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“Panorama from Point Sublime,” digital panorama comprising three illustrations by William Henry Holmes for the U.S. Geological Survey, Atlas to . . . the Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District, 1882

The aptly named Point Sublime, on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, offers one of the most breathtaking views of this natural wonder. The U.S. Geological Survey commissioned artists William Henry Holmes and Thomas Moran to create illustrations for Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon, to convey to readers the stunning visual impact of the geological formations.

Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

“Panorama from Point Sublime,” digital panorama comprising three illustrations by William Henry Holmes for the U.S. Geological Survey, Atlas to . . . the Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District, 1882

Surveying the Grand Canyon

Created by an act of Congress in 1879 to map the western territories of the United States, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) issued its first publication—a report on the Grand Canyon—in 1882. The author, Clarence E. Dutton, a geologist and army officer, had begun surveying the rugged region of the Colorado Plateau as an associate of explorer John Wesley Powell in 1875. Dutton’s monograph on the Grand Canyon inaugurated a series of USGS studies of the geology, paleontology, and related aspects of the nation’s public lands.

Those who have long and carefully studied the Grand Canyon of the Colorado do not hesitate for a moment to pronounce it by far the most sublime of all earthly spectacles.

Clarence E. Dutton, Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District with Atlas, 1882