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Wheeler's geographical survey stereoscopic views, 1871-1874

Overview of the Collection

Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian (U.S.)
Wheeler's geographical survey stereoscopic views
1871-1874 (inclusive)
1 box, 50 items, (0.5 linear ft. )
Collection Number
This collection consists of fifty stereoscopic cards taken by photographers Timothy H. O'Sullivan and William W. Bell between 1871 and 1874 during the Army Corps of Engineers geographical survey led by Lieutenant George Montague Wheeler. The views in this collection consist of geological formations (including some of the first images of the Grand Canyon); members of the Zuni, Mojave, Navajo, Apache, and Ute tribes; scenic views; and ancient puebloan ruins.
Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives Division
Special Collections and Archives
Merrill-Cazier Library
Utah State University
Logan, UT
Telephone: 435-797-2663
Fax: 435-797-2880
Access Restrictions
Open to public research.

Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Geographical Survey was led by Lieutenant George Montague Wheeler and traveled throughout the mountains, plains, and deserts in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico. The purpose of these expeditions was to create maps and gain information that would be useful for future military operations, for the establishment of roads, and for potential railways. In addition, the survey was to catalog natural resources and record the location and population of the Indian tribes. Bell and O'Sullivan went on the survey not only to provide a visual record of the exploration, but also to give Wheeler an important public relations tool. Every year from 1871 to 1874 fifty images were selected from the various stereographic negatives taken that year and distributed to members of Congress. The set of stereographs in this collection was a compilation of views that was distributed in 1875.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan was born in 1840 either in Ireland or New York City. He spent his early life on Staten Island, New York and at a young age he was apprenticed to Matthew Brady in his Fulton Street Gallery. In 1861 he joined Brady's Photographic Corps managed by Alexander Gardner in Washington D.C. as a field photographer. Gardner and O'Sullivan became disgruntled with Brady and in 1863 they left to establish their own independent studio. Immediately following the Civil War, O'Sullivan and Gardner sold albums consisting of their war views. In 1867 Clarence King employed O'Sullivan to accompany his survey along the fortieth parallel in the West. O'Sullivan photographed with King until 1869. In 1870 he left King and joined Commander T.O. Sulfridge for an expedition to the Isthmus of Darien in Panama. O'Sullivan found making photographs in the jungle to be quite difficult and he returned to the West this time in the employ of Lieutenant George Montague Wheeler. O'Sullivan photographed with the survey team from 1871 to 1875 (although he rejoined King's survey briefly in 1872). In 1875 he left the West (never to return) for Washington D.C. He briefly worked for King in 1879 before accepting a position with the Treasury Department. In 1881 O'Sullivan was forced to resign this position due to a worsening case of tuberculosis. He died on January 14, 1882 in Staten Island, New York.

William W. Bell (often confused with another photographer Dr. William A. Bell) was born in Liverpool England in 1830. Many details of his life are not known, but he began his photographic career in Philadelphia working in his brother-in-law's studio in 1848. A veteran of the Mexican and Civil Wars, Bell was appointed as chief photographer for the Army Medical Museum in Washington D.C. He later established his own studio in Philadelphia and in 1872 he temporarily replaced O'Sullivan in Wheeler's Geographical Survey. Bell, unlike most expeditionary photographers, spent his time attempting to perfect the new dry-plate process. He exposed full-plate and stereoscopic views of Kanab Canyon, Fern Springs, Marble Gorge and the Toroweep Valley, to name a few. Later he photographed for the Pennsylvania Railroad and on an expedition to Patagonia. He passed away in Philadelphia in 1910.

George Montague Wheeler (1842-1905) graduated from West Point in 1866. Wheeler was a surveyor in the Southwest until 1871 when he was put in charge of his own expedition. In 1872 his survey expanded in an effort to produce a usable overall map of the West. He lead several field surveys until 1879 when his appropriations were discontinued. Although he published numerous reports, his big map remained unfinished. He was on sick leave from 1880 to 1884 and he retired in 1888 due to ill health at the rank of Major. He died in New York City on May 3 1905.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photograph Collection P0325 consist of fifty stereoscopic cards taken by photographers Timothy H. O'Sullivan and William W. Bell between 1871 and 1874 during the Army Corps of Engineers geographical survey. The views in this collection show geological formations (including some of the first images of the Grand Canyon), members of the Zuni, Mojave, Navajo, Apache, and Ute tribes, scenic views, and ancient puebloan ruins.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use


It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Utah State University Libraries, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Permission to publish material from the David Lane Wright papers must be obtained from the Special Collections Photograph Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.

Alternative Forms Available

Digital surrogates of the Wheeler's Geographical Survey Stereoscopic Views can be view by visiting the hyper links provided below.

Preferred Citation

Wheeler's geographical survey stereoscopic views, 1871-1874. (P0325). Utah State University. Special Collections & Archives Department.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Expedition of 1871 up the Colorado River (Photographer Timothy O'Sullivan)Return to Top

Container(s): Box 1

Container(s) Description
1:01: "No.1. The start from Camp Mojave, Arizona, September 15th, 1871. Boat Expedition under Lieutenant Wheeler, the first and only one to ascend the Colorado through the Grand Cañon to mouth of Diamond Creek. Distance travelled [sic], 260 miles in 31 days, the boats often having to be portaged around rapids and drawn over rocks."
1:02: "No.2. View across Black Cañon. The grand walls in perspective."
1:03: "No.3. View down Black Cañon, from Mirror Bar. The walls repeated by reflection."
1:04: "No.4. Grotto Spring, Grand Cañon, Colorado River. The water flows from the rocks above, and the umbrella-shaped rock about it is tufa, that has been formed by deposition from the mineral constituents of the water. The light spot seen through and beyond is the sand-beach of the river. Looking through this Grotto is seen in the distance the walls of the Grand Cañon, 3,500 feet in height on either side."
1:05: "No.5. Types of Mojave Indians. This tribe inhabits the region of the lower Colorado, or western Arizona. Physically they are the finest specimens in all the west, many of the males attaining the height of 6 feet."
1:06 : "No.6. View of grand Cañon walls, near mouth of Diamond River. From water line to first shelf 1,500 feet; from shelf to top of table 3,500 feet. Distance from point of view to top of walls 3 miles."
1:07 : "No.7. Mountain transportation... mule, Pack and Packers."

Expedition of 1872 in the Grand Canyon, Colorado River and its tributaries (Photographer William Bell)Return to Top

1:08: "No.8. The Cañon of Kanab Creek, near its junction with the Grand Cañon of the Colorado. In the foreground is a dripping spring affording a shower bath. Temperature, 69 Fahr."
1:09: "No.9. 'The Bath' a dripping spring in Kanab Cañon. Temperature, 69 Fahr."
1:10"No.10. The mouth of Kanab Creek. The beds of the Colorado River and its tributary here lie in gorges cut by the running water to the depth of about 3,500 feet below the general surface of the country. The highest point seen in the picture is 2,500 feet above the water, and the walls are here too steep to be scaled."
1:11 "No.11. Mouth of the Paria, Colorado River; walls 2,100 feet in height."
1:12: "No.12. View in the Grand Cañon of the Colorado River."
1:13: "No.13. Marble Cañon, one of the gorges of the Colorado here, 1,200 feet deep. The steep cliff is gray limestone and the slope below a brilliant red sandstone."
1:14 : "No.14. The northern wall of the Grand Cañon of the Colorado, near the foot of To-ro-weep valley. The rounded rocks of the foreground are sand-stone."
1:15: "No.15. The 'Vermillion Cliff,' a typical plateau edge, as seen from Jacobs Pool, Arizona. From its top a plateau stretches to the right, and from its base another to the left. Their difference of level is 1,500 feet, and the step is too steep for scaling."

Expedition of 1873 in Arizona and New Mexico (Photographer Timothy O'Sullivan)Return to Top

1:16: "No.16. Indian Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico; view from the interior. The 'Pueblo' or town, encloses a quadrangular area within which are the ruins of a church built under the direction of the Jesuit missionaries. The houses are built one above the other to the height of five or six stories. The entrances are mostly from the top, the ascent and decent being made by ladders."
1:17: "No. 17. Zuni Indian Girl, with water olla."
1:18: "No. 18. Gardens surrounding the Indian Pueblo of Zuni, in which are raised a variety of vegetables, such as pepper, onions, garlic &c."
1:19: "No. 19. Group of Zuni Indian 'Braves,' at their Pueblo, N.M."
1:20: "No. 20. War Chief of the Zuni Indians."
1:21: "No.21. Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, N.M., in a cavity in the wall, 60 feet above present bed of Cañon. Height of walls about 700 feet. The present race of Indians know nothing of the age of these buildings or who occupied them. (For details, see forthcoming report of Lieutenant Wheeler, on Ancient Ruins.)"
1:22: "No.22. Circle Wall, Cañon de Chelle. Here the Cañon bends from an easterly direction nearly due north, the walls maintaining a perpendicular height of about 1,200 feet."
1:23: "No.23. Explorers Column, Cañon de Chelle, Arizona. This ...is the work of nature, and is about 900 feet in height ...about 70 by 110 feet. It stands ...center of the Cañon, and it is almost ...that it is not the work of human hands."
1:24: "No.24. Central portion of Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico. This Cañon is one of the most remarkable in the west, and is noted for its beauty. The walls are of Red Sand-stone, nearly perpendicular, and at this point are 1,200 feet in height."
1:25: "No. 25. Camp Beauty, Cañon de Chelle; walls 1,200 feet high, width of Cañon at this point about one fourth of a mile. This view shows the peculiar effect wrought by the action of floods. The Artist of the Expedition, Mr. Wyant, of New York, made a study of this scene with the intention to paint it as a characteristic Cañon view."
"No.26. Aboriginal life among the Navajo 1:26: Indians, Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico. Squaw weaving blankets. The native loom. The blankets made are of the best quality, and impervious to water."
1:27: "No.27. Navajo Indian Squaw, and Child, at their home, in Cañon de Chelle."
1:28: "No.28. Navajo Boys and Squaw, in front of the quarters at old Fort Defiance, N.M., now unoccupied by troops. The agency for the Navajos is located here."
1:29: "No.29. Navajo Brave and his Mother. The Navajos were formerly a warlike tribe until subdued [?] by U.S. Troops, in 1859-60. Many of them now have fine flocks, and herds of horses, sheep and goats."
1:30: "No.30. Apache Lake, Summit of Sierra Blanca Mountains, about 35 miles east from Camp Apache, Arizona, and 10,500 feet above sea-level. This lake is similar to many found in the western mountains."
1:31: "No.31. Coyotero Apache Scouts, at Apache Lake, Sierra Blanca Mountains, Arizona. Two members of the Expedition in the back-ground."
1:32: "No.32. Cooley's Ranch, 10 miles east of Camp Apache, Arizona. A characteristic mountain 'Park' and Apache Indian Farm. Here the Apaches grow corn, wheat and a few vegetables."
1:33: "No.33. Apache Indians, as they appear ready for the war-path."

Expedition of 1874 in New Mexico, Colorado, and Idaho (Photographer Timothy O'Sullivan)Return to Top

1:34: "No.34. Roman Catholic Church, Plaza of Guadaloupe, Guadaloupe Co., Colorado. Built not many years since of adobes. Dimensions, length 120 feet; width 60 feet; height 25 feet. Grave yard in the foreground surrounded by an adobe wall about 6 feet in height."
1:35: "No.35. Beaver Lake, Conejos Cañon, Colorado, 9,000 feet above sea-level, and 30 miles from mouth of Cañon."
1:36: "No.36. Cañon, Valley of the Conejos River, looking south from the vicinity of 'Lost Lakes.'"
1:37: "No.37. Lost Lakes, head of Conejos Cañon, Colorado, in the Sierra San Juan range, near divide between Conejos and south fork of Alamosa Rivers, surrounded by a forest of Douglass spruce, and approximately 11,000 feet above sea-level."
1:38: "No.38. One of the group of Pagosa Hot Springs, showing incrustation on the surface. Much prized by the Indians and miners on account of supposed healing qualities. Principal mineral element, Sulphate of Soda."
1:39: "No.39. Pah-ge, a Ute Squaw, of the Kah-poh-teh band, Northern New Mexico."
1:40: "No.40. Ute Braves, of the Kah-poh-teh band, Northern New Mexico, in 'full dress'."
1:41: "No.41. Jicarilla Apache Brave and Squaw, lately wedded. Abiquiu Agengy, New Mexico."
1:42: "No.42. Shee-zah-nan-tan, Jacarilla Apache Brave in characteristic costume, Northern New Mexico."
1:43: "No.43. Characteristic ruin, of the Pueblo San Juan, New Mexico, on the north bank of the San Juan River, about 15 miles west of the mouth of Cañon Largo. The present race of Indians know nothing of when or by whom these buildings were constructed. The ruin is about 350 feet square, and built of natural stone, joined together by a mud cement."
1:44: "No.44. Lagunas Caballo, or Horse Lakes, 14 miles, N. W. from Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. The water of the lakes is strongly mineral and not fit for men or animals to drink."
1:45: "No.45. Alpine Lake, in the Cerro Blanco Mountains, Colorado. One of a group of ten lakes at the main head of Ute Creek. 11,000 feet above sea-level. Cerro Blanco Peak rises 14,269 feet above the sea, lying to the westward."
1:46: "No.46. Baldy Peak, Cerro Blanco Mountains, Colorado, 14,234 feet above sea-level. Limit in altitude of vegetation about 11,000 feet."
1:47: "No.47. Alpine lakes, and mountain scenery, in the Cerro Blanco Mountains, Colorado, 13,000 feet above sea-level."
1:48: "No.48. Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho, Main Fall, 210 feet from upper to lower level, width of fall, 800 feet from upper to lower level; Height of Cañon wall at the falls, 1,000 feet. A number of minor falls, Islands, and boulder rocks above the main fall add beauty to the lonely majesty of this scene."
1:49: "No.49. Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho, looking through the timber, and showing the main fall, and upper [?] ...falls."
1:50: "No.50. Shoshone Falls, Snake River, Idaho. Gorge and natural bridge, in the fore-ground."