James Duncan Graham 17991865

Attributed to John Plumbe Jr. (18091857)
Three-quarter-plate daguerreotype, c. 1845

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

This daguerreotype portrays the army officer James Duncan Graham seated next to a map that depicts a section of the St. Lawrence River. Educated at West Point, Graham became a central figure in the effort to better determine the location of and territory abutting the nation’s borders.

Having first traveled west in 1819 with Major Stephen Long’s expedition to the Rocky Mountains, Graham embarked in 1839 on a series of surveying expeditions under the auspices of the newly created Corps of Topographical Engineers. He and his team of assistants produced highly detailed maps, first along the boundary line between Texas and Mexico and later between the United States and the British provinces. After the Mexican War, Graham returned to the Southwest to survey the new border.