Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the years 1819 and '20

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Author: Long, Stephen Harriman (1784-1864) Compiled by Edwin James

Year: 1822-1823

Publisher: H C Carey, & I Lea

Place: Philadelphia


2 volumes. 5+[3]+503 pages; [4]+442+xcviii with tables and index. Octavo (8 3/4" x 5 1/2") bound in half leather with five raised spine bands with red and blue labels in gilt lettering over blue marbled boards. With Astronomical and Meteorological Records, and Vocabularies of Indian Languages, taken on the Expedition for Exploring the Mississippi and its Western Waters bound in to volume two published in 1822. Compiled by Edwin James, botanist and geologist for the expedition. First editions.

Stephen Harriman Long was college-trained, interested in searching for order in the natural world, and willing to work with the modern technology of the time. Topographical engineers had basically two unique points of view that set them apart from the other pioneers — geographical and technological. Major Long was the leader of the first scientific exploration up the Platte, which planned to study the geography and natural resources of the area. His party of 19 men included landscape painter Samuel Seymour, naturalist painter Titian Peale, zoologist Thomas Say and Edwin James, a physician knowledgeable in both geology and botany. James led the first recorded ascent of Pikes Peak during this expedition. On June 6, 1820, they traveled up the north bank of the Platte and met Pawnee and Otoe Indians. After finding and naming Longs Peak and the Rocky Mountains, they journeyed down the South Platte River to the Arkansas River watershed. The expedition was then split, and Long led his group towards the Red River. They missed it, ran into hostile Indians and had to eventually eat their own horses to survive before they finally met the other part of the expedition at Fort Smith (now a city on the western border of the state of Arkansas). Long and his party of scientists would learn much to tell the nation and have the opportunity to show the U.S. flag. In his report of the 1820 expedition, Long wrote that the Plains from Nebraska to Oklahoma were "unfit for cultivation and of course uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture." On the map he made of his explorations, he called the area a "Great Desert." Long felt the area labeled the "Great Desert" would be better suited as a buffer against the Spanish, British, and Russians, who shared the continent with the United States. He also commented that the eastern wooded portion of the country should be filled up before the republic attempted any further extension westward. He commented that sending settlers to that area was out of the question. Given the technology of the 1820s, Long was right. There was little timber for houses or fuel, minimal surface water, sandy soil, hard winters, vast herds of bison, hostile Indians, and no easy means of communication. However, it is ironic that the native tribes had been living there for centuries and that, by the end of the 19th century, the "Great Desert" had become the nation's breadbasket. There were two key results of this expedition—a very accurate description of Indian customs and Indian life as they existed among the Omaha, Otoes, and Pawnees and his description of the land west of the Missouri River as a "desert".


Attractively rebound with renewed end papers. Heavy foxing through, lacks atlas volume. A very good set.

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