Owen’s Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota


The first geological survey of Minnesota.

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This is a lovely example of the official report of David Dale Owen’s geological survey through Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, published in Philadelphia by Lippincott, Grambo & Co. in 1852. Owen is a fascinating character who was born in Scotland in 1807 and raised as one of eight siblings. His father, Robert Owen, founded a utopian colony in New Harmony, Indiana in 1825 and David joined just him there just a few years later at about age twenty, after a solid education of private tutoring and schooling in Switzerland.

New Harmony would fail within a year or two of Owen’s arrival, and he would briefly leave Indiana to study geology at the University of London around 1831. After returning to the Midwest, he began his geological career mapping Tennessee, and in 1837 he was appointed the first state geologist of Indiana. Owen would serve in the same role for Kentucky and Arkansas, as well as that of a federal geologist and surveyor of large portions of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Those last efforts, which took place between 1847 and 1851, are cataloged in these volumes. According to William Elliott of the University of Southern Indiana;

“In 1852, the report generated by Owen standardized the format for federal geologic reports, including the narrative, maps, plates, and illustrations. This report also used several new reproduction techniques, including metal-ruled on steel and Daguerreotypes to illustrate fossils. Ultimately, this work provided a foundation for the forthcoming railroad surveys of the western United States in the 1860s and 1870s and the establishment of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1879.”

Sources: David Dale Owen, Frontier Geologist (PDF); Equatorial Minnesota

Map Details

Publication Date: 1852

Author: David Dale Owen

Sheet Width (in): See Description

Sheet Height (in): See Description

Condition: A-

Condition Description: Complete two-volume set of Owen's Geological Survey (Report and Illustrations), both bound in original purple cloth. Spines are heavily faded and worn and the front cover of the Illustrations is heavily soiled. Contents are generally very good, with light toning and scattered soiling consistent with age and use. Volume I: xxxvii + 638 pp. + numerous plates, charts, and maps in good to very good condition. Includes large geological map of the region that shows moderate toning along fold lines. Illustrations: 27 paleontology plates, most with original tissue guards, and fifteen maps and charts, most fold-out and in original color. Contents show spotting throughout and several of the maps and plates have toned with age.


1 in stock