Sunday, 5 August 2012

Powell Survey - part 1



You may recall the photograph above from part 1 of my recent post on painter Thomas Moran. It was of Moran on a survey carried out by John Wesley Powell in 1973. It was part of a survey carried out between 1871 and 1878.

Powell was accompanied by a team of photographers, who carried heavy equipment, like plate cameras and tripods, to record the survey. In the course of researching Moran’s work I stumbled across an archive of some the resulting photographs. While they are not ‘art’, they are certainly artistic, remarkable early photographs, and make a fascinating factual record of the terrain as Thomas Moran would have found it.

In the summer of 1873 Thomas Moran headed west to join John Wesley Powell on a trip to the Grand Canyon. Four years earlier Powell had captured the nation's attention when he led a small group of men in custom-crafted boats through the white-water of the Colorado River. Already planning a pendant for Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Moran accepted Powell's invitation to join him the following summer. Accompanying the party was Justin E. Colburn, a correspondent, who, during the trip, sent letters east for publication in the New York Times. Vivid, candid, and insightful, Colburn's letters offer a clear view of a forbidding landscape and a first-hand account of the often difficult journey he and Moran made with Powell to the Grand Canyon. Moran wrote his wife Mary a humorous and revealing account of his adventures on 13 August 1873.




John Wesley Powell (1834 – 1902) was a U.S. soldier, geologist, explorer of the American West and director of major scientific and cultural institutions. He is famous for the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers that included the first known passage through the Grand Canyon.

Powell retraced the route in 1871-1872 with another expedition, resulting in photographs by three photographers, an accurate map and various papers. In planning this expedition, he employed the services of Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon missionary in southern Utah and northern Arizona, who had cultivated excellent relationships with Native Americans. Before setting out, Powell used Hamblin as a negotiator to ensure the safety of his expedition from local Indian groups. Powell believed they had killed the three men lost from his previous expedition. Wallace Stegner states that Powell knew the men had been killed by the Indians in a case of mistaken identity.

Powell served as second director of the US Geological Survey (1881–1894) and proposed policies for development of the arid West which were prescient for his accurate evaluation of conditions. He was director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution where he supported linguistic and sociological research and publications.

This is part 1 of 2-part post:


Gate of Lodore, Green River, N.W. Colorado

Pink Cliffs

Tantalus Creek, Wayne County, Utah

Annus Glen, Winslow Creek, Garfield County, Utah

Mouth of Tantalus Canyon, Garfield County, Utah

Branch of Ashley Fork

Buttes near Green River Station, U.P. Railroad

Canyon to Chelly, Arizona (Apache County, Canyon de Chelly quadrangle)

Canyon, Kaibob Plateau, Grand Canyon, Arizona looking north Vermillion Cliffs

Captains of the Canyon, De Chelly Canyon, Arizona. Apache County, Canyon De Chelly quadrangle.

Chihuahua, Chihuahua Providence, Mexico

Cinder cones near San Francisco Mountain, Coconino County

Cliff dwellings under Aubrey Limestone, Walnut Canyons Coconino County, Arizona

Coconino and Mohave Counties, Arizona. View of the Grand Canyon from the north rim, looking downstream

De Chelly Valley, Arizona, Apache County

Eagle Crag, Rio Virgin, Utah

Eagle Crag, Rio Virgin, Utah

Echo Rock, Green River, Utah. 
Echo Park looking from upper end. Yampa River in the foreground

Eroded Supai Sandstone, Kaibob Canyon, Arizona. Grand Canyon National Park

Gateway in De Chelly Canyon, Apache County, Arizona.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon near Toroweap

Grand Canyon ( note man with map case on his back is standing on top cliff in upper right corner )

Grand Canyon of the Colorado River 
(suited figure reclining on top)

Grand Canyon, looking east from Toroweap

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