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Trails to Rails: John Mix Stanley and the Pacific Railroad Survey of the 1850s

February 1, 2014 - September 28, 2014

 

The Tucson Museum of Art presents the new exhibition Trails to Rails: John Mix Stanley and the Pacific Railroad Survey of the 1850s at the Tucson Museum of Art, February 1, 2014 through September 28, 2014.

In the mid-1800s, the United States government commissioned numerous railroad surveys to seek potential routes for the coming transcontinental railroad. John Mix Stanley (1814-1872), an artist-explorer of the West, accompanied one of the Pacific Railroad Surveys and visually documented the expedition. Today, his images stand as essential records that document the terrain, inhabitants, plants, and wildlife along the expedition firsthand. Stanley's lithographs, alongside other artists' images, helped drive the country's growing fascination with the American West.

The collected results of the surveys, published as Reports of Explorations and Surveys to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, represent the first attempt at a unified, geographical description of the West. The report includes lithographic prints from sketches by eleven artist- explorers, including John Mix Stanley, commissioned to visually record the terrain, native inhabitants, flora, and fauna of the surveys from first-hand perspectives. "Of the eleven artist-explorers, more of Stanley's images are found in the publication than any other," said Christine Brindza, Glasser Curator of Art of the American West, "he not only completed his own works of art, but finished sketches begun by other artist-explorers as well."

In the end, none of the exact routes charted on these expeditions would be used in building the transcontinental railroad, yet the artist-explorers produced iconic early images of the West that played a key role in the attraction and expansion of the region?from the forging of trails to the construction of rails.

Trails to Rails explores how John Mix Stanley documented his journey westward in the 1850s. The Tucson Museum of Art is offering patrons the opportunity to get inspired by this exhibition and share their own travel pictures throughout the West with TMA. Travelers can upload their images to Instagram and tag the Museum at @tucsonmuseum. The Museum will "re-gram" selected images and share them with the community. For more information contact Education@TucsonMuseumofArt.org.

 

To view the checklist from the exhibition please click here.

To view object labels from the exhibition please click here.

To view a list of objects in the exhibition with thumbnail images please click here.

To view the indroductory wall panel for the exhibition showing a map of routes of railroad surveys please click here.

To view additional images of objects in the exhibition please click here.

 

(above: J.M. Stanley, from a sketch by R.H. Kern, printed by Hoen, A. & Co. (Baltimore, MD), Sangre de Cristo Pass Looking Towards San Luis Valley, ca. 1855, USPRR Exp. & Surveys 38th & 39th Parallels, Hand-colored lithograph. Bequest of Owen Williams. 2013.4.7)

 

(above: J.M. Stanley, printed by Sarony, Major and Knapp (New York), Minnehaha or Brown's Falls Near Fort Snelling, ca.1855, USPRR Exp. & Surveys - 47th & 49th Parallels, Hand-colored lithograph. Bequest of Owen Williams. 2013.4.9)

 

(above: J.M. Stanley, printed by Sarony, Major and Knapp (New York), Lieut. Crovers Despatch - Return of Governor Stevens to Fort Benton, ca. 1855, USPRR Exp. & Surveys - 47th & 49th Parallels, Hand-colored lithograph, Bequest of Owen Williams. 2013.4.24)

 

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