Treatment FOCUS: Survey Photographs from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
When photographer Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882) accompanied Lieutenant George Montague Wheeler on his “United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian” between 1871 and 1874, he crossed California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico with a portable darkroom, pulled by a mule. Wheeler’s goal was to create maps, collect data that would aid in the construction of roads and railways, and describe the area’s natural resources. But he also wanted to encourage settlement, and O’Sullivan’s photographs—printed from glass plate collodion negatives that, remarkably, survived their bumpy ride, as well as the dirt and extreme temperatures of the deserts and mountains—helped him do this. The images of beautiful views, ancient ruins, and members of Native American tribes were sold to the public and given to members of Congress.