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The Far West : Explorations of the Country from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean by Gunnison, Fremont, and Beckwith (1853-1854)

Identifier: VAULT-Ayer-MS-3261

Scope and Content of the Collection

Mounted sketches of terrain covered by three expeditions in 1853 and 1854 which were assembled to explore and survey for a possible route for a railroad through the Rocky Mountains.

The contents are described in hand-written ink on the title page - The Far West. Explorations of the country from the Missisippi [sic] river to the Pacific Ocean by Gunnison, Frimont [sic], Beckuith [sic] in 1853-1854. Executed for the Congress in 1854-1855 by Schumann. An insertion in the same hand reads “in water-colors and indian-ink”, though the sketches are all done in pencil. The drawings are unsigned and some untitled. Most dates and locations on them apparently were added in pencil either by the artist or by the unknown person who assembled the album.

The three artists who accompanied Gunnison, Fremont and Beckwith were Richard H. Kern, Solomon N. Carvalho (primarily a daguerreotypist) and F. W. Egloffstein. Many of the views are identifiable as locales traversed by both parties (Gunnison and Kern and then Fremont, Egloffstein and Carvalho, following Gunnison’s trail three months later). However, the bulk of these drawings appear to be the field sketches of Richard H. Kern. Some of these are attributed to Kern in volume 2 of the government publication done under the direction of the Secretary of War, 1855-1861 - Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean, which included lithographs by John Mix Stanley done from sketches by Richard H. Kern.

The album contains one letter, dated January 18, 1856, from E.G. Beckwith to C. Schumann, complementing the engraver for his work “…from the sketches of F.W. Egloffstein taken in the field, for the illustration of the report of the country explored by me in 1854”. Egloffstein had joined Beckwith to continue the expedition after Gunnison and Kern were killed in Utah by Ute Indians on Oct. 26, 1853, and Beckwith’s official report contains praise of his map-maker as a very able assistant in during the year 1854.

With a few exceptions, sketches are on tissue paper, glued onto album pages, with no attempt at chronological or alphabetical order. Almost all the drawings appear to have been done in 1853, although because Beckwith’s party completed the survey in northern California in 1854, it is probable that the sketches of Mt. Shasta are the work of Egloffstein.

The album has been disbound and the pages placed in folders. The sketches, on both front and back of the pages, were apparently numbered by the album creator (several are missing). Page numbers on the top right-hand corner probably were added much later.


  • Creation: 1853-1856



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Far West are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Far West are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Richard H. Kern, and history of the survey

Kern was artist of the Pacific Railroad Survey, 1853.

In 1853, the U.S. Congress authorized the Corps of Topographic Engineers to undertake a survey of potential rail routes between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean. The survey at the 38th and 39th parallels was under the leadership of Captain John W. Gunnison, assisted by Lt. Edward G. Beckwith, who surveyed routes in Kansas, Colorado and Utah. Gunnison, Richard H. Kern, and seven others were killed by Pahvant Indians along the Sevier River in Utah on October 26, 1853. Beckwith assumed leadership and the survey explored routes at the 41st parallel which Beckwith (and Gunnison before him) recommended as an economical and practicable route. Although this suggestion had little influence at the time of the survey, the first transcontinental railroad completed in 1869, when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads were joined at Promontory Point, Utah, basically followed Beckwith's route.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Album of mounted and unsigned manuscript sketches, views and panoramas of the American West. They are mostly attributed to Richard H. Kern but also to F. W. Egloffstein and possibly to S.N. Carvalho. These artists were members of expeditions of 1853 and 1854 which were assembled to explore, survey and map the 38th and 39th parallels in order to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.


Arranged by page and sketch number. Titles were transcribed from the sketch captions.

Collection Stack Location

VAULT 26 1



Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2011.

Inventory of the The Far West: Explorations of the Country from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean by Gunnison, Fremont, and Beckwith (1853-1854), 1853-1856
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States