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Western Survey Photographs: Checklists of the Stereographs from the Clarence King and George M. Wheeler Explorations, 1867-1874

The United States government sponsored several photographic surveys showing the western United States before it was heavily settled. These checklists focus on the stereographs taken by Timothy O'Sullivan, William Bell, and Andrew J. Russell for two surveys that spanned several years--the Clarence King explorations (1867-69, 1872), and the George M. Wheeler explorations (1871-1874). Clarifying the complex publishing history and dates for these fascinating pictures can help researchers in many fields use the stereographs more effectively.

More than three hundred stereographs have been identified so far, and new entries will be added as they are located. The stereographs are in the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, unless otherwise noted. The stereographs have been digitized so that any information on the backs as well as the fronts can be viewed.

Camp Beauty, Cañon de Chelle (front)
Camp Beauty, Cañon de Chelle (back)
Timothy H. O'Sullivan. Camp Beauty, Cañon de Chelle; walls 1,200 feet high, width of Cañon at this point about one fourth of a mile.

Clarence King's Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel (1867-1869, 1872)

Checklist 1: Stereographs from Clarence King's Explorations of the Fortieth Parallel, published by the U. S. Engineer Department

Wheeler's Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian (1871-1874)

Checklist Dates of stereos Quantity Publisher Publication Date Published catalogue
2 1871-1872 124 War Department 1873 Yes
3 1871-1872 33 E. & H.T. Anthony 1873 No
4 1873 84 War Department 1874 No
5 1871-1873 100 War Department 1874-1875 Yes
6 1871-1874 50 War Department 1875-1876 No
7 1871-1874 36 War Department 1875 or later No


Jurovics, Toby, Carol M. Johnson, Glenn Willumson, and William F. Stapp. Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010.

Kelsey, Robin. "Viewing the Archive: Timothy O'Sullivan's Photographs for the Wheeler Survey, 1871-74." Art Bulletin 85 (2003): 702-723.

Sandweiss, Martha A. "A Stereoscopic View of the American West." Princeton University Library Chronicle 67, no. 2 (2006): 271-289.

Prepared by: Carol Johnson, Curator of Photography, 2009. Last updated 2010 October.
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