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Where can I find historical photographs from the Great Surveys of the American West?

A number of images from the "Great Surveys of the American West" can be downloaded through the online USGS Photographic Library.

Before the USGS was established by Congress as a part of the Department of Interior, four surveys of the western United States took place between 1867 and 1879. Surveys led by Ferdinand Hayden and John Wesley Powell were sponsored by the Interior Department, and Surveys led by Clarence King and Lt. George M. Wheeler were sponsored by the War Department.

A convenient way to find images from the surveys is to search on the names of the photographers. You can also search on terms like "Wheeler Survey" and "King Survey".

The 1867 King Survey

  • Known as the "U.S. Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel"
  • Led by Clarence King (later the first Director of the USGS)
  • Photographers: Timothy O'Sullivan (who was also part of the Wheeler Survey) and C. E. Watkins.

The 1867 Hayden Survey

  • Known as the "U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories"
  • Led by Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden
  • Photographer: William Henry Jackson.

The 1872 Wheeler Survey

  • Known as the "U.S. Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian"
  • Led by George Montague Wheeler
  • Photographer: Timothy O'Sullivan (who was also part of the King Survey).

The 1869 Powell Survey

  • Known as the "U.S. Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region"
  • Led by John Wesley Powell (later the second Director of the USGS)  
  • Photographers: J. K. Hillers and E. O. Beaman 

Photographs from these expeditions are also available through the Library of Congress.

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