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About the Whitney Survey

In 1860 the California State Legislature passed an act creating the Office of State Geologist and defining the duties thereof. The act named Josiah D. Whitney (for whom Mount Whitney is named) to fill the office, and directed Whitney to make an accurate and complete geological survey of the state.

It was one of the most ambitious geological surveys ever attempted. From 1860 to 1864, the California Geological Survey team traveled 14,000+ miles around the new state of California, much of which was then barely known and parts of which were entirely unexplored by white people, collecting a vast amount of information about California.

The Survey’s field leader, William H. Brewer, wrote extensively about their travels in his letters to family; those letters, which were later collected and published as Up and Down California, are excerpted here.

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