The letters in this collection were sent to John Wesley Powell between 1869 and 1879, the years during which he explored the Grand Canyon and headed up what became The Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region, or the Powell Survey. Prior to 1869, "Major" Powell served in the Union Army and then became professor of science at both Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University. In the summer of 1869 Powell led an exploring party down the Green and Colorado Rivers, through Grand Canyon, and into the pages of history. The Powell Survey merged with three other Western surveys in 1879 to create the U.S. Geological Survey under the direction of Clarence King. Powell succeeded King in 1881, resigning under pressure in 1894.
Arranged chronologically by year and then alphabetically by surname or official title of correspondent, the collection consists chiefly of letters, but includes legislative bills, newspaper clippings and other texts. The letters are from scientists, members of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, inhabitants of the intermountain regions, expedition members and others. The records concern the organization and objectives of Powell's expeditions, administration of Indian agencies, Indian languages and customs, public lands in arid regions, processing and publication of reports, the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the establishment of the U.S. Geological Survey, and other subjects.
The original manuscripts are held by the U. S. National Archives and Records Administration as part of RG 57, Records of the U.S. Geological Survey. This digital version of Letters Received by the Powell Survey presents scanned images of the entire collection along with searchable transcriptions. Click here for help viewing the images and transcripts together. The images were scanned from NARA's 10-reel microfilm copy of the letters (microfilm publication M156). For more information about the contents of the collection, see the National Archives pamphlet accompanying the microfilm.
Transcripts were created and edited by Marcia Thomas, with assistance from students at The Ames Library, Illinois Wesleyan University.
Editorial procedures for transcriptions.
Please return often as we continue to add content. This collection is in the public domain; images may be used freely, with credit given to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and The Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University.