VII, Washington, 1880. What actually caused the trouble was not this publication by the King Survey, however, but Powell’s reprinting of a forty-page abstract, in accordance with well-established practice, in the United States Geological Survey, 3rd Annual Report, 1881-82.

5 Herbert’s attacks on the Survey, on Marsh, and on Powell are distributed through several hundred pages of the Congressional Record (1892), XXIII, Part 2.

6 During February, April, and May, 1883 — significantly during the very time when Hayden and Powell were trying, with somewhat ill grace, to settle the details of completing the publications of the Hayden Survey — there was a series of ruffled letters from Smith to Powell’s office. James Pilling eventually, on May 24, arranged for a personal meeting at the end of the month so that Smith could bring his objections of intrusions upon his state survey by the Geological Survey. On April 18 Powell himself had written to smooth Smith’s feathers and promised the fullest co-operation and consideration of Smith’s priorities and wishes. Apparently neither co-operation nor a personal interview cured Smith of his animus, and he remained one of the Cope crowd. United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-4, pp. 122, 236, 303.

7 Schuchert and LeVene, O. C. Marsh, Pioneer in Paleontology, pp. 319-20.

8 William E. Smythe, a writer for the Omaha Bee and a zealous worker for reclamation, organized the first national Irrigation Congress at Salt Lake City in 1891; he also founded and edited Irrigation Age. His persistent publicizing of irrigation problems, and his organization of arid-belt farmers into a politically coherent group, made him the single most influential figure, with the exception of Major Powell, in the early years of reclamation. His own account of his activities and the fight for adequate reclamation policies is in The Conquest of Arid America (New York, 1900).

9 In his “Institutions for the Arid Lands,” Powell indicated what needed to be done in the West and remarked that of the three possible agencies of development — government, private corporations, and co-operative associations of citizens — he much favored the last. Federal and state governments, he believed, needed to do nothing but establish statutes on the rights of land and water, and provide adequate district and state courts. He thought that the federal government ought to survey the public domain, hold some of it in trust for the co-operative local districts, classify the public lands, and divide the waters by statute among the districts. Otherwise, control and administration of the timber, range, irrigable land, and water of the drainage-basin districts should be co-operative among the actual settlers. He hoped that such co operative associations, once organized, might borrow corporation capital and thus bring together the small freeholders and the large corporations who were currently disputing control of the West, and tie them into some mutually profitable association.

10 International Irrigation Congress, Proceedings (1893), pp. 106-7.


1 Walcott was politically acceptable partly because he was a pure geologist, and had no interest in the Major’s land-reform schemes.

2 United States Geological Survey, 15th Annual Report, 1893-94, p. 7.

3 Speech by W J McGee before a meeting of the Smithsonian in the National Museum, September 26, 1902. In S. P. Langley et al., “In Memory of John Wesley Powell,” Science, n.s. XVI (1902), 782-90.

4 J. W. Powell, “The Larger Import of Scientific Education,” Popular Science Monthly, XXVI (February, 1885), pp. 452-6.

5 J. W. Powell, Truth and Error (Chicago, 1898), p. 243.

6 Lester A. Ward, Dynamic Sociology, or Applied Social Science (New York, 1883). Ward’s thoughts on every sort of scientific and philosophical topic are collected in the six volumes characteristically titled Glimpses of the Cosmos (New York, 1913-18). A considerably too enthusiastic estimate of Ward’s thought and career as biologist, sociologist, and philosopher is Samuel Chugarman, Lester Ward, the American Aristotle (Durham, N.C., 1939).

7 Ward reviewed Truth and Error, not too favorably considering that the book was dedicated to him, in Science, n.s. IX (January 27, 1899), 126-37, and Powell replied — or retorted — in the same publication, IX (February 17, 1899), 259-63.

8 See especially “From Savagery to Barbarism,” Transactions of the Anthropological Society of Washington, III (1885), 173-96; “From Barbarism to Civilization,” American Anthropologist, I (1888), 97-123; and “Human Evolution,” Transactions of the Anthropological Society of Washington, II (1883), 176-208.

9 The rather macabre settlement of the bet involved a study of Powell’s brain, which was made with almost phrenological solemnity by Dr. D. S. Lamb after Powell’s body had been embalmed in Haven, Maine, where he died, and brought to Washington. The solemn poking about in the “fissural complexities” of his brain was in keeping with Powell’s own experimental habit, as well as with his positivist philosophy and his belief in things, concretions, as the sources of observation and hence of knowledge. The study was published by E. A. Spitzka as “A Study of the Brain of the late Major J. W. Powell,” American Anthropologist, n.s. V (1903), 585-643.



1 Garlar tells of his acquaintance with Powell in Roadside Meetings (New York, 1930), pp. 361-63.

2 United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, “Present and Proposed Activities,” January 1, 1951. A listing of Reclamation Bureau projects up to the year 1948 is in Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Reclamation Bureau Data (Washington, 1948).

3 See Gifford Pinchot, Breaking New Ground (New York, 1947), for the story, somewhat marred by Pinchot’s belligerent self-aggrandizement, of the Pinchot-Roosevelt promotion of conservation as a national program and a popular movement. Powell himself was looked upon by Pinchot with some suspicion: two such monumental bureaucrats, one fading as the other rose, would hardly have got along. Also, Powell had expressed himself as not favoring a federal forestry service, fearing that it might become corrupt. He constantly advocated conservation and reclamation, but just as constantly tried to develop cooperative local control. The verdict of history, at least as most modern conservationists read it, has been that federal bureaus, though far from perfect, have been less susceptible to corruption than state governments exposed to almost irresistible local pressures, and that co-operative associations are likely to need the protection of federal power against private interests ambitious to dominate them.

4 United States Geological Survey, Letters Sent, 173-12, p. 162.

5 Louise Peffer points out in The Closing of the Public Domain, p. 170, that grazing was the last of the natural resources of the West to be dealt with, because of general suspicion of the “cattle interests.” The terms of the Taylor Grazing Act, and its process of collaboration between local range users and government agencies, derive to some extent from the Mizpah-Pumpkin Creek grazing agreement authorized between the federal government and the state of Montana by an act of March 29, 1928. This was a hopeful experiment in joint leases, and it incorporated much of Powell’s co-operative-user-control idea, but it had not time to work out fully before President Hoover’s proposals to turn the public lands over to the states confused the situation and brought about a new cycle of policy conflicts that ended in the Taylor Grazing Act and some of the “rescue” legislation of the New Deal. Peffer, The Closing of the

6 Quoted in ibid., p. 217.

7 Ibid., p. 218.

8 In “The Non-Irrigable Lands of the Arid Region,” for instance, he remarks that the pasturage must be carefully grazed, that ten, twenty, or even fifty acres are necessary to support one steer the year around, and that the land therefore should not be fenced except possibly by townships or tens of townships. This is to say, he approved of the handling of the range by the men actually running stock on it so long as they were restrained from monopolization of land and water to the exclusion of the small farmer.

9 The official closing of the old public domain should probably be set at July 16, 1946, when the General Land Office, after directing the disposal and reservation of the public lands continuously since 1812, formally closed and merged its functions in the newly-created Bureau of Land Management. The end of the one bureau and the creation of the new one highlighted the alteration of policy from disposal to something like Pinchot’s “wise use.” Peffer, The Closing of the Public Domain, p. 313.

10 Since large acreages were privately owned under practically all Bureau of Reclamation dams, the reclamation law could never be thought of as simply a means of reclaiming public lands, but must make allowances for the private holdings. It limited the amount of public land that could be acquired under any project to 160 acres, and to prevent profiteering by existing landholders, it limited the amount of water available to any owner to that which would irrigate 160 acres. That acreage-water limitation, which is completely in keeping with Powell’s own small-farmer bias, has been one of the most bitterly fought clauses in any federal law. (See Paul S. Taylor, “The 160-Acre Water Limitation and the Water Resources Commission,” Western Political Quarterly, III, No. 3 [September, 1950].) But the Newlands Act itself, despite local failures of administration or application, is perhaps the best and most responsible land-development law that the nation ever passed. It authorized the use of receipts from sale and disposal of public lands as a fund for the creation of irrigation works, and it withdrew all potential irrigable lands from entry except under the Homestead Act — thus returning the public domain to the condition it would have been in had Powell been allowed to complete his Irrigation Survey in the eighteen-nineties. The early effects of the Newlands Act may be studied in James, Reclaiming the Arid West, and the later-developed policies of land. management in Marion Clawson, Uncle Sam’s Acres.

11 As this volume went to press in February, 1954, there were indications from several directions that the policies of federal ownership, federal management, extensive reservations, and “wise use” that developed between Powell’s original Arid Regions proposals in 1878 and the inauguration of President Eisenhower in 1953 were to be systematically assaulted and if possible reversed. The turning over of the off-shore oil lands to the interested states was a symptom, although the off-shore oil was never part of the public domain as that concept historically developed. But in various public utterances both during the campaign and after his installation as Secretary of the Interior, Douglas McKay has indicated his intention of returning as far as possible on the road to the old policy of disposal which many had thought completely discredited and outgrown. By January, 1954, he had made ominous noises toward a revision and eventual breakup of the Indian reservations, had splintered a coherent reclamation project of the Bureau of Reclamation by awarding to private power companies two dam-sites on the Snake River, and was energetically going forward with a raid against the sanctity of the national parks (and perhaps angling for Reclamation Bureau support) by backing the proposed Reclamation dam in Echo Park, on the Green River, within the boundaries of Dinosaur National Monument. President Eisenhower, evidently concurring, has given his Secretary of the Interior a free hand; and in his State of the Union message he indicated his intention to push for a “revised public land policy” and “legislation to improve the conservation and management of publicly-owned grazing lands in national forests.” Since the only alternatives at this time would be either to support the Forest Service in resisting pressure from stockmen for relaxation of rules in National Forest grazing lands, or to help the stockmen break the Forest Service down, there seems no doubt that his thinking and his intentions match those of Secretary McKay. There seems no doubt either that as the raids on federal reserves become more open, there will be a clear testing of the bi-partisan strength of the conservation movement and the principles that Powell’s intense public career helped to create and promote. To a jaundiced historian, it appears that the “disposal” advocates make strong claims for state or local or private “development” when the pickings are good, and resources of real value are involved; but that they are very willing to have the federal government own, manage, and rescue lands which contain no valuable resources or which have been gutted by indiscriminate exploitation. Thus Texas, to take only one example, is hot for its share of off-shore oil and its right to the continental shelf. It never subscribed to the public domain notion and historically never surrendered its state-owned lands to the federal government upon annexation. But let a calamitous drouth hit Texas and listen to the cries for federal rescue. In the same way, stock interests have made tentative grabs at the range lands, many of them now restored to usefulness by the Soil Conservation Service and the controlled grazing under the Taylor Grazing Act; and lumber companies that have clear-cut their holdings without practicing forest management and replanting have put out their feelers toward government reserves, notably Olympic National Park and its virgin rain-forest. If that philosophy triumphs after so many years of gradual establishment of its opposite, Major Powell will undoubtedly rise from the dead in Arlington Cemetery and appear before a committee of Congress.

12 Paul S. Taylor, “The Central Valley Project: Water and Land,” Western Political Quarterly, II, No. 2 (June, 1949); also “Extension of Remarks of Hon. Helen Gahagan Douglas of California in the House of Representatives,” Congressional Record (June 20, 1947, June 1, 1948, and October 5, 1949). The most objective — and damaging — report on the competition between bureaus on the Kings and Kern, and the manipulation of bureaucratic rivalries for political advantage, is Arthur A. Maass, “The Kings River Project in the Basin of the Great Central Valley — A Case Study,” Appendix 7 of Task Force Report on Natural Resources [Appendix L] prepared for the U.S. Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government (Washington, 1949).

13 Cited in Clawson, Uncle Sam’s Acres, p. 259.

14 For a summary of this long and rather disgraceful squabble, see Peffer, The Closing of the Public Domain, pp. 194-95.

15 In this instance the forces of conservation were whipped into action by publicity, of which important early parts were Arthur Carhart, “Don’t Fence Us In!”, Pacific Spectator (Winter, 1947), and Bernard DeVoto’s series of articles in the Easy Chair of Harper’s Magazine.

16 Peffer, The Closing of the Public Domain, pp. 271-72.

17 The avowed tactics of the large landholders of the lower San Joaquin Valley, as reported in Business Week, May 13, 1944, are relevant here. They included attempts to repeal the 160-acre limitation directly, use of the Army Engineers to evade Reclamation Act restrictions, attempts to get the Central Valley Project back into the hands of the state of California, and use of deep-well pumps around the margins of irrigated areas to catch excess water for use on unauthorized lands.

18 Particularly with regard to the alleged tendency of the Bureau of Reclamation to ignore or slight the human consequences of its projects, and to consider feasibility the prime consideration in the building of a dam. The Sierra Club and other conservation groups have for years been pleading the recreational values of some of the sites that the Reclamation Bureau has marked for dams, and in particular have fought the proposed construction of dams within national parks and monuments. They have also supported the reservation of reservoir sites for the future, to be used only when the present reservoirs silt up. On both of these issues they have come into some conflict with Bureau of Reclamation policies.

19 Among his trainees and disciples were Elwood Mead, W J McGee, Arthur Powell Davis, and F. H. Newell, all later prominent in reclamation. It can almost be said that the Irrigation Survey trained the men who later made the Reclamation Service possible.

20 The Education of Henry Adams, p. 500.

21 Ibid., p. 451.

22 Powell, Truth and Error, p. 419.

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