American MemoryThe National Digital Library Program: Archived Documentation

The Library of Congress / Ameritech National Digital Library Competition (1996-1999)

Image from collection

University of Chicago

American Environmental Photographs, 1891-1936: Images from the University of Chicago Library

Amount of award: $67,418

This collection consists of 5,800 photographs documenting natural environments, ecologies, and plant communities in their original state throughout the United States at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. Produced between 1897 and 1931 by a group of American botanists generally regarded as one of the most influential in the development of modern ecological studies, these photographs provide an overview of important representative natural landscapes in their original, or nearly original, condition throughout the United States. They demonstrate the character of a wide range of American topography, its forestation, aridity, shifting coastal dune complexes, and watercourses. Comparison of these early photographs with later views highlights the changes over the decades resulting from natural alterations of the landscape, disturbances from construction, mining, and industrialization, and effective natural resource usage. The photographs were taken by Henry Chandler Cowles (1869-1939) and other University of Chicago ecologists on field trips across the North American continent.

Online Collection

Image Caption: Several Pinus torreyana, Del Mar, California. (University of Chicago Library, Department of Special Collections. University of Chicago Department of Botany Records Collection. Reproduction Number: AEP-CAS59.)