John Mix Stanley
Maple River, c.1860
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lithograph with color wood engraving, Sarony, Major, & Knapp Lith.
5.75 x 8.75 in
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.' Along with the image, Stanley also noted in the report of the Maple River: "It would be an excellent plan for an emigrant travelling through the country, before reaching one of these rivers on which he expects to camp, to catch a few frogs, for the purpose of fishing in these streams, which abound pike, picarel, and large catfish. Frogs are by far the best bait that can be used." This note from the artist perhaps describes some of the actions of the figures in the camp in the foreground of the image. 5.75 x 8.75 inches, image 6.5 x 9.25 inches, stone 13.25 x 16.25 inches, frame Artist 'Stanley Del.' lower left Entitled 'Maple River' 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 VIII' upper right Framed to conservation standards using 100 percent rag matting and Museum Glass to inhibit fading; housed in a brass-surface aluminium moulding.