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Finding Aid to the John Muir Correspondence, 1856-1914
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
This collection consists of digital images of the correspondence of John Muir from 1856-1914. The vast majority of the letters were sent and received by Muir, although the collection also includes some correspondence of selected family members and colleagues. Muir’s correspondence offers a unique first-hand perspective on his thoughts and experiences, as well as those of his correspondents, which include many notable figures in scientific, literary, and political circles of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The correspondence forms part of the John Muir Papers microfilm set that filmed letters located at over 35 institutions.
Background
A Scottish-born journalist and naturalist, John Muir (1838-1914) studied botany and geology at the University of Wisconsin (1861-1863). He worked for awhile as a mill hand at the Trout Broom Factory in Meaford, Canada (1864-1866), then at an Indianapolis carriage factory (1866-1867), until an accident temporarily blinded him and directed his thoughts toward full-time nature study. Striking out on foot for South America, Muir walked to the Gulf of Mexico (September 1867-January 1868), but a long illness in Florida led him to change his plans and turn his interests westward. Muir arrived by ship at San Francisco (March 1868), walked to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and began a five year wilderness sojourn (1868-1873) during which he made his year-round home in the Yosemite Valley. Working as a sheepherder and lumberman when he needed money for supplies, Muir investigated the length and breadth of the Sierra range, focusing most of his attention on glaciation and its impact on mountain topography. He began to publish newspaper articles about what he saw in the California mountains and these articles brought him to the attention of such intellectuals as Asa Gray and Ralph Waldo Emerson, both of whom sought him out during their visits to California. Encouraged by Jeanne Carr, wife of his one-time botany professor, Ezra S. Carr, Muir took up nature writing as a profession (1872). He set up winter headquarters in Oakland and began a pattern of spring and summer mountaineering followed by winter writing based upon his travel journals that he held to until 1880. His treks took him to Mount Shasta (1874, 1875 & 1877), the Great Basin (1876, 1877, 1878), southern California and the Coast Range (1877), and southern Alaska (1879). Muir found that he could finance his modest bachelor lifestyle with revenue from contributions published in various San Francisco newspapers and magazines. During this period he launched the first lobbying effort to protect Sierra forests from wasteful lumbering practices (1876).
Extent
22 reels of microfilm containing 6581 letters. 6581 digital objects.
Restrictions
Some of the materials in the John Muir Correspondence Collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and/or by the copyright or neighboring rights laws of other nations. Additionally, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by privacy or publicity rights. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to reproduce or use the item.
Availability
Collection is open for research.