Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

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The 1859 Lander Expedition Revisited: 'Worthy relics Tell News Tales of a Wind River Wagon Road

By Alan Fraser Houston and Jourdan Moore Houston

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Ways in which the white men intimidated American Indians and wielded "power" over them

What role should government patronage play in the arts?

What role did art play in exploration of the American West?

What role did art play in public perceptions of the American West?


1)    For what are John Charles Fremont and John Wesley Powell famous?

2)    Why would a military expedition like Lander's road-construction project take along artists?

3)    What was the Pyramid Lake War, and how did Col. Lander help to negotiate its end?

4)    Who were Gen. George B. McClellan and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and why are they remembered by American history?

5)    What is an Athenaeum?

6)    Who was W.W. Corcoran and what was his contribution to the art world?

7)    Why is Willard's Hotel in Washington, DC significant in American history?

8)    What is 'Manifest Destiny,' and why does it play an important part in the settlement of the West?

9)    Who was Horace Greeley, and what is he famous for saying?

10)    Why was Henry Hitchings's return trip speedier than his outbound one?

11)    What important role did Hitchings play in the world of art education?

12)    What did Albert Bierstadt mean when he said about Indians, "now [1859] is the time to paint them, for they are rapidly passing away, and soon will be known only in history"?   Why would he have said this?

13)    Why did Bierstadt's reference to "Wahsatch" create confusion?


-    Research and write a paper on the history of dueling in America and its use in settling "gentleman's quarrels." Highlight some of the most famous and not-so-famous duels.

-    Write a thought paper (a two- to three-page paper in which you explore your own thoughts, impressions, and opinions, plus the personal significance/meaning of a certain topic) on the following quote from Albert Bierstadt. "Hundreds of families of what we call the West, are all bound still further West . . . truly a progressive people and a progressive country."

-    Start your own 'Art Club.'   Get together to explore different media and styles (oils, pastels, watercolor, pencil, sculpting, a still life, models, landscapes, etc . . .) Have an exhibition of the club's works.

-    Create a three-dimensional scale map of the Wahsatch Mountains/Green and Wind Rivers area where the Lander's expedition traveled and where Bierstadt, Hitchings, and Frost painted.

 -    In his official report, Lander noted that the "corps of artists" traveled with the expedition "bearing their own expenses." The authors then note that "official Washington [the government] certainly had known of the artists' participation, but Lander . . . had been careful to avoid direct government sponsorship, aware of the opposition from such vocal politicians . . . (who) 'vehemently repelled the idea that art should receive corrupting patronage from Government.'" Just as in 1859, there are still debates within the federal government over funding for the arts.   Research the controversy, over the past 30 years, of government funding of the arts (the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities). Write a position paper presenting both sides of the funding argument, choose a side, back up your position with your research, and document actual cases.