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Map of Alaska: Showing Known Gold-bearing Rocks, by the U.S. Geological Survey, 1898

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) aimed to spur economic development of the West. After gold was found in the Klondike River of Canada’s Yukon Territory in 1896, the USGS published a map of gold deposits in Alaska. Gold discoveries in Nome and Fairbanks, Alaska, soon followed, luring thousands of prospectors to the sparsely populated region.

Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

Map of Alaska: Showing Known Gold-bearing Rocks, by the U.S. Geological Survey, 1898

The United States Geological Survey

Throughout the nineteenth century, Congress commissioned expeditions to explore and document newly acquired western lands. In 1879 Congress established the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a permanent agency within the Department of the Interior, to provide ongoing documentation of the geology and natural resources in the West and promote the economic development of the region. Today USGS survey publications benefit the scientific community and furnish crucial information to lawmakers tasked with revising public land use policy.