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Register of the John Muir Papers, 1849-1957
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Collection Overview
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The Muir Papers are arranged in seven series. Series I consists of John Muir's correspondence and related papers (1856-1914). Series 2 contains Muir's journals and sketchbooks (1867-1913). Series 3 consists of Muir's notebooks (1856-1912) and working notes (1864-1914). Series 4 contains Muir's sketches and photograph collection, while Series 5 consists of Muir Family papers as well as materials relating to Muir collected and generated by his biographers William Badé and Linnie Marsh Wolf. Series 6 contains John Muir's clippings files. Series 7 consists of Muir memorabilia, including maps, calling cards, brochures, pamphlets and other like materials collected by Muir during his travels.
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 batchelor lifestyle with revenue from contributions published in various San Francisco newspapers and magazines. During this period he launched the first lobbying effort to to protect Sierra forests from wasteful lumbering practices (1876).
Collection is open for research.