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The Philadelphia Print Shop

Western Surverys

Surveys of the American West


The Louisiana Purchase, followed by the Mexican-American War (1846-47), acquired for the United States vast lands west of the Mississippi River. The seminal explorations of Lewis & Clark gave Americans a peek of this huge region, and by the late 1830s there began a series of systematic attempts to explore and map the new western territories of the United States. Expeditions criss-crossed the west, marking boundaries, seeking the best transportation routes, and searching to unlock the potential riches of this wild land. Publications, both private and government, were issued for most of these expeditions, containing maps and views drawn first hand. Never has such a vast amount of scientific information been gathered and published in such a short time. It has been estimated that the United States spent between one quarter and one third of its annual budget on the expeditions and official publications in the years before the Civil War. The result is a wealth of over 1,600 superb images--scenes, portraits and scientific illustrations--of the American west before the flood of emigrants that followed later in the nineteenth century.


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