IVES, Joseph Christmas (1828-1868). Report upon the Colorado River of the West. 36th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Executive Document [unnumbered]. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1861.

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IVES, Joseph Christmas (1828-1868). Report upon the Colorado River of the West. 36th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Executive Document [unnumbered]. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1861.


5 parts in one volume. Large 4to., (11 4/8 x 9 inches). 2 large folding lithographed maps, 8 fine folding lithographed views, 8 chromolithographed plates and 16 lithographed plates of views (and fossils) from sketches by Balduin Mollhausen (spotted throughout). Original publisher’s black cloth decorated in gilt (rebacked, preserving much of the original spine, front hinge starting, endpapers spotted).

First edition, Senate and preferred issue. Probably best known as the engineer and architect of the Washington Monument (1859-1860), in 1857 in 1857 Ives was “promoted to first lieutenant and was named to lead an expedition up the Colorado River in order to develop potential routes of supply in the event of a war between the national government and the Mormon settlements in Deseret (Utah). Ives’s expedition included John Strong Newberry as naturalist, the Prussian Heinrich Balduin Möllhausen as artist and unofficial diarist, and F. W. Egloffstein as topographer. Ives purchased a steamboat in Philadelphia. The vessel was taken apart and shipped via the Isthmus of Panama to California and thence to the mouth of the Colorado River, where Ives and the members of his expedition rendezvoused late in 1857. Ives and his men reassembled the steamboat and christened it the Explorer. They launched the ship on 31 December 1857 and set out on their journey of reconnaissance. They progressed northward for two months, passing through Mojave Canyon and Bill Williams’s Fork, before the ship hit a rock on 5 March 1858. Following this setback, Ives divided his men into two parties, one to return with the boat, the other to return by land. Ives led the latter group, which consisted of Newberry, Egloffstein, Möllhausen, Peacock, three laborers, the Mexican packers, and twenty soldiers commanded by Lieutenant John Tipton. The groups parted company on 23 March 1858, and Ives’s group soon entered the most rewarding part of their travels. On 3 April they had their first sight of what Ives called the ‘Big Cañon’ (what today is called the Grand Canyon). Ives recorded his reactions, ‘a splendid panorama burst suddenly into view . . . vast plateaus, towering one above the other thousands of feet in the air, the long horizontal bands broken at intervals by wide and profound abysses, and extending a hundred miles to the north, till the deep azure blue faded into a light cerulean tint that blended with the dome of the heavens.’

“Ives and his men descended as far as they could that day, and the next morning (4 Apr. 1858) they stood on the floor of the Grand Canyon. Spanish explorers had sighted the Grand Canyon in 1540, and trappers probably had seen it, but Ives and his party appear to have been the first white men to visit the floor of this great natural wonder. Ives’s party pushed on and visited Cataract Canyon on 12 April. On 2 May Ives divided his party again and led a small group to the villages of the Moqui. He and his men then pushed eastward and reached Fort Defiance on 23 May 1858, concluding their journey there. Their expedition had been productive in many particulars, but Ives made a strange prediction in his report, ‘It seems intended by nature that the Colorado River, along the greater portion of its lone and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed.’ The next century would prove quite the opposite to be the case” (DANB). This is the official report. Howes I-92; Sabin 35308; Wagner-Camp-Becker 375; Wheat Mapping the Transmississippi West 947, 948.