Popular Science Monthly/Volume 46/February 1895/The United States Geological Survey

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GEOLOGY in America has advanced by steady evolution from a small beginning eighty years ago to its present proportions, where it stands as one of the great sciences of the present and of the future. The geologists of Europe founded the science of geology in the earlier years of this century, and as the tide of emigration passed across to this continent it brought with it a knowledge of science and a spirit of scientific investigation. In geology this first took systematic form in the State of New York. State after State then took up the work, and finally the Federal Government, in its western Territories. Among the men who have led in the States were William Maclure, Amos Eaton, James Hall, Ebenezer Emmons, Timothy Conrad, and their associates on the New York Survey; the brothers Rogers, and Richard Dale Owen. Jules Marcou, J. S. Newberry, and others began work in the west under the Federal Government, and following them the organizers of the first Government surveys—Clarence King, F. V. Hayden, J. W. Powell, and George M. Wheeler.

The organization of the present Geological Survey went into effect July 1, 1879, the independent surveys that had previously existed having been discontinued. It is a bureau of the Department of the Interior, and is under the immediate control of a director, who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The members of the regular and permanent corps of the survey are nominated by the director and appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, the director making only such temporary appointments as are authorized by the secretary. A plan of operations and an estimate of the expenses of the survey are submitted annually to the secretary, to whom the director also makes report of the operations of the survey at the close of each fiscal year.

The survey occupies a rented building which has 46,480 square feet of floor space. In addition, the engraving and printing division occupies an annex building, with 8,253 square feet of floor space, and in the National Museum there are four laboratories for the preparation and study of paleontologic and paleobotanic material. Within the main building there is a chemical laboratory, in which analyses of rocks, oils, minerals, etc., are made for the geologists of the survey, as well as certain special investigations relating to problems directly affecting the study of rocks or minerals, a knowledge of which is necessary for the field geologist; a photographic laboratory, in which all negatives taken in the field are developed and prints made therefrom, and where the field topographic maps are reduced to the scale required before engraving for publication; a petrographic laboratory, which includes the necessary machinery for cutting thin sections of rocks and minerals, and for the cutting and polishing of sections of limestones, fossils, etc.

The topographic division occupies the fourth and fifth floors of the main building. This division is fully equipped with the necessary instruments for triangulation and topographic surveying. The second and third floors are occupied by the geologists of the survey, and the first floor by the administrative offices, the editorial rooms, and the library. The library at the present time contains thirty-five thousand books, fifty thousand pamphlets, and twenty-six thousand maps, all of which are intended for study and reference by the members of the survey. The administrative branch of the survey includes the chief clerk's office, the financial division, and the miscellaneous or correspondence division. In the printing division there is a full equipment for engraving, lithographing, and printing the topographic maps and folios of the survey.

The organic law of the survey, enacted in 1879, provides that "the director of the Geological Survey shall have the direction of the Geological Survey and the classification of the public lands and examination of the geological structure and mineral resources and products of the national domain." In 1882 the doubt as to the territory to be embraced by the operations of the survey was removed by the addition of the words "and to continue the preparation of a geological map of the United States." Under the directorship of Mr, Clarence King prominence was given to investigations of the mineral resources of the Rocky Mountain region in Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. A general division of mining geology was also organized, but, owing to the uncertainty of the area to be included under the term "national domain," its operations were limited to the States and Territories of the west. With the change of directorship in 1881 and the granting of authority in 1882 to complete a geological map of the United States, the policy of the survey was modified and its work was directed, under a very comprehensive plan, to the preparation of the required geologic map. This included the making of a topographic map of the entire United States as a base for the mapping of the areal geology. As adequate maps were not in existence, and areal geology without a good topographic base would be of little value, the topographic work was pushed forward; and in geology special attention was given to the consideration and solution of certain broad geologic problems presented by the wide domain of the United States. These problems embraced those of the geologic growth and development of a great continent, many of which had to be solved before the areal geographic mapping could be carried forward intelligently and with due consideration for scientific accuracy and economy. With the completion of topographic sheets, areal geology was gradually taken up, and in 1894 more than three fourths of the available geologic force was employed in areal work.

The scope of the work of the Geological Survey has thus come to include the preparation of a topographic base map of the entire United States; the study and mapping of the areal geology upon this base; the examination of the geologic structure and mineral resources of the national domain; the gathering of the statistics of mineral production; the study of the artesian and surface water supply of the United States; and, indirectly, the mineral and agricultural classification of the public lands under survey.

There is one fact that should be borne in mind when considering the scope of the work, and that is that the Geological Survey is a bureau of research. Its work is to a large extent the discovery of unknown facts and principles, and the scientific co-ordination of these and all known facts and inductions, within the scope of its work, in such a form that they shall subserve the use of both the Government and the people; the latter to include not only the farmer, prospector, miner, owner of lands, investor, and mining and civil engineer, but also the most highly trained students, teachers, and specialists.

Topographic Base Map.—Captain George M. Wheeler said of topographic surveys: "The topographic is the indispensable, all-important survey, being general and not special in its character, which underlies every other, including also the graphic basis of the economic and scientific examinations of the country. . . . This has been the main or principal general survey in all civilized countries, and all other so-called surveys (as geodetic, trigonometric, etc.) are but accessories or addenda thereto. . . . The results of such a survey become the mother source whence all other physical examinations may draw their graphic sustenance."[2]

A recent European writer[3] (1892) on the general topographic maps of the present time says that all European states have undertaken uniform and continuous topographic surveys of their whole domains, and that outside of Europe the United States claim first attention by their grand topographic works.

Similar surveys are also in progress in the principal colonies of the European powers, such as India, Canada, Algeria, Tunis, etc. The scale of the maps varies from 1:2,000 to 1:420,000.

According to Lowinsin, seventy per cent of the area of Europe has had a fairly satisfactory topographic survey; and of the land area of the world, about twenty-seven per cent has been surveyed more or less accurately. Bartholomew estimates that only one seventh of the whole land surface of the globe has been exactly surveyed. He publishes an instructive map exhibiting the area of topographic surveys, both exact and general, and of geographic surveys, both fairly reliable and approximate or hypothetical.[4]

Most European topographic maps were made, primarily, for military purposes, under the supervision of military officers, and secondarily for the scientist and statesman only. In the United States the necessities of the geologist developed the first interior surveys, and they are now being carried forward under the direction of the Geological Survey, and, along the ocean borders, by the Coast and Goedetic Survey.

The methods employed are the same in all topographic surveys, in respect to the two essential divisions of work, viz., location of points of control and sketching in of contours, streams, culture, etc. The minor methods of procedure differ in details within these two divisions; but geometrically located points of control are in all cases obtained, and the contours, roads, streams, and all features shown on the map are sketched in, whether the located points of control are ten inches or a thousand feet apart. Usually it is only the features sketched that appear on the map, as the geometrically located points that control the sketch are mathematical points. If desired they can be represented by conventional signs.

The first contoured topographic maps of the United States for geologic purposes were on the scale of 1:250,000 (four miles to the inch), with contour intervals of two hundred to two hundred and fifty feet; but the necessities of science and the demands of the public called for a more detailed map, and the scale of 1:125,000 (two miles to the inch) was adopted. This was again enlarged in certain regions to 1:62,500 (one mile to the inch). The topographic maps of the Geological Survey are now being made, in the rougher mountain region and thinly populated areas, on the 1:125,000 scale, with contour intervals of from ten to one hundred feet, and in the more valuable, economic, and thickly populated areas, on the 1:62,500 scale, with contour intervals of from five to one hundred feet. Special maps, for the detailed survey of areas of unusual mining or scientific interest, are made on still larger scales, up to 1:10,000. With, the increase in scale there has been an increase in cost; but the latter has been in a considerably smaller ratio than the increase in the value of the maps produced. Since the beginning of topographic surveys by the Geological Survey there has been a steady improvement of methods, and the survey has been making better maps during the past two years than ever before.

Primarily the topographic maps are for the use of the geologist, and their scale has been determined largely by this fact. "With the progress of the survey from year to year, the public became more and more acquainted with the maps, and a strong demand arose for the topographic maps as such. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York asked to have the work pushed more rapidly within their respective boundaries; this was done on the condition that the State pay one half of the cost of the work. Of the States mentioned, all have a completed topographic map with the exception of New York. In the great semi-arid region of the interior the maps were requested as an aid in the development of their resources in artesian water and in the application of drainage waters to irrigation. Severe criticism of the survey has been made on account of the extent of the topographic surveys in the semi-arid region; but when it is considered that the Geological Survey is a national institution, it is evident that the great interior has as just a claim for consideration as the mining regions of the mountain areas of the eastern and western sides of the continent. If water is the principal mineral resource, it should receive due attention in making the topographic map. The uses of the topographic maps are many, and it is the policy of the survey to give them as high a standard of accuracy as the limit of scale will permit. A map may cost one dollar or one thousand dollars, or more, a square mile, according to its scale and its contents. For general purposes an excellent map can be made for ten dollars a square mile, one that will subserve the uses of the geologist and the people. This will answer for nine tenths or more of the area of the country; and when more detailed, expensive maps are required for the remaining tenth, they can and will be made. In the meantime the development of the country will be assisted in many ways by the maps constructed on the scales now adopted.

The following table exhibits the area of topographic work completed up to December 1, 1894. Of this, a considerable portion of the 1: 250,000 scale (four miles to the inch) will be revised as detailed geologic work is carried forward. A thorough revision will also need to be made of certain areas in the Appalachian Mountains and west of the Mississippi River, to the Pacific. This arises mainly from defective work in the earlier years of the survey, when men and methods were more or less on trial, and from the demand for more detailed and accurate maps on which to plat the geology of the coal and iron regions of the Appalachians, and the gold, silver, iron, coal, and artesian areas of other sections of the country:

sq. miles.
scales. Per cent
of total
1/62,500 1/125,000 1/250,000
Alabama 15,870 . . . . . . 15,000 . . . . . . 30
Arizona 41,000 . . . . . . . . . . . . 41,000 36
Arkansas 15,000 . . . . . . 15,000 28
California 35,100 4,000 16,700 14,400 22
Colorado 36,000 1,500 34,500 . . . . . . 35
Connecticut 4,990 4,990 . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
Delaware 15 15 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
District of Columbia 70 70 . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Florida 1,900 1,900 . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Georgia 15,275 . . . . . . 15,275 . . . . . . 26
Idaho 12,000 . . . . . . 12,000 . . . . . . 14
Illinois 3,875 3,875 . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Indiana 20 20 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Indian Territory 250 . . . . . . 250 . . . . . . 1
Iowa 4,450 4,450 . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Kentucky 12,800 . . . . . . 12,800 . . . . . . 32
Kansas 67,385 . . . . . . 67,385 . . . . . . 82
Louisiana 7,000 7,000 . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Maine 4,200 4,200 . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Maryland 6,930 3,000 3,930 . . . . . . 57
Massachusetts 8,315 8,315 . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
Michigan 231 231 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Minnesota 850 850 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Missouri 26,000 300 25,700 . . . . . . 37
Montana 14,400 . . . . . . 6,000 8,400 10
Nebraska 14,300 . . . . . . 14,300 . . . . . . 18
Nevada 19,980 . . . . . . 5,580 14,400 18
New Hampshire 1,990 1,990 . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
New Jersey 7,815 7,815 . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
New Mexico 27,800 . . . . . . 10,000 17,800 23
New York 10,000 10,000 . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
North Carolina 11,110 . . . . . . 11,110 . . . . . . 21
North Dakota 4,960 . . . . . . 4,960 . . . . . . 7
Ohio 50 . . . . . . 50 . . . . . . . .
Oklahoma Territory 3,423 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Oregon 13,180 . . . . . . 980 12,200 14
Pennsylvania 6,537 6,537 . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Rhode Island 1,250 1,250 . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
South Dakota 9,800 . . . . . . 9,800 . . . . . . 13
Tennessee 19,000 . . . . . . 19,000 . . . . . . 45
Texas 57,000 . . . . . . 57,000 . . . . . . 21
Utah 6,000 . . . . . . . . . . . . 6,000 7
Vermont 2,175 2,175 . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Virginia 32,120 1,120 31,000 . . . . . . 84
Washington 450 450 . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
West Virginia 22,500 . . . . . . 22,500 . . . . . . 90
Wisconsin 6,540 6,540 . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Wyoming 7,700 . . . . . . 7,700 . . . . . . 8
  624,016 94,793 427,163 102,060
Per cent of all . . . . . . 15 68 17

In addition to the above, areas amounting to about one hundred and six thousand square miles have been adopted from the Powell, Wheeler, Hayden, and King surveys, and published on the scale of 1:250,000. From this table it appears that during the past twelve years the Geological Survey has mapped six hundred and twenty-four thousand square miles, being more than one fifth the area of the country, excluding Alaska. Of this, more than two thirds is on the scale of 1:125,000, and nearly one sixth on the scale of 1:62,500.

Geologic Work.—The geologic work is readily classified as special investigations and areal mapping.

The first branch of the geologic work, special investigations, is illustrated by the study and report on The Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District, by Captain C. E. Button; Lake Bonneville, by Mr. G. K. Gilbert; Geology and Mining Industry of Leadville, Colorado, by Prof. S. F. Emmons; The Palæozoic Fishes of North America, by Prof. J. S. Newberry; and the thorough investigation of the geologic phenomena of the Yellowstone National Park, by Mr. Arnold Hague. Twenty-four monographs and one hundred and sixteen bulletins have been published by the survey as the results of such investigations. They are frequently the basis of generalizations that must be obtained before the areal geologic work can be successfully prosecuted; and the areal geologist is constantly making use of the data furnished him by the specialist. Immense collections have been accumulated in the laboratories of the survey and in the National Museum, which are the basis of correlations used almost constantly in areal mapping and frequently in the solution of problems arising in connection with the study of economic questions of a high order. The interrelation of the various branches of geology are such that all must be kept up to a high standard, or all will sooner or later deteriorate and thus affect the quality of the output of results by the survey.

Under the direction given, in 1882, to complete the geological map of the United States, a comprehensive scheme of work was outlined. A large corps of geologists soon began work on various problems that arose in planning a system of mapping that would serve for all phases of geology to be met with in the three million square miles of the area of the United States. A large amount of valuable detailed local work had been done by various State surveys; several of the Government surveys had made more or less complete reconnaissances of large areas west of the Mississippi River, and a few fairly accurate geologic maps were published by them; but the State and Government surveys had been conducted each in its own way and with little regard to co-ordination with the work of the others. It was necessary to bind together the scattered results of all these in a comprehensive whole, before a beginning could be made on the publication of the geologic map. This work was carried forward for ten years before the first folio of the final geologic map was published. Most of the larger questions affecting the classification and nomenclature of the sedimentary and volcanic rocks were brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Great progress was made in the study of the altered (metamorphic) rocks and of the complex of crystalline rocks grouped under the term "Archean." A satisfactory solution of the lower Mesozoic (Juratrias) series is yet to be reached; and there is a great field in the pre-Paleozoic sedimentary and crystalline formations, in which further study will bring out important data for classification and geologic mapping; but the areas affected are relatively small within the United States, and the areal geologic mapping can go on without serious injury on this account. Director Powell and members of the survey gave much time and thought as to the best method of representing the geology on maps. The result is a color scheme that, under the skillful application of the editor of geologic maps, has thus far met the demands made upon it.

The areal geologic map in its final form, as presented in the geologic folios, is intended to place before the geologist, mining engineer, student, and all persons interested the topography and geology of the area included within each atlas sheet. The topographic map has already been mentioned. In each folio a brief explanation is printed of the topographic and geologic maps and of the uses to which they can be applied. It is a simple, short lesson for the layman, to enable him to make use of the folios intelligently.

The areal geologic map represents all that the geologist preparing it knows of the areal distribution of the rocks occurring within its area, so far as he can delineate such knowledge within the scale of the map. Taken in connection with the topographic base, it presents the geologic distribution of the various rocks in a form for the use of geologists and students, but it does not appeal directly to persons interested in the mineral resources o.f the region. To meet this important demand a second map is prepared, upon which the rocks carrying minerals of economic value are clearly indicated by distinct colors, the import of which is shown by the colored legend on the margin of the map. Thus the distribution of the coal-and iron-bearing rocks of the Appalachians in Tennessee and other States, and of the gold-bearing rocks of California and elsewhere, is clearly presented. These maps refer only to the areal distribution of the rocks. What is known of the underground geology is graphically illustrated on a structure section sheet and a sheet of columnar sections. With the four sheets before him the geologist, mining engineer, Landowner, or other inquirer has in view in graphic form all that the geologist can tell him of the area. A general text accompanies the folio; and, when considered necessary, a full, detailed description will be published in the form of a bulletin. This is as far as the director of the survey considers that he is legally authorized to go in the preparation of a geologic map. On the scale now used this map will require many years for its completion. Its value depends upon its thoroughness, and it is thought that quality, up to the scale adopted, is to be considered before the question of area. The standard adopted is to do the field work up to and beyond the scale of the map, and to represent on the map all that the scale will permit. The result thus far is shown in the folios published, and the folios of the future will prove the quality of the work now being done. Cost and practical working methods limit the ideal perfection of field work and of the resulting maps; but in all cases the ideal standard will be aimed at, and the attempt made to present the best results obtainable under the conditions surrounding the work.

Economic Work.—Some one has said that utility is the bane of science, and a greater man has written that Philosophy is never more exalted than when she stoops to minister to humanity. Geology is essentially practical in many of its branches, and thus commends itself to those interested in the material welfare of individuals, communities, and nations; and, at the same time, its great problems concerning the history of the evolution of the earth and of life, including man, command the attention of intelligent mankind. In its economic aspect the Geological Survey touches the interests of the people in many and varied ways. Human endeavor is limited to the surface of the earth and its immediate underground resources, and whatever is of assistance here is an aid in the development of the higher material civilization.

In the first place, good topographic maps are essential. They are needed in the construction of roads of all kinds, and in problems of water supply and drainage. In all future military operations such maps will be of service. As a basis for representing the distribution of mineral resources they can not be dispensed with, and in all investigations relating to the surface of the earth they are of great value.

Mineral Resources. The organic law of the survey provides that the director shall have charge of the examination of the mineral resources and products of the national domain. This has been interpreted to mean a statistical examination of the products from the mineral resources, and a geologic examination of their occurrence and character. The former has led to the compilation of statistics and the publication of an annual volume under the title of Mineral Resources. It is proposed to continue this work, and to make it as complete and accurate as the means available will permit. It seems particularly appropriate that the Government should collect statistics of mineral production, and give the volume prompt publication and wide circulation. The first ten annual volumes have appeared as a distinct publication by the survey, but in the future it is proposed to issue the statistics as the second part of the annual report of the director.

Geologic Economic Work. The geologic examination of the mineral resources is one that commended itself very strongly to Mr. King. He regarded it as the primary work of the survey, and gave it great impetus by establishing surveys of the Leadville district of Colorado and of the Eureka and Virginia silver districts of Nevada, These were carried forward under Major Powell, and new economic work was entered upon. Dr. Becker surveyed and completed a report on the quicksilver deposits of California, and began a thorough survey of the gold belt of California. Profs. Irving and Van Hise surveyed and reported on the copper district of Lake Superior, and pushed forward researches on the iron-ore districts of Wisconsin and Michigan. The phosphate deposits of Florida were studied, and the mapping of the coal fields of the Appalachians was begun. With the development of areal geologic work, 1886 to 1891, many minor economic problems were met with and studied. Previous to 1892, when the appropriation for geology was reduced more than one half, a large percentage of it was employed in distinctly economic work. With the revival of geologic work the present year, the geologic examination of the mineral resources has received attention. A statement of what has been and is being done the present year will explain the present policy of the survey.

Four field parties were engaged in the areal survey of the coal fields of Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland; one party on the iron-ore deposits of western North Carolina; one party on the marbles, etc., of northwestern Georgia; one party in making a preliminary study and reconnaissance of the gold belt of Georgia, South and North Carolina, and Virginia; one party on the southern limit of the roofing-slate belt of eastern New York; one large party on the iron ores of northern Wisconsin; one party on the mining districts of the Helena atlas sheet of Montana; one party on the Cripple Creek gold field, and in making a reconnaissance of the Rico district of Colorado; one party in completing the survey of the Leadville (Col.) district; one party in surveying the coal field of the Trinidad, El Moro, and Walsenburg sheets, Colorado; one party in studying the artesian water problem of the valley of the Arkansas, in Colorado and Kansas; three parties in the study of the water supply of the United States, especially in the arid and semi-arid central region; one party in examining the clays, etc., in connection with the areal geology of central Texas; one party in making a reconnaissance of the mineral belt of central Idaho; and two parties in the areal mapping and a study of the gold belt of California. Thus twenty-one parties were engaged in work relating to important resources. It is also planned to continue the study of the phosphate deposits of Florida during the winter, and to begin the mapping of the coal deposits of southwest Oregon and western Washington in the spring of 1895. In addition, work on the geology of highways has been started, and the economic chemical work of the survey has been continued. To provide topographic maps for the geologic work thirty-two topographic field parties were engaged in the various sections of the country.

A typical illustration of geologic economic work is that on the iron-ore deposits of the Lake Superior region. The results include the determination of the geologic position and geographic distribution of the iron-bearing formations, and of the laws which control the occurrence of ore bodies within the iron-bearing formations.

First.—The investigations thus far made show the presence of an iron-bearing formation at the summit of the lower Huronian series, another near its base, and a third at the base of the upper Huronian series which was derived largely from the detritus of the iron-bearing formation of the lower Huronian. Their geographic distribution has been carefully mapped in the old districts and also in new districts, where prospecting had not yet shown them to exist.

Second.—The discovery of the laws which control the occurrence of the ore bodies is of equal if not of greater economic importance than the mapping of the iron-bearing formations. They are as follows: 1. The iron ores always rest upon a relatively impervious basement. 2. Large ore bodies are found only when the impervious basements are in the form of pitching troughs. 3. The pitching troughs are particularly likely to bear unusually large ore bodies when the iron-bearing formation has been much shattered by folding.

By the aid of the areal and structural maps which have been and will be prepared, and the application of the above laws, the mining engineer may avoid unnecessary expenditure of money in exploration, and be guided in the development of the mineral resources of the region. Hydrography. The scope of the work of the hydrographic division of the survey is expressed in the statute authorizing it, which reads: "For gauging the streams and determining the water supply of the United States, including the investigation of underground currents and artesian wells in arid and semi-arid regions. . . ." (Passed August 18, 1894.)

The demand on the survey from time to time for information concerning the water resources of the country has increased from year to year, especially from the arid and semi-arid regions of the west. Inquiries come from farmers seeking to provide water for domestic use and for irrigation, from individuals and from municipal organizations seeking artesian water supply and water power, and from members of Congress having in view legislation concerning the regulation of streams flowing across State or national boundaries. Response to the inquiries made requires not only broad knowledge of the topography, geologic structure, and meteorologic conditions of the regions involved, but also more or less familiarity with local conditions. In' the past the hydrographic work of the survey has been limited because of the small sum available for the purpose. Such results as have been secured were largely an incidental product of the brief irrigation survey, which was practically suspended in 1891. Under the law above quoted, the work was taken up systematically during the present year, and will now be prosecuted as thoroughly and extensively as the money appropriated for the purpose will permit. A large amount of volunteer assistance has been given by local observers who realize the value of the work, and by railroad companies which are sufficiently interested to have their bridge-tenders read the river gauges. By this co-operation much more extensive results are possible than with the limited resources thus far at the command of the survey.

The water which has been utilized for irrigation by the farmers of the west is that which is most readily available, but both the great supply of storm water and the underground yield are scarcely touched. The utilization of this unappropriated water is the first condition for the further development of the arid and semi-arid lands in both public and private ownership. In order that the water may be intelligently utilized it is necessary that a thorough investigation should be made to obtain information as to the quantity and its fluctuations, before dams and reservoirs for storing it can be economically constructed.

The range of the requests for information on this point and concerning water powers shows the popular appreciation of the best work in this direction. From this standpoint the inquiries are encouraging; at the same time they are embarrassing, in that it is assumed that the survey has extended its investigation over the whole field. The data, however, are far from sufficient, and for their completion there is demand for a field survey which should be prosecuted at once and in the most thorough and systematic manner possible. The work is essentially economic, and, owing to its intimate relations to geology, is considered to be directly germane to the work of the survey.

Highways. The geology of highways embraces the study of the materials entering into their construction. It is distinct from the engineering problem of the mechanical construction of highways—a subject that is not intended to be taken up by the survey. The main questions have to do with the choice and manipulation of materials. Experience has shown that many kinds of rocks, which are not suitable for road-building when used alone, may be combined with other materials in such wise as to give good results. It is well known that in many districts great expense has been incurred in building roads on the best known engineering principles of road construction, with the result of producing dusty roads in summer and muddy roads in winter. This outcome is the result of ignorance in regard to the character of the rock necessary for the production of good roads. Inferior materials have sometimes been used when there were other materials in the immediate vicinity which alone or in combination would have produced a solid roadbed. A large part of the country, including the greater portion of the southern States and some portions of the Mississippi basin, has been thought to be essentially destitute of materials suitable for the construction of good roads. The inquiries that have been made by geologists have shown that in many places within these regions there are hidden deposits of gravel and other sorts of rocks which, when properly used, might give excellent highways; and that around the margin of this great area, often within the limits of convenient railway distribution, there are abundant supplies of rock well fitted for such use. It only remains to discover the supply of such rocks as are cheapest and best for each region. This information can be obtained in practical form for each district as the work of the survey advances.

The movement for the betterment of roads and the obtainment of information relating to the materials available for the purpose has not yet taken a national character; but it is believed. that, by establishing a laboratory in connection with the Federal survey, a great impulse may be given to the improvement of highways. Such a laboratory should be arranged to obtain information as to the character of the material best adapted to road construction, tests being made of specimens sent to the survey by the various road commissioners immediately interested, by geologists surveying areal geology, and by public spirited citizens interested in the making of good roads. During the present year the survey is temporarily using a laboratory, under the direction of Prof. N. S. Shaler, at the Harvard Scientific School, Cambridge, Mass. Attention has been called to the use of bricks for highways, such as have been used for centuries in Holland and the lowlands of Europe. It now seems not only likely that this kind of pavement may become of great value in the south and the lower Mississippi Valley, but also important that the investigation of the clays of the country, with reference both to distribution and burning qualities, should be undertaken. Much information is at hand concerning the clays of many portions of the country, but little attention has been paid to their availability for making paving bricks.

Limitations of Economic Work. There have been and will continue to be differences of opinion as to the line to be drawn in economic work between that belonging to the States and individuals and that coming fairly within the field of the Federal survey. Broad interstate problems are clearly of the latter class, also those that by full study and elucidation will aid development in other areas. A test of the value of a high order of areal and economic work is brought out by a comparison of old and new conditions in the Rocky Mountain region. When the country was new, prospectors made many discoveries, and often accumulated fortunes with pick, shovel, and pan. These conditions have begun to pass away; and the mining industry now demands the highest skill and every assistance that can be given to it by geology and its collateral branches. The mining expert who is equipped with a full knowledge of the geology of the district in which he is working will succeed where the untrained man would fail. The new conditions will dominate even more in the future, rendering necessary a full knowledge of the geologic conditions surrounding mining problems. The work of the survey is not that of the prospector, nor that of the mining engineer who develops the property—that is the work of the individual, company, or community. The Geological Survey will give them the maps and the geologic data, and, if it will, the State can also aid by having analyses made for the prospectors, as well as detailed examinations and reports of special properties and of special methods of mining, treatment of ores, types of mining machinery, etc. Cases will arise when the study of a general problem will require the geologist of the Federal survey to make minute and detailed study of a mining district; but, as a whole, the work of the Federal survey is preparatory to the more detailed economic work of the State survey. The former will deal with broad interstate problems, and, when the States request it, co-operate in making a topographic map, and in the working out of such geologic problems as are germane to the work of the Federal survey.

Theoretic Work.—One of the criticisms often made of Government scientific work is that it is too theoretic in character and not sufficiently practical. In the case of the Geological Survey it has been said that the people needed practical results to assist them in their material development, and that abstract studies should be left to the universities and technical schools. The critics fail to recognize the fact that scientific or technical knowledge is necessary to the solution of any geologic problem, and that, if it is not already in existence, investigations must be made in order to obtain it for the purpose. Geology is essentially a science of exploitation; and the geologist must have at his command the best instruments and most reliable information that can be obtained to aid him in observing, in recording the results of observation, in classifying and assimilating such results, and in correctly interpreting them. He must also have a knowledge of the principles and laws that govern the phenomena under investigation, and if it is only by experimentation and special research that he can obtain such knowledge, then the time and energy must be expended to secure it. In view of these facts there is no necessity for apology for the existence of chemical, lithological, physical, and paleontological laboratories in connection with the Geological Survey, nor for special studies in the glacial formations, the physics of the earth's crust, etc. They are all essential to its scientific and practical work, and to the securing of results that will command the confidence of all who may have occasion to use or refer to them. The survey will keep in view the fact that it receives its support from the people, and endeavor to give in return practical results, and at the same time to furnish information that will advance the higher education, and especially the science of geology, in America.

Co-operation.—The recommendation of the National Academy of Science, that "all mensuration surveys be consolidated under one organization," was not adopted; nor could it have been fully successful as outlined in the plan submitted to Congress. If the topographic surveys were governed by any other condition than that of being made principally for the geologist, in the territory where his work demands the maps, they would be more likely to prove a hindrance than an assistance to him. An illustration may explain this. During the past field season it became desirable to make a geologic survey of the western Maryland coal field. The old topographic map of that area being found inadequate to supply the data required, a topographic party was sent with the geologists; but as the season advanced it became apparent that the one topographic party could not keep pace with the geologists, and a second and third topographic party were sent to their assistance. Jointly they completed both the topography and geology of that area before the close of the season; and the maps will be published within a year of the survey. Similar cases occurred in Colorado and the southern Appalachians, It is evident that if the topographic work had been in charge of another bureau such quick adjustment could not have been made, and the economic geologic work would have been delayed a year or more. Prompt publication of economic work must be made, as its value as an aid to development decreases with every year and almost every month of delay. Thus it is that co-ordination with any other bureau in mensuration survey becomes impracticable, unless the Geological Survey controls it. The work must be carried forward in accordance with the needs of the bureau.

To promote its own work and to avoid duplication the Geological Survey uses the points established by the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Lake Survey, and the Mississippi River Commission whenever they are available. It also furnishes data to the several bureaus and departments of the Government as they are requested from time to time.

The attitude of the Federal survey toward State surveys has been in the past to co-operate fully and freely, though commonly in an informal way; and it has uniformly encouraged the institution of State surveys. It has been disposed to encourage a division of labor whereby economic problems of a local character would be dealt with chiefly by the State survey, while the more general and usually interstate problems, which State surveys have difficulty in dealing with, would receive the special attention of the Federal survey; the latter, including triangulation, topography, paleontology, and special researches, requiring time, labor, and specialists. The Federal survey discusses the relations of the various mineral resources, such as iron, copper, phosphates, etc., to particular geologic formations; then the State surveys come in with their independent organizations and fix the values, methods of development, and other questions relating to the local geology and mineral resources. Partial co-operation between the Federal survey and several State surveys has been thus effected, the States making use of the results of the national work, and, in return, furnishing the Federal survey with data resulting from their more restricted and detailed economic work.

Co-operation in topographic mapping has been effected in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York, under an arrangement by which each State pays one half the cost of the work, scale and other details being agreed upon by a commission, or an officer representing the State, and the director of the Federal survey. It is essential that uniformity of methods and results should obtain throughout the topographic maps, and to secure this the execution of the field work and the drafting and engraving of the maps have been entirely in charge of the Federal survey. If agreeable to the States, co-operation will be continued on essentially the same conditions in the future as in the past.

Relations to Agriculture.—The work of the Geological Survey touches the interests of the agriculturist by furnishing data in relation to the distribution and supply of mineral manures, marls, phosphates, etc., and the distribution of soils. The soils are the direct result of the decay of rocks, and in the nonglaciated areas of the United States the geological maps, showing the distribution of the rocks, are practically soil maps, as the clay, lime, sand, and other constituents of the rocks are the chief ingredients of the soils. The maps of the superficial deposits within the glaciated region will show the distribution of the different types of soils produced during the drift period, and those of the deposits without the glaciated region, the drift materials deposited in the river valleys.

In the arid and semi-arid region all questions of the occurrence and distribution of artesian water and water supply for irrigation are of great importance to the farmer, and a knowledge of the underlying geology will be of service in determining extended systems of drainage in areas provided with abundant water supply by precipitation. The study of the materials entering into the construction of highways is also of moment to the farmer, as good roads mean so much to his industrial and social development.


It is not practicable adequately to summarize in a few paragraphs the results of the work of the survey for the period 18791894. A somewhat full statement has been made in the fourteenth and fifteenth annual reports of the director of the survey. But, in brief, it may be said that there are completed of topographic surveys, six hundred and eight thousand six hundred and fifty square miles, of which five hundred thousand are available for areal geologic mapping; of geologic mapping, one hundred thousand square miles, of which sixty thousand are ready for the engraver; of special geologic and miscellaneous investigations, fifteen large annual reports, one hundred and sixteen bulletins, and twenty-four monographs. Many thousand topographic and special geologic maps have been printed and distributed, and, what is most important, a material and intellectual equipment has been assembled that will have a marked influence in all future work.


Under the statutes the function of the Geological Survey is to make a topographic and geologic map of the United States, and to continue the examination of its geologic structure and mineral resources and products. To accomplish, this successfully, unity of thought and purpose is essential among those engaged in the work; and the survey should be carried on as a strictly scientific investigation, with the view of aiding in every possible manner the development of such material industries as are affected by its operations. These industries include mining, hydrographic and engineering work, and any practical object that can be advanced by a knowledge of the surface and interior of the earth and its resources.

The immensity of the work which is now before the Geological Survey would be sufficient to discourage the attempt to complete it, if the review of the past and the importance of the results to be attained, both to science and to the people of the country, were not kept constantly in view. The results of the past, however, are not a true index of the character and progress of work for the future, as a great amount of energy and time has been spent in preliminary studies and experimentation as to the best methods to be pursued and in obtaining a large amount of data necessary to the satisfactory prosecution of areal geologic work. These will not have to be repeated in the future.

The plan for the immediate future is to continue topographic work in areas of primary geologic importance, and to do such other topographic work as will be of service to the people and aid in the development of the areas mapped. In areal geology it is proposed to continue work in the following provinces: 1. The coal and iron region of the Appalachians from Alabama to the Pennsylvania line, which is considered especially important, as there is a large area of the Mississippi Valley and Atlantic coast which draws its coal and iron supplies from this region. 2. The crystalline areas of the eastern Appalachian region, in which gold, corundum, mica, etc., occur. 3. The phosphate deposits of Florida, extending the inquiry northward into Georgia and South Carolina and possibly into the areas of southwest Tennessee. 4. The marls, etc., of New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia, working southward as rapidly as topographic maps are completed and the areal geology can be surveyed. 5. The northeastern section, where the mapping and study of the roofing-slate region of New York and Vermont, and the mapping of the areal geology of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, are to be completed; and surveys will be extended to such areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine as the available means will permit. 6. The Lake Superior iron region, where areal and structural work will be carried forward systematically for the purpose of mapping the extent of the known mineral deposits and of determining the existence of other deposits not now known. 7. The Rocky Mountain area, where it is proposed to continue the investigation and mapping of the gold, silver, and coal-bearing rocks of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, and, if feasible, to begin work in Arizona and New Mexico. In this connection detailed studies will be made of such typical mining districts as will throw light upon and aid in the development of similar districts elsewhere. 8. The Pacific slope: The mapping and study of the gold belt of California has been greatly advanced, but a number of years will be required to complete it, and this will be one of the essential features of the work in this region. Areal work will also be continued in southeastern Oregon; and it is planned to begin the mapping of the coal areas of Washington, and the study of the coal resources of the Pacific slope. 9. The interior southwest and the region of the Great Plains, from the Rio Grande to the British boundary. In this broad area special attention will be given to areal mapping, and also to the mineral resources in coal, iron, lignite, cement clay, building stones, the occurrence of artesian water, etc.

The resources of the interior Mississippi basin are more generally known, and the work there will be of a special character, or in co-operation with State surveys.

The investigation of the water resources of the arid and semiarid regions and of the country at large will be systematically carried forward until the available water supply from every artesian source and from every stream in the United States is accurately known, both for irrigation and power. This project, if carried out, will cover a number of years, and it will doubtless repay the outlay in the assistance it will give to the development and prosperity of all sections of the country.

If the proposed amendment relating to the geology of highways is adopted by Congress, material entering into road construction will be obtained by field parties of the survey and also through State surveys, road commissioners, and individuals; and tests will be made to enable all who are engaged or interested in the construction of highways to make an intelligent selection of materials to be used. It has been said that the status of a nation's civilization may be estimated by its facilities of communication within its own borders. Believing this to be true, the policy of the Geological Survey will be to assist in perfecting all roads by addressing itself to the purely geologic question of choice of materials entering into their construction.

The investigation of the phenomena of the great ice invasion of the north will be continued until all of its important features have been studied and interpreted, and the formations resulting from its influence, direct and indirect, have been determined and mapped.

It is also proposed to co-operate with individuals and State surveys, wherever such co-operation will advance the work of the survey in accordance with its general scope and plans and will assist the local surveys.

The division of engraving and printing has been very successful in its work on the geologic folios; and it is hoped that arrangements can be perfected and authority secured for engraving and printing under its immediate direction all the maps of the survey.

Such special studies will be made in the chemical, paleontological, petrographical, and physical laboratories as may be needful to solve the problems that arise in connection with the areal geology or in the investigation of important scientific and economic problems.

The legislative branch of the Government has been very liberal in the past, and it is anticipated that the work will be fully sustained in the future. On the part of the survey it is proposed to retain the services of the most capable men that can be secured; to maintain the work at the highest standard of efficiency possible; and to advance it as rapidly as the means provided will permit.


  1. Presidential Address before the Geological Society of Washington, delivered December 18, 1894.
  2. Facts regarding the Origin, Organization, etc., of Government Land and Marine Surveys of the United States. 1885. 4to pamphlet. Washington, D. C.: War Department.
  3. C. Lowinsin Ymer. Tidskrift utgiven af Svenska Sallskapet for Antropologi och Geografi. 1891. Elfte argangen, 3e och 4e haft (slut). Stockholm: Samson & Wallin, 1892.
  4. John George Bartholomew. Scottish Geographical Magazine, vol. vi, 1890, pp. 294, 295, and map.