DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton
Geology and Power in Early New York
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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List of Figures and Tables
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Before we begin to walk through the pages of the past, let us take a moment to determine where we are going and by what routes we might hope to arrive at our destination. The historical characters whose lives and work are featured in this study were generally curious, intrepid, and persistent people who did not seek...
Introduction: A Meeting Place for Waters and Students of Earth History
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For a time, Albany, New York, was the crossroads of the world. Important people kept moving to, coming from, or passing through the neighborhood of the once sleepy state capital. Like many places in the early American republic, Albany’s rate of population growth accelerated throughout the first three decades of the...
Part One: Exploring New York State
Chapter One: Invitations to Study the Earth’s Past
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New York’s physical geography attests to the marvelous history of the planet. Along its eastern boundary can be seen the grandeur of an impossibly ancient tectonic-plate collision, which upthrust the now bucolic Taconic Mountains so violently that they once stood as tall as today’s Himalayas. On the other side of the...
Chapter Two: Natural Sciences and Civic Virtues
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At dawn on the morning of 11 July 1804, America’s third vice president shot and mortally wounded the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, thus ending two great New Yorkers’ political careers. At the same time, incidentally, the clear way forward for a third opened. DeWitt Clinton built his career using the same skill...
Chapter Three: The Landlord and the Ex-convict
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Stephen Van Rensselaer is largely forgotten today, but he was an extraordinarily rich and powerful man who influenced pivotal events in the early American republic. Born in New York City in 1764, Van Rensselaer was brought up among the colonial aristocracy. He was initially sent, as Aaron Burr had been nine years...
Part Two: Engineering for a New World's Geology
Chapter Four: Clinton’s Ditch
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As it had begun to do in Britain, and to a lesser degree in France, the canal-building craze in the United States during the 1820s triggered major innovations in theoretical geology. Geological research would prove invaluable as an aid to the industrial and commercial innovations required to complete the Erie Canal...
Chapter Five: Eaton’s Agricultural and Geological Surveys
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Governor DeWitt Clinton’s pardon permitted Amos Eaton to return to New York State in 1819. Eaton then devoted the remainder of his life to becoming the preeminent lecturer and recorder of the natural history of the northern United States. After a brief sojourn in New Haven to repair the deficiencies of his self-education...
Chapter Six: Empire State Exports
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Amos Eaton made no research excursions along the Erie Canal route in 1825, but an extraordinary parade of public figures did travel from Buffalo to New York City in the celebration that officially opened the completed canal to navigation. As Eaton had foreseen, the new era brought a massive influx of migrants heading...
Part Three: Entertaining Deep Time and the Sublime
Chapter Seven: Literary Naturalists
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Interdependence among science, literature, and the arts was perfectly reasonable to early nineteenth-century New Yorkers. To rigidly separate or divorce these branches of creative thought would contradict the Enlightenment tendency to seek affinity (if not unity) among the forms of human intelligence, an outlook...
Chapter Eight: Kindred Spirits
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While geology’s relevance to early American literature may have been scarcely appreciated by previous scholars, the same cannot be said with reference to studies of Romantic landscape art.1 Art historian Barbara Novak led the way thirty years ago when she noted how Americans in the early republic who were grappling...
Chapter Nine: Rocks, Reverence, and Religion
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The overlap between geology and religion constituted an important trading zone for ideas in early American culture.1 New discoveries in the earth sciences and interpretations of the Bible not only stimulated public interest in the history of the Earth but also catered to a growing multiform discourse on the meaning of the...
Conclusion: Echoes of New York’s Embrace of Geological Investigation
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During his lifetime, Amos Eaton witnessed and contributed to a radical transformation of theory and practice in American geology. Contrary to what one might suspect from reading ordinary American history textbooks, the first four decades of the nineteenth century were an era in which scientific investigations were...
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Essay on Sources
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The initial inspiration for my study of geological thinking in early nineteenth-century New York State came out of the broader investigation into the history of the American earth sciences that I launched in the early 1990s. My 1996 Ph.D. dissertation, “Chronicles of a Land Etched by God, Water, Fire, Time, and Ice,” constituted my first attempt...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 7 halftones, 3 line drawings
Publication Year: 2014