We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah well, we may conjecture many things.
– John Wesley Powell on exploring the Colorado River, 1869
A new chapter in the history of American exploration began in the 1840s. Buoyed by recent advances in the sciences, a new generation traveled west, desirous of studying this region's lands and its Native peoples. The addition of vast new territories resulting from treaties with Mexico and Britain provided the impetus for much of this work. To better understand what the United States had recently acquired, federal and state governments sponsored a series of surveying expeditions to map and inventory these lands.
In addition to surveyors, these parties included geologists, naturalists, and at times anthropologists. Artists and photographers also played a vital role in assisting this work and in publicizing the surveys themselves. The individuals shown in this section made discoveries that greatly enhanced scientific knowledge during this period. They also had the additional effect of preparing the frontier for American settlement.
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