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Gift of
The James W. Glanville Family Foundation & Library Purchase

British Northwest Boundary Commission

This collection of eighty-three (83) photographs document the boundary between the United States and Canada in the northwest at Esquimalt, Victoria Island, Fort Vancouver (now Portland, OR), and along the 49th parallel from mid Washington State east to the summit of the Rocky Mountains. Photographed between 1859 and 1861, subjects include landscapes, geographical features, ethnographic scenes of Native Americans, members of the survey staff, U.S. Military Posts, and camps. It is the largest surviving group of photographs from the first survey of the West.

In 1846 the 49th parallel between Lake of the Woods in Minnesota to the Juan de Fuca Strait was designated as the boundary between Canada and the United States. More than ten years passed before British and American teams began to survey the boundary. Before the summer of 1858 a British team, based at Esquimalt on Vancouver Island, surveyed the westernmost point of the boundary and then began working eastward into the Cascade Range. They later moved their headquarters to Colville in the extreme northeast corner of the present state of Washington. (Typically the survey teams worked during the spring and summer and remained at a base camp during the winter.)

The most dramatic images of the Survey were taken at sites along the 49th parallel during the seasons of 1860 and 1861. The photographs document geographic sites from mid Washington State east to the summit of the Rocky Mountains and include images of the clear cut marking the boundary between the United States and Canada and sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains near the Continental Divide.

The acquisition of this important collection brings to the Library its earliest examples of albumen photography. It also enhances the Library’s existing holdings of photographs that document nineteenth-century geographic and geological expeditions, including photographs by Timothy O’Sullivan for Clarence King’s survey of the Fortieth Parallel and George M. Wheeler’s Geological Survey West of the One-Hundredth Meridian and William Henry Jackson’s photographs of the Yellowstone region for the Hayden Survey. It not only would provide extensive photographic documentation of the Pacific Northwest, which currently is lacking in our nineteenth-century collection, but also relates to the Library’s contemporary photography collection documenting the American landscape and the environment. In addition, this collection complements the collections of the Library’s Geography and Map Division, which includes maps for both the U.S. and British activities of the Northwest Boundary Survey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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