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2007 Catalog > 45. Raynolds, Report on the Exploration of the Yellowstone River.


45. W. F. Raynolds. Report on the Exploration of the Yellowstone River . . . , Communicated by the Secretary of War, in Compliance with a Resolution of the Senate, February 13, 1866 (Washington, D.C.: Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 77, 40th Cong., 1st sess., 1868). First edition. 174 pgs. 8vo report in cloth-covered boards with title stamped in gilt on front cover. Contains the large folding map by Raynolds: “U.S. War Department, Map of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers and Their Tributaries . . . 1859–60” (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Engineer Bureau, 1860). Lithograph in black and white. 26 3/4 x 41 1/4" at neat line. Sheet: 29 x 42 1/2". Map has several corner splits; short marginal splits at binding tab; marginal tear in u. l. corner. Book has former owner’s bookplate on front free endpaper; interior is clean. Both are excellent overall.

Price: SOLD.

In his 1857 survey report on the Nebraska and the Dakota territories, Topographical Officer G. K. Warren recommended further reconnaissance beyond the Big Horn Mountains into the upper Yellowstone region. Accordingly, Congress sent a survey party into the field in the summer of 1859. Commanded by William F. Raynolds, the Yellowstone expedition of 1859–1860 would be the last important exploration conducted by the Topographical Engineers in the West and would gain almost as much notoriety for what it did not accomplish as for what it did. Raynolds’ orders were to search out four possible wagon routes that could open the northern regions to the advance of white settlers. Additionally, with the intrepid Jim Bridger as his guide, Raynolds was to lead the first government expedition into the thermal region of today’s Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, snow-covered ridges foiled every attempt to explore the Yellowstone area and to document the geysers and other thermal features.

Raynold’s expedition was not in vain, however. As the present report shows, he made substantial contributions to the knowledge of the area, including new documentation presented in the map of the report. For one thing, he incorporated for the first time on a map Bridger’s knowledge of the mountains, and for another, he made known the topographical details of large areas of southern Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and the upper Missouri River. Wheat says the map is “extremely well drawn” and is “probably the best map of its area that had been produced.” Nonetheless, the heart the Yellowstone county remained mostly blank and stayed that way on maps until after the Civil War.

Raynolds’s expedition ended an era in Western exploration: his report and its map represent the last great survey effort of the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, which was abolished during the Civil War.

Refs.: Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West, pp. 417–421; Howes, R88; Phillips, Maps, p. 1130; Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, vol. IV, pp. 183–187, no. 1012.

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