Exploring Desert Stone: John N. Macomb's 1859 Expedition to the Canyonlands of the Colorado

Exploring Desert Stone: John N. Macomb's 1859 Expedition to the Canyonlands of the Colorado

Exploring Desert Stone: John N. Macomb's 1859 Expedition to the Canyonlands of the Colorado

Exploring Desert Stone: John N. Macomb's 1859 Expedition to the Canyonlands of the Colorado

Excerpt

To the casual observer the Macomb expedition report may appear typical of other government-issued survey reports of the time, but a closer look reveals much more. It is a classic of frontier literature. Army historian Frank N. Schubert explains that the geographical and geological depictions in the report “revealed a new and unknown region” to Americans. Its authors “gave the nation a substantial amount of information about the Colorado” and “made significant contributions to the development of science.” (See Schubert’s Vanguard of Expansion.) In addition, the report’s color illustrations and romantic narrative offered new vistas for Americans seeking a national identity following the Civil War.

Furthermore, the Macomb report chronicled a surprising event—the historically important discovery of petrified bones on the Old Spanish Trail. (Among the paleobiology collections of today’s Smithsonian Institution are the famous vertebrate fossils discovered by the expedition. The Museum of Natural History publicizes the specimens as the first significant fossils of their kind added to its collections.)

Printed in large format, the title in gold leaf on the spine of the Macomb report reads: Exploring Expedition from Santa Fé to Junction of Grand and Green Rivers. 1859. Macomb. Geological Report. Newberry. The gilt shield of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, with the national spread eagle perched on a crest, wrapped with a wreath of oak leaves and laurel foliage, adorns the bottom of the spine. Within this volume are eleven beautifully rendered, full-page color plates of landscape vistas, three blackand-white landscape lithographs, and eight plates of fossils. Tipped into the back of the book is a large folding map depicting the frontier region examined by the expedition.

Author Advanced search

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.