In the mid-nineteenth century, the United States government set out to survey and document its newly acquired lands and territories west of the Mississippi. The goals of these surveys were manifold: to produce topographical maps, to document flora and fauna, and to document natural resources to build the emerging US economy. These surveys, and the images from them, also functioned to build the new sense of American identity with the landscape, condensing vistas into the 'picturesque' tradition of European image making. Thus, the entire span of US territory could be seen as a single, cohesive whole.
This lithograph comes from one of six surveys commissioned by the Army's Topographic Bureau in 1853, which sought to find the best route to construct a transcontinental railroad. The result was a thirteen-volume report including maps, lithographs, and technical data entitled 'Explorations and Surveys to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a Railroad from the Mississippi river to the Pacific Ocean.' In particular, the print comes from the northern survey, commanded by Isaac Stevens, which explored the regions between the 47th and 49th parallels.
Stanley shows here the stop the Stanley Party made at the junction of the Bitterroot and Hell Gate, in present day Montana. While there, the Party met with the Flathead Chief by the name Victor, as is shown in the image. The figures and their encampment are dwarfed by the vast landscape around them, indicating the sublimity of these new American territories.
5.75 x 8.75 inches, image
6.5 x 9.25 inches, stone
17 x 20 inches, frame
Artist 'Stanley Del.' lower left
Entitled 'Victor's Camp - Hell Gate Ronde' lower center margin
Publisher 'Sarony, Major & Knapp. Lith.s 449 Broadway N.Y.' lower right
Inscribed 'U.S.P.R.R. EXP. & SURVEYS — 47th & 49th PARALLELS' upper left
Inscribed 'GENERAL REPORT — PLATE XXXI' upper right
Framed to conservation standards using 100 percent rag matting with French accents; glazed with UV5 Plexiglas to inhibit fading; housed in a gold reverse ogee moulding.
Print in overall good condition; some localized foxing and discoloration; minor surface abrasions to frame.