Yellowstone and the Great West: Journals, Letters, and Images from the 1871 Hayden Expedition

By Marlene Deahl Merrill | Go to book overview

Preface

This book presents the first daily account of the historic 1871 Yellowstone Survey. Led by geologist Ferdinand Hayden, the survey explored Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming Territories, providing a vast amount of new scientific and practical information about these areas. This work, in turn, led to the formulation and successful passage of a congressional bill that in 1872 set aside a large part of the Upper Valley of the Yellowstone as the world's first, and probably best-known, national park.

As if this were not enough, the survey will long be remembered for the work of its official photographer, William Henry Jackson, and its guest artist, Thomas Moran. Jackson's startling photographs and Moran's luminous watercolor and oil paintings created the earliest on-site images of the area -- images that have shaped the public perception of Yellowstone and the American West to this day.

Secondary descriptions of this survey abound in books and articles published over the past one hundred years. Many, if not most, of these accounts are deeply flawed because of their heavy reliance on Hayden's and Jackson's published writings about the expedition. These writings include Jackson's two misremembered recollections, both written (with the assistance and intervention of coauthors) decades after the survey, and Hayden's detailed official report as well as his popular and scientific articles, prepared soon after the survey. The fact that Jackson and Hayden remain the survey's two most famous members lends credence to the belief that their expedition accounts are both reliable and complete. This, however, is not the case. Just as their publications omit important facts, they contain errors and misleading claims concerning the survey's discoveries and accomplishments.

There is much more to the survey's story than the accounts of Jackson

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