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In 1890 Congress appropriated funds for the surveying and improvement of the Columbia River in Washington state, including $10,000 for surveying the river from the international boundary line southward to Rock Island Rapids. In 1891 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made this survey as far south as the Okanogan River. William Cuthbert led the team that made the survey. His superior was Capt. Thomas W. Symons of the U.S. Engineer office at Portland, Oregon. Their reports upon the 1891 survey were published as part of the annual report in 1893 of the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, which is in the Report of the Secretary of War... (Washington, 1893), Vol. II, Pt. 4, pp. 3381-3399. Copies of the reports by Symons and Cuthbert are filed in the Information Folder of this collection.

Two albums contain 74 photographs (7 1/4 x 9 in.), albumen prints, from the survey of 1891 These photographs are numbered, and their numbers and content correspond to those of photographs listed in Capt. Symons' report. Sixteen of the pictures are duplicated, so there are actually 57 different scenes. The scenes are along the Columbia River in Ferry and Stevens counties in northeastern Washington from the Canadian border southward 88 miles to Elbow Bend 17 miles north of the mouth of the Spokane River. Capt. Symons wrote that "a large number of photographs was taken of the river and its vicinity," and he sent with his report a set "of those which most clearly illustrate the river, especially at the bad places." Most of the Photographs in these albums are views of parts of the river where there were problems for navigation. The photographs are of the following areas: the Canadian boundary, Murphy's Rapid, Sheep Creek Bend, Onion Creek, Little Dalles, Marble Mountain, Nine-mile Rapids, rapid above Marcus, Big Bend above Marcus, mouth of Kettle River, Kettle Falls, Grand Rapids, Rock Islands, Gifford's Rapid, Turtle Rapid, and Elbow Bend. The large number of photographs from the survey of 1891 included scenes further down the river as far as the mouth of the Okanogan River and perhaps others from the stretch of the Columbia River represented by the photographs in these two albums.

The photographs were made from glass plate negatives. They were numbered, but the numbers are not always visible on the prints in the albums. The numbers written in ink on the corners of the mounting boards in Album II are the photograph numbers. They should not be confused with later numbers written with a pencil which are merely name numbers. The numbers written with a blue pencil on the boards in Album I are the photograph numbers.

The photographs show the usual deterioration, but many of them retain rich brown tones. Among the 16 scenes for which there are two prints, In many cases one print is in better condition than its duplicate. These photographs are mostly scenery devoid of people and buildings, but there are a few exceptions, notably the structures at Little Dalles, Indian Ferry nearby, and on Hayes Island at Kettle Falls. The latter is only a distant view, but there are fine pictures of the tiny settlements at Little Dalles and Indian Ferry (Nos. 18, 20, 25).

The name of the photographer is not in the albums, and it was not given in the reports by Symons and Cuthbert. The albums probably belonged to the photographer or to someone on the survey, because there are notations on the reverse of the last board in Album II that strongly suggest that relationship. There is a list of numbers with the following notation: "The following negatives to be duplicated so that original one can be sent to Chicago."

Description from the Manuscript Card Catalog located in the Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.