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Frémont's "Snow Mountain"
The peak illustrations 1843 to present

I sprang upon the summit, and another step would have precipitated me to an immense snow field five hundred feet below...We mounted the barometer in the snow of the summit, and fixing a ramrod in a crevice, unfurled the national flag to wave in the breeze where never flag waved before.

All of the following images are invention.
There is only one authentic contemporary image of Fremont Peak. It was drawn on site by Frémont's cartographer Charles Preuss and was published with Frémont's government report in 1843.

The first four illustrations are from 1856 presidential election campaign biographies and literature. This one, from Smuckers' Life, is of a not very inspiring sort of lump of a peak. What appears to be a game of rock-paper-scissors (ro-cham-beau) going on on the sidelines looks more exciting. Ho, hum.

Smucker, Samuel M, A. M., The Life of Col. John Charles Frémont and His Narrative of Explorations and Adventures in Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon and California, Miller, Orton & Mulligan, New York, 1856.

But later versions show lofty needle-like spires--a lot more romantic--and are accompanied with a lot of hat-waving and, one assumes, hurrahing and fireing of guns. They set the stage for other later commercial views

Upham, Charles Wentworth, Life, Exploration and Public Services of John Charles Frémont, Ticknor and Fields, Boston, 1856.

Bigelow, John, Memoir of the Life and Public Services of John Charles Frémont, Derby & Jackson, New York, 1856.

Part of a political cartoon published by N. Currier, 1856 presidential campaign

The name Frémont! does have quite a ring to it.

Baker & Godwin
Campaign poster
New York: 1856

Silk Campaign Ribbon

Francis C. Woodworth , The Young American's Life of Frémont
Miller Orton & Mulligan, NY

1864 presidential campaign medal. Frémont dropped out of the race for the nomination. This may depict a battlefield scene, but the flag is clearly the 1842 1st expedition flag

Greeley (Horace) and McElrath, Life of Frémont, New York, 1856

Romance and Tragedy of Pioneer Life,
Augustus Lynch Mason, Martin Garrison & Co., Boston, 1883

Ivan Akimovich Sushchenko, First Day Cover of the 5¢ Fremont on the Rocky Mountains stamp issued June 18, 1998. Surely based on the above image.

With the unfurling of Frémonts flag, "Destiny's screaming eagle had replaced the fabled god Terminus so often referred to by Senator Thomas Hart Benton in his public addresses."
William H. Geotzmann, Army Exploration of the American West.

Lithograph by C. Grebner, 1856

Greely, A. W., Men of Achievement, Charles Scribner's Sons,New York, 1893
Up, men! he [Frémont] cried, yon rocky cone.
Songs of Labor and Reform, John Greenleaf Whittier, 1856

Undated pencil sketch

Civil War envelope cover.

U. S. Post Office 1898 for the Trans-Miss Exposition
Reissued 1998 with B&W center field

A Cigar Box label (embossed)
F. Heppenheimer's Sons, NY., © 1898 by American Lithographic Co.

Longines Symphonette
in cooperation with the National Flag Foundation,
1oz. silver, 1968

A trading card: No. 85; "Frémont--the Pathfinder of the Rockies."

1950 Bowman Wild West Trading Card - John C. Fremont # A-13.

N. C. Wyeth for Charles Scribner's Sons, c.1940.
And published as a jigsaw puzzel in 1972 by the Western Publishing Co, Inc. in their Golden Americana U.S. Flag Series Puzzle entitled, ROCKY MOUNTAIN FLAG.

1944 wall calendar "Flags In America's History" with illustrations by N.C. Wyeth was made to advertise John Morrell and Company of Ottumwa, Iowa. This is from the month of October. The painting is in the U. S. Naval Academy Museom

Note: In the above two Wyeth paintings the the correct 1842 expedition flag is illustrated--an eagle in the canton clutching arrows in one talon and a calumet, or peace pipe, in the other surrounded by 26 stars. The flag, much tattered and faded, currently resides in the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles.

Another commemorative stamp and a rather silly looking 1st Day Cover 1994

Franklin Mint 1968
Frémont Starts Mapping the West, June 10, 1842

Oops! NOT John Charles Frémont. Flag waving in the breeze; sword drawn--apparently a popular theme in 19C merchandising.

See another picture that isn't Frémont

"I sprang upon the summit, and another step would have precipitated me into an immense snow-field five hundred feet below....and, fixing a ramrod in a crevice, unfurled the national flag to wave in the breeze where never flag waved before."
Frémont, Wind River Chain, 1842

"In these wild countries it gives much delight to gain the summit of any mountain. Joined to it is some vanity that you perhaps are the first man who ever stood on this pinnacle or admired this view."
Charles Darwin, Chonos Archipelago, 1834

"I fancied I could see Frémont's men hauling the cannon up the battlements of the Rocky Mountains, flags in the air, Frémont at the head, waving his sword, and unknown and unnamed empires at every hand."
Joaquin Miller, a boyhood recollection of the reading of Frémont's Report

"K had succeeded in climbing the wall with astonishing ease...with a flag clamped in his teeth. Stones were still rattling down under his feet. He stuck the flag in; it flew in the wind."
Franz Kafka, 1930 Recollection of a Churchyard Wall

"I climbed alone over huge rocks, loosely poised, still edging towards the clouds. The tops of mountains are among the unfinished parts of the globe. Only daring and insolent man, perchance, go there.
Thoreau, The Maine Woods.

In 1838, on the Nicollet survey of the upper drainages of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, Frémont visited the pipe stone quarry in Minnesota, now a National Monument. It was on the 4th of July.

Joseph N. Nicollet:
"The colors of the United States are unfurled on the summit of a large, sharp-cornered rock, its four faces precipitous. It is necessary to jump from the top of the hill to the summit of the rock, and land there firmly balanced. Mr. Frémont was assigned this perilous operation and executed it successfully."

We continued on up the mountain. The difficulties of the next morning were severe. but our courage was high, for our goal was near. At noon we conquered the last impediment - we stood at last upon the summit - and without the loss of a single man, except the mule that ate the glycerine. Our great achievement was achieved.
Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad; I Conquer the Gorner Grat

The Real Peak illustrations 1842

These are the only two plates that were published in the official government printings of Frémont's Report in 1843, and in 1845. They were made from field drawings by expedition cartographer Charles Preuss. The two views overlap and are arranged here as a panorama of the range.
go See the positions from where these two drawings were made.

The image below was rendered from USGS 7.5' DEM files using MacDEM and POV-Ray.

go Did Charles Preuss make use of a camera obscura?

The celebrated American portraitist G. P. A. Healy painted the 29 year old 2nd Lieutenant Frémont against the backdrop of the Wind River Range as rendered onsite by Frémont's expedition artist and cartographer Charles Preuss. Jackson Peak is shown over his right shoulder and Island Lake at his right elbow.
Frémont wrote in his expedition Report that "The summit rock was gneiss, succeeded by sienitic gneiss. Sienite and feldspar succeeded in our descent to the snow line, where we found feldspathic granite."

The object of the climb was not to bag a peak, but to measure the peak.
The height of the Rocky mountains has been previously estimated at from 10,000' to 27,000'.

"Never before had anyone attempted to measure the Altitude of an American mountain with a barometer." William H. Goetzmann, Army Exploration of the American West.

This was cutting edge science! And Frémont's barometrical observations were accurate and are perfectly valid data today.
go Measuring the peak.

©1999, 2007
Bob Graham