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Profiles of Clarence KingA Clarence King Gallery – The First Director of the U.S. Geological Survey

Text and images assembled by Jim Moore, USGS Scientist Emeritus

Career Highlights Photographs

1864 Field Party The 1864 field party of the California Geological Survey (Charles Hoffmann absent). From left to right: James T. Gardner, Richard D. Cotter, William H. Brewer, and Clarence King. Gardner is holding a sextant used for mapping and astronomical location; Cotter is armed with musket, dagger, and pistol; both Brewer and King have mercury barometers - used to measure altitudes - slung on their shoulders; and King holds a geologist's hammer. (UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library)
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Camp in Nevada Part of the party of the Fortieth Parallel Survey in camp in Nevada in 1867. Clarence King is in the center in front of the pole which Dick Cotter has climbed. The men to King's right and left are possibly Jim Marryatt and James Gardner. Photograph by Timothy O'Sullivan. (U.S. Geological Survey Library)
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Dinner in the Field In camp near Salt Lake City in the summer of 1868. Clarence King and James Gardner sit on either side of a tripod of rifles and a barometer. James Marryatt, King's cook and valet is on the right. All three men are formally dressed for dinner, a custom King honored in the field whenever possible. Photograph by Timothy O'Sullivan. (U.S. Geological Survey)
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King Near Uinta Lake
King near Uinta Lake Clarence King sitting on a rock at the shore of Uinta Lake in buckskin field clothes and leggings with a mercury barometer slung over his shoulder. Photograph by Timothy O'Sullivan. (King Memoirs, 1904)
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King near Uinta LakeClarence King in 1869 after he had completed three seasons with the Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel. The photograph was taken in Washington D.C. when King was 27. (Clarence King Memoirs, 1904)
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King on Glacier The deeply crevassed part of the Whitney Glacier on Mount Shasta. Clarence King, holding alpenstock in foreground, discovered this - the first active glacier described in the United States. 1870 photograph by Carlton Watkins. (U.S. Geological Survey)
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c. 1879
Clarence King at 37 Clarence King in polka dot tie at about the age of 37. King, the first Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, took the oath of office May 24, 1879 and resigned march 11, 1881. He was the second-youngest USGS Director. (U.S. Geological Survey Library)
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Clarence King Profile
Clarence King Profile Profile photograph of Clarence King in formal dress. (Provenance unclear)
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King in Velvet Suit Clarence King in a green velvet suit that he reportedly wore on his trip to Europe and while searching for Mambrino's helmet at La Mancha, Spain. The trip was made from 1882 to 1884 after King resigned his directorship. (Clarence King Memoirs, 1904)
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Clarence King Portrait Official oil portrait of Clarence King that now hangs in the corridor outside the Director's conference room at the national headquarters of the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia. The painting supposedly was originally commissioned in 1902 by the USGS for $1200 from the artist George Howland, King's half brother. When the money was not forthcoming, Howland wrote King's old friend John Hay who suggested that the Century Club should have it. It hung in the Club gallery for a time but was deemed inappropriate either because of a perception of artistic inadequacy or because King's clandestine marriage made him unsuitable. Hay, Henry Adams, and other friends raised $500 to compensate Howland, and the painting was donated to the U. S. Geological Survey (O'Toole, 1990). (U.S. Geological Survey)
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Videotaped lecture by Martha A. Sandweiss (Princeton University), author of "Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line" about Clarence King. This lecture was given on February 19, 2009 at the USGS in Menlo Park, California.

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For more information on Clarence King, his publications, and photographs from his surveys, please see these other Web sites: