Washburn and Hayden
Expeditions

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: Washburn Expedition to Yellowstone, Nathaniel P. Langford, Ferdinand Hayden, William Henry Jackson, Thomas Moran, Gouverneur K. Warren.



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Hayden Expedition between Yellowstone and East Fork Rivers, 1871

Note odometer, cart like device, used by mappers to estimate distances traveled. See another view of odometer to lower left. Ferdinand Hayden, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, led an expedition to Yellowstone at the urgings of Nathaniel P Langford, who had participated in the 1870 expedition into Yellowstone led by Henry Washburn (1832-1871), Surveyor General of Montana Territory. The Washburn Expedition was partially subsidized by Jay Cooke's Northern Pacific Railroad which had an interest in promoting Montana Territory. Although Yellowstone had earlier been explored by John Colter in 1808 and in the 1820's by Jim Bridger their tales were generally not believed because of their reputations for exageration.

Odometer, 1871. The meter is the device above the hub. Due to rough terrain, the device had about a 3% inaccuracy.

The Washburn Expedition was quite modest, consisting, of Washburn, Langford, Walter Trumbull son of U.S. Senator Lymon Trumbull of Illinois , S. T. Hauser, President of the First National Bank of Helena, T. C. Everts, former U. S. Assessor, four others, and, in the words of Trumbull, "two packers, and two unbleached citizens of African descent." For transport each man had his own horse and the packers had 9 mules. The two "unbleached citizens" were apparently cooks. The army provided a military escort consisting of Lt. G. C. Doane of the Second Cavalry, 1 sergeant and 4 privates, 2 extra saddle horses and 5 pack mules. Equipment for scientific observation was even more modest consisting of a thermometer, an aneroid barometer, and several pocket compasses. What scientific observations that were made were by Lt. Doane.

Henry Dana Washburn

Washburn was by education and training a lawyer. During the Civil War he served in the Indiana Volunteers and at the end of the war brevetted as a mjor general. He subsequently was elected to Congress from Indiana, but due to tuberculosis did not stand for re-election. Instead, he obtained the appointment as surveyor-general of Montana in the hopes that the clear air would be healthful. As an indication of the isolation of Montana it took from May 26, 1869 until August 12 to complete the journey from Indiana to Montana.

In 1871, Langford published a two-part article, "The Wonders of Yellowstone," in Scribner's Magazine which described the expedition, the area and the potential for tourism via Cooke's proposed railroad. Langford noted:

"By means of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which doubtless will be completed in the next three years, the traveler will be able to make the trip to Montana from the Atlantic seaboard in three days, and thousands of tourists will be attracted to both Montana and Wyoming in order to behold with their own eyes the wonders here described."

Since the expedition did not include either an artist or photographer, Scribner's employed its chief illustrator, Thomas Moran, to enhance the crude sketches that had been provided with the manuscript. Additionally, Cooke sponsored a lecture tour for Langford. As a result of Langford's and Cooke's efforts, Congress appropriated $40,000 for Hayden to undertake a professional expedition.

Nathaniel P. Langford

Dr. Hayden had conducted earlier governmental expeditions into the Rocky Mountains, both before and after the Civil War. In 1869, he led an expedition along the Front Range to Denver and Sante Fe. The following year, 1870, he received an appropriation of $25,000 to lead a 20-man expedition to South Pass, Fort Bridger, Henry's Fork, and back to Cheyenne.

Thus, as a result of interest in Yellowstone generated by Langford and Cooke, Hayden began the organization of an expedition to Yellowstone. The new expedition utilized many of the same personnel as were included in 1870. In addition to the $40,000.00 appropriated by Congress, additional help was provided by the Army at Fort D. A. Russell. Free transportation was furnished by the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads. Included within the expedition were professional artists, an agricultural statistician and entomologist, topographers, botonists, a meteorologist, a mineralogist, and a zoologist. Dr. Hayden was by avocation a geologist. The Hayden Expedition's photographer was William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) briefly discussed with regard to the Oregon Trail.

William Henry Jackson, 1872

In 1869 Jackson became a freelance photographer taking photos between June and September along the newly completed Union Pacific Railroad. Examples of other William Henry Jackson photographs can be seen on other pages of this website. On the journey he started with only enough money to get to Cheyenne. He would take stereo photos during the day, process them at night, often begging lodgings and sell the photos the next day. On one occasion he traded photos for a gallon of whiskey. In his diary, Jackson describes his first meeting with Hayden in 1869, although Hayden probably did not remember meeting Jackson. Jackson had taken a group photo of the "girls" in a Cheyenne establishment known as "Madame Cleveland's" and on June 29 was delivering the photographs:

"Got pictures all mounted & at 11 took the large pictures around & sold a dozen. Sold during the day 6 doz. to Mc Lelland* & some Indian photos & raised altogether about 60. In the evening had to go around to Madame Cleveland's & was much surprised to see Dr. Hayden come in with some military friends. He acted like a cat in a strange garret."

As Jackson continued on his trek to Utah, Jackson made more frequent note of his penury:

Nothing yet from Omaha. sold a picture for 75 and bought a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs, enough to last until to-morrow. Worst of all is the condition whereby we cannot finish work on hand that would bring in quite a stake. Raining more or less all day. Spent most of the time writing.

Monday 9th.

Waited patiently until after the mail came in. Nothing for us, and then were impatient enough. At noon we eat our last bread and eggs and for supper made it on coffee alone, reboiling the old grounds with the last of the new. Rather a spare diet but we found considerable sustenance in coffee alone. We gave it a practicule [sic] test."

[*Writer's note: McLelland, probably Thomas McLelland, Postmaster of Cheyenne.]

Jackson's photography came to the attention of Hayden, who offered him the position of photographer for the 1870 Expedition, however, without pay. Jackson was, thus, also included in the 1871 Expedition. As a result of the photography on the Expedition, Jackson's career was assured. In 1879, he opened his own studio in Denver. In 1894, he did a world tour. At the turn of the century, he did a number of photos both in the Rocky Mountain area and in the Southeast for the Detroit Publishing Company. In his 90's Jackson remained active in the Grand Army of the Republic and promoted the construction of a monument in Glenrock to Hayden.

Thomas Moran with fish, Hayden Expedition, 1871, Photo by Wm. H. Jackson

Notwithstanding the Washburn Expedition, Hayden's photographer, William Henry Jackson, was the first to photograph Old Faithful in eruption. Click here for the Eastman collection of 448 Jackson photos. In the organization of the expedition, Hayden was not one to overlook the politics. He was prompt in getting out his reports from earlier trips, thus, maintaining public interest. He included in the 1871 venture the sons of two members of Congress. Others in the 1871 Expedition included Clinton Hart Merriam who, at the time, was only 16 years old and Scribner's artist Thomas Moran, after whom Mt. Moran, pictured on Photos III, is named. Merriam later became a founder of the National Geographic Society..

Moran became interested in Yellowstone as a result of his work on the illustrations for Langford's article in the magazine. As a result Moran volunteered to be included in the expedition at his own expense (with the assistance of Scrbner's and a $500.00 loan from Jay Cooke), notwithstanding that he had never ridden horseback before and was so scrawny that he often had to use a pillow on his saddle.


1870 Hayden Expedition, Red Buttes, Wyoming Territory

L-R, Seated: Charles S.Turnbull, physician; J. W. Beaman, meteorologist; F.V.Hayden; Professor Cyrus Thomas, agricultural statistician and entomologist; a hunter named Raphael, A.L.Ford; Standing: cook, John "Potato John" Raymond, and a second cook, "Val;" S.R.Gifford; Henry W.Elliott, an artist; James Stevenson, managing director; H.D.Schmidt; E. Campbell Carrington, zoologist; L.A.Bartlett; W.H.Jackson.

Next page: Hayden Expedition continued.