STANSBURY, Howard (1806-1863). Exploration and Survey of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah, including a reconnaissance of a new route through the Rocky Mountains. Senate edition. Special Session, March 1851, Executive Document No. 3. Washington: Robert Armstrong, 1853.
2 volumes: text and Atlas. 8vo., (9 x 6 inches). 3 fine folding lithographed maps, 3 folding panoramic views, fine lithographed frontispiece, 52 lithographed plates (some spotting). Original publisher’s plum cloth, the smooth spine of the text volume lettered in gilt and decorated with the figure of a buffalo (spines faded, spine of the atlas volume slightly worn).
Provenance: With the contemporary manuscript gift inscription “Laura Dewey Russell from John P. Hale / May 1853” on the verso of one of the folding maps. With the bookplates of Benjamin H. Lane and Jay Snider to the front pastedown of the text volume.
Senate edition. The first extensive survey of the Great Basin and a major landmark in the cartography of the American West. In 1846 Stansbury “received the orders for the cornerstone of his career: the expedition to the Great Salt Lake in 1849-1850…On 31 May 1849 Stansbury left Fort Leavenworth with eighteen men, including Lieutenant John W. Gunnison, artist John Hudson, and Albert Carrington, a leading Mormon official. The company proceeded by way of South Pass in Wyoming to Fort Bridger, where Stansbury engaged Jim Bridger as a guide for the expedition. Dividing his men into two groups, Stansbury explored a new route to the Great Salt Lake by following a path between the Bear River and Echo Canyon trails. The expedition members spent the winter of 1849-1850 in Salt Lake City as guests of the Mormon population there. This, the most intricate part of Stansbury’s mission, required diplomacy and tact. Since the Mormon state of Deseret (meaning ‘honeybee’) was the only legally incorporated civil government in that area from 2 July 1849 through 5 February 1851, Stansbury and his men were to some extent visiting a foreign country. Stansbury managed to placate Mormon leader Brigham Young. Stansbury’s later recollections of the Mormon leader and of his people are noteworthy, since they showed some objectivity toward the Mormons. On Brigham Young himself, Stansbury wrote, ‘his personal reputation I believe to be above reproach’ (Stansbury, p. 147). On the matter of polygamy, Stansbury asserted that ‘its practical operation was quite different from what I had anticipated. Peace, harmony, and cheerfulness seemed to prevail. . . . Confidence and sisterly affection among the different members of the family seemed pre-eminently conspicuous’ (Stansbury, pp. 137-38). Stansbury went on to praise the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Mormon people, while allowing that their beliefs would preclude them from living with any other Christian peoples without ‘constant collision, jealousy, and strife’ (Stansbury, p. 138).
“In the spring of 1850 Stansbury and his party of explorers made a complete circumnavigation of Great Salt Lake and surveyed the area. On their return journey, Stansbury sought to pioneer a new route that would go due east from Salt Lake City through the Wasatch Mountains. Stansbury located what became known as Cheyenne Pass and Bridger Pass; his return route would later be used by the Overland Stage and the Union Pacific Railroad. On 6 October 1850, as his exploration neared its end, Stansbury suffered an injury; he was brought by an ambulance to Fort Laramie, where he arrived on 12 October, concluding what had been a significant venture into the Great Basin area and the newly created land of the Mormon people. Stansbury spent the next year and a half in Washington, D.C., where he wrote his classic report on the expedition. Originally printed as a government report, ‘An Expedition to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake’ (1852) was printed commercially in the same year. The report brought both praise and denunciation; Stansbury’s elegant prose did not prevent critics from attacking his fair-minded observations of the Mormon settlements” (ADNB). Graff 3947. Howes S-884. Wagner-Camp 219:2.