Losses and Gains: 1850-1900

As the American frontier surrenders to human settlement, philosophers, writers, conservationists, and politicians work to interpret the value of natural resources in a country of seemingly endless bounty.

"To a person sitting quietly at home, Rocky Mountain traveling, like Rocky Mountain scenery, must seem very monotonous; but not so to me, to whom the pure, dry mountain air is the elixir of life. "

—Isabella Bird
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, 1879

Follow the links below to read insights from some notable individuals.

Learn more about the life and times of Henry David Thoreau.

Excerpt from George P. Marsh's Man and Nature article, 1864.

Walt Whitman's Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun, 1865.

"Do not ask us to give up the buffalo for the sheep."

—Chief Ten Bears, Comanche October 21, 1867 in a speech at the Medicine Lodge Council

Read an excerpt on Yosemite written by mountaineer Thomas Starr King for the Boston Evening Transcript, 1860-61.

Introduction from Samuel L. Clemens' (a.k.a. Mark Twain) "Roughing It."

Excerpt from English traveler Isabella Bird's "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains," 1879.

"Man has too long forgotten that the earth was given to him for usufruct alone, not for consumption, still less for profligate waste. Nature has provided against the absolute destruction of any of her elementary matter, the raw material of her works; the thunderbolt and the tornado, the most convulsive throes of even the volcano and the earthquake, being only phenomena of decomposition and recomposition. But she has left it within the power of man irreparably to derange the combinations of inorganic matter and of organic life, which through the night of ons she had been proportioning and balancing, to prepare the earth for his habitation, when, in the fulness of time, his Creator should call him forth to enter into its possession."

—George P. Marsh
Man and Nature, 1864

Words spoken by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Tribe during his surrender on October 5, 1877.

Read from Professor Frederick Jackson Turner's paper, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," stating that the frontier is closed, 1893.

"Late that afternoon we had our first close view of the enchanted land, when our party came upon the Mammoth Hot Springs. We were, so far as records show, the first white men ever to see those bubbling caldrons of nature, and I found myself excited by the knowledge that next day I was to photograph them for the first time."

—William Henry Jackson
Time Exposure, 1940

Go to Wilderness: 1900-1950