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2007 Catalog > 28. Sitgreaves, Expedition down Zuñi and Colorado Rivers.

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28. Lorenzo Sitgreaves. Report of an Expedition Down the Zuñi and Colorado Rivers (Washington, D.C.: Beverly Tucker, Senate Printer, 1854). Second printing (Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 59, 33rd Cong., 1st sess.). 8vo in original purple blind-stamped cloth with gilt spine title. Ex-libri with call number on spine. 198 pp. Complete with 78 plates (including tinted scenes of Indian domestic activities and ceremonies; one folding scene of the “Buffalo Dance of the Zuñi”) and one large lithographed folding map: “Reconnaissance of the Zuñi, Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers” (sheet size: 27 1/2 x 47 3/4"). Plates are incorrectly numbered or inserted (see Graff, 3809). Contains 22 plates of Indians and scenery, 6 of mammals, 6 of birds, 6 of reptiles, 3 of fish, and 21 of plants. The book is in excellent to fine condition with sound hinges and tight binding. Spine is sunned. A previous owner’s signature and date (1884) inscribed in ink on front free endpaper. Contents, including plates, are clean and without foxing. One natural history plate is browned. Map has a tear at the binding tab and through the left corner, professionally repaired; a few tiny fold separations at corners. Map is excellent overall. Book and contents are excellent, especially as the complete document is scarce.

Price: SOLD.

In 1851, Topographical Engineer Lorenzo Sitgreaves, recently detailed to the Department of New Mexico, began a reconnaissance west of Zuñi Pueblo with several objectives. The first was to find the wagon route described by Lieutenant James Simpson in 1849. The second was to examine the courses of the Zuñi and Colorado Rivers and to provide observations on the character of the adjacent lands. Sitgreaves’s party embarked from Santa Domingo Pueblo and followed the Zuñi River to its confluence with the Little Colorado. Here, he elected not continue up the river as far as the Grand Canyon, but instead marched due west over the San Francisco Mountains. After a brush with the Mojaves, the party headed south to Yuma through country Sitgreaves initially called “barren and without general interest” and then on to San Diego.

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From the expedition, Sitgreaves produced the present report, published by the U.S. Senate in 1854, which is accompanied by a map illustrating the expedition route through southwestern New Mexico, southern Arizona, and southern California (then mostly New Mexico territory). The report also provides important observations and contributions to the geography, cartography, ethnology, and natural history of this largely unexplored region. The report consists of Sitgreaves’s daily journal describing the terrain, Indian settlements, the presence of water and supplies, and various encounters with the Zuñi, Mojaves, Cosninos, Yuma, and Yampais. It also contains illustrations by Richard H. Kern and data on natural history gathered by the scientist S. W. Woodhouse, both of whom accompanied Sitgreaves on the expedition. The party’s explorations discovered and documented new species of mammals, reptiles, and plants, which are described in appendices by Woodhouse and his colleagues Spencer Baird, Charles Girard, Edward Hallowell, and John Torrey. These sections cover botany and zoology with plates of mammals, birds, fish, lizards, snakes, and plants.

Kerns’s drawings—many rendered in tinted lithographs—of the daily life, customs, and ceremonies of Southwestern tribes are especially noteworthy. The folding plate recording the Buffalo Dance of the Zuñi is the first and perhaps the only published depiction of this seldom-performed dance. Kern’s drawings of the scenes along the route are among the first published views of the area.


About the overall significance of Sitgreaves’s expedition and the resulting report, Goetzmann writes that it “was a careful reconnaissance of a hitherto forbidding and imperfectly known country. Sitgreaves had presented an informed picture of the country through which a great part of the trail could pass. The Santa Fe Railroad follows his route today. . . . A final important result of the expedition were the drawings of Richard Kern, which presented views of the unique Indian tribes, like the Yampais and the Cosninos, never before known to ethnologists. These and his landscape views of the Arizona topography added another dimension to the knowledge of the West.” The drawings are complemented by Sitgreaves’s map, which Wheat calls “a monumental achievement . . ., generally correct and exceedingly well done.”

A superb document of the Southwest, important in many categories of exploration and discovery.

Refs.: Goetzmann, Army Explorations in the American West, pp. 244–246; Graff, 3809; Howes, S521; Wagner-Camp, 230:2; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, vol. III, pp. 22–24, no. 763.

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