Views of the West
Western survey expeditions included artists as well as cartographers. Views of dramatic landscapes published in magazines and newspapers helped create an image of the West in the minds of the American public. While visual artists first represented the geology and landscapes for official records as well as industrial and national expansion, the same images later helped establish natural landscapes as tourist attractions.
The prints displayed above, Porcupine Terraces, Franklin Valley, and Valley of the Mud Lakes, come from a survey led by Edward Griffin Beckwith to propose a possible route for the transcontinental railway across the Western United States. The images show views from exploration along the 41st parallel, which today demarcates pieces of the Utah-Wyoming, Colorado-Wyoming, and Colorado-Nebraska borders.
Showcasing an expansive view of one of the United States’s most well-known landscapes, the image of the Grand Canyon in the atlas at left accompanied Clarence Dutton’s “Tertiary History of the Grand Canyon District,” originally published in 1882. William Henry Holmes, the expedition artist, created illustrations to accompany Dutton’s text. Some of Holmes’s images from this project, especially the Panorama from Point Sublime (reproduced in large format and displayed on the south west wall of the rotunda), remain recognized as scientific and artistic masterpieces today.
—Melanie Langa, Undergraduate in History, ’16