• "Along the North Platte River, Oregon Trail. View along the North Platte River on the Oregon Trail." Courtesy Brigham Young University via the Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Along the North Platte River, Oregon Trail. View along the North Platte River on the Oregon Trail
    • Date
    • ca. 1860-1870
    • Creator
    • Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942
    • Description
    • View along the North Platte River on the Oregon Trail. Chimney Rock is visible in the distance. Gelatin print, 12 x 16.5. Electronic reproduction.
    • Rights
    • Http://lib.byu.edu/about/copyright/special_collections.php; public domain; Courtesy L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Brigham Young University - Harold B. Lee Library

  • "Ornamental Map Of The United States & Mexico." Courtesy the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

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    Ornamental Map Of The United States & Mexico
    • Date
    • 1847
    • Creator
    • Barritt, William, approximately 1822-. Phelps, Humphrey, active 19th century.
    • Description
    • Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1846, by Humphrey Phelps, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York. Includes portraits of Cortez, Montezuma, and Washington above map and ... more
      Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1846, by Humphrey Phelps, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York. Includes portraits of Cortez, Montezuma, and Washington above map and Gen. Santa Anna, Gen. Taylor below map. Includes text and statistics on the U.S., Mexico, Oregon, and California and the seals of the U.S. and Mexico. Prime meridians: Greenwich and Washington. Relief shown by hachures. less
    • Standardized Rights Statement
    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. The New York Public Library

  • "John Charles Fremont. Depiction of John C. Fremont and Solomon Nunes Carvalho taking astronomical observations." Courtesy the Utah State Historical Society via the Mountain West Digital Library.

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    John Charles Fremont. Depiction of John C. Fremont and Solomon Nunes Carvalho taking astronomical observations.
    • Date
    • 2003-12
    • Description
    • John Charles Fremont (1813-1890) was an explorer and surveyor of the West, including many areas of Utah. This drawing depicts John C. Fremont and Solomon Nunes Carvalho taking astronomical observations.
    • Rights
    • Digital Image (c) 2004 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved.
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Utah State Historical Society

Settlers heading west in the early part of the nineteenth century were advised to keep their wagonloads light, so heavy atlases were left at home, with guidebooks and newspaper articles often serving as substitutes. Detailed maps such as the Ornamental Map of the United States and Mexico or Johnson’s Family Atlas served more to inspire settlers westward than as actual navigational tools. Rather, wagon parties often hired experienced guides, sometimes former fur trappers, who knew the journey well and could help them make the crossing. The first major wagon train of this nature departed from St. Louis in 1843, under the direction of John Gantt, and contained between 700 and 1,000 emigrants.

John C. Fremont, a military officer and explorer heralded by the press of his day as “The Pathfinder,” undertook several westward expeditions in the 1840s to survey and create maps of the western United States. His first expedition began in 1842 and was succeeded in the following year by a more rigorous expedition with a crew of surveyors and cartographers. This expedition, along with two subsequent forays, provided a wealth of details about what is now known as the Oregon Trail.