University Excursion Party

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Joseph LeConte (1823-1901), A Journal of Ramblings through the High Sierras of California by the “University Excursion Party” (San Francisco: Francis & Valentine, 1875). “Illustrated with nine mounted photographs (albumen prints) with red letterpress captions and borders; frontispiece group portrait identifies ten men in the excursion party.” Graphic Arts copy inscribed Fred W. Hadley, Grand Hotel, Feby 15/76. Previously owned by Robert Ormes Dougan. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2006-3091N

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Harvard educated Joseph LeConte moved to Berkeley California in 1869 to join the faculty of the newly established University of California as the first professor of geology, natural history, and botany. In 1875, he led a group of students from the university on a trip to the High Sierras and kept a journal of the “ramblings.”

On August 5 LeConte wrote, “To-day to Yosemite Falls. This has been the hardest day’s experience yet. We thought we had plenty of time, and therefore started late. Stopped a moment at the foot of the Falls, at a saw-mill, to make inquiries. Here found a man in rough miller’s garb, whose intelligent face and earnest, clear blue eye, excited my interest.”

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“After some conversation, discovered that it was Mr. Muir, a gentleman of whom I had heard much from Mrs. Prof. Carr and others. He had also received a letter from Mrs. Carr, concerning our party and was looking for us. We were glad to meet each other. I urged him to go with us to Mono, and he seemed disposed to do so.”— p. 41

Seventeen years later, John Muir and LeConte co-founded the Sierra Club, with LeConte as director from 1892 to 1898.

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I love photographs from this era. My imagination gets to fill in the colors. The landscape in that last one is amazing.