Town Artwork

View of St. Joseph, MO from the Kansas side of the Missouri River

Wood engraving of St. Joseph (St. Joe), Missouri, with Kansas bank with fallen tree in the foreground and the Missouri River with two riverboats, the St. Louis and one unnamed, in the middle ground.

Behind the boat St. Louis is a wooded hill, and to the right, behind the unnamed boat, is St. Joseph, with the closest buildings on a low bluff, and other buildings behind and slightly higher. Originally published in the Illustrated London News, November 16, 1861 to inform its UK readers about events in the United States, the following is an excerpt from the accompanying article:

"The most interesting feature about St. Joe arises from the fact of its being the principal point of departure and arrival for the trains of waggons going or returning from the overland passage to Oregon or California. In our account of the pony express we mentioned the firm of Russell, Major, and Co., as being the proprietors of it; that is, however, but a small part of their business, for they are the most extensive carriers of goods and passengers in the Union, excepting, of course, the railway companies. They started last year from St. Joe, Leavenworth, and Nebraska city, two hundred and eighteen trains of waggons, each train consisting of twenty-six waggons, making in all five thousand six hundred and sixty-eight waggons, each drawn by twelve bullocks, consequently requiring in all between sixty and seventy thousand bullocks, besides relays and substitutes for those which break down. This firm execute [sic] large transportation contracts for the United States' Government; their business with them in 1858 amounted to five million dollars. They employ in all about five thousand men."

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Council Bluffs in 1858 Looking North

This drawing of Council Bluffs was made by George Simons as part of a railroad survey project in Iowa and Nebraska. Simons was employed as a cook. Between meals, Simons made drawings of the landscape and the leader of the survey project (Grenville Dodge) came to rely on these drawings, using them as a reference. It was said that Simons had a photographic memory and, when asked, was able to produce accurate drawings of any of the locations the surveying party had visited.

George Simons (1834 - 1917) had no formal training and little education. He sketched and painted scenes of frontier living and westward expansion. His artwork has been described as “primate and charming,” but most importantly, it provides the earliest pictorial record of Council Bluffs, documenting the landscape as it appeared in pioneer times.

Simons traveled the plains, where he sketched scenes of white settlers, Native Americans, and Mormons; he sketched log cabins, teepees, and booming cities; and he sketched wagon trains, steamboats, and locomotives. Then, in 1862, serving in the Union Army, Simons sketched scenes of war. During his time in the Army, Simons kept a journal filled with sketches, poems, and observations, in which lack of formal schooling was evident in his phonetic spelling.

Council Bluffs Public Library holds a collection of Simons' work. It can be viewed online here.

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U.S. Land Acquisitions

Territory of the Original Thirteen States - This region represents the states and territories established for the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. The lands north of this were controlled by Britain, west and south was Spain.

Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803: In 1802 Spain transferred this region to France (under Napoleon). Napoleon had his sights on establishing France in the New World, but ultimately followed the advice of his advisers and gave up that idea. Thomas Jefferson's negotiators had originally been authorized to offer $10 million for the purchase of New Orleans (to maintain port access for the U.S.) However, with Napoleon deciding against trying to reestablish a French presence in North America, he was willing to sell ALL of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million in 1803. This addition of about 828,000 square miles effectively doubled the size of the United States.

Ceded by Great Britain in 1818: The Red River Valley was previously under British control. This land acquisition came with the declaration of the Anglo-American Convention of 1818 which established the official U.S.-Canada border. The land was secured at no cost. In exchange, the U.S. ceded the northernmost portion of the Missouri River drainage. The boundary between U.S. and British (Canadian) territories was agreed as the 49th parallel of latitude.

Ceded by Spain in 1819 - Known as the Adams-Onis Treaty, Spain ceded all of East Florida to the US and gave up its claims to West Florida. Spain also ceded territories to the southwest of the Louisiana Purchase including a portion of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. assumed $5 million in claims by U.S. citizens against Spain, so no money actually changed hands.

Texas Annexed in 1845 - The Republic of Texas, having broken away from Mexico, was annexed by the United States. This brought 389,000 square miles of former Mexican territory into the US - a very large acquisition.

Oregon Territory American Title Established in 1846 - The Oregon Treaty established the boundary between Western Canada and the United States at the 49th parallel and ceded the Oregon Territory to the U.S. from Britain. The land includes the present-day states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and portions of Montana and Wyoming and totals 286,000 square miles.

Acquired from Mexico by Treaty in 1848 - The region including all of the present-day states of California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming were ceded to the U.S. by Mexico following the Mexican-American War. Mexico lost about half of its national territory.

Gadsden purchase in 1853 - Purchased (with pressure) from Mexico for $10 million, this gave the U.S. possession of the Mesilla Valley south of the Gila River. The land lies within the U.S. state of Arizona and New Mexico.

Alaska Purchase, April 9, 1867 - 591,000 sq. mi. purchased from Russia by the United States for $7,200,000. It became a state in 1959.

1898 Hawaiian Islands - 6,450 sq. mi. annexation of an independent republic. It became a state in 1959.

Other U.S. Territories

1867 Midway Islands 2 sq. mi. Annexation of unoccupied area

1898 Philippine Islands 115,800 sq. mi. Purchased from Spain following military victory; independent in 1946

1898 Puerto Rico 3,508 sq. mi. Annexed following military victory over Spain

1898 Guam 209 sq. mi. Annexed following military victory over Spain

1899 American Samoa 76 sq. mi. Annexed in settlement with Britain and Germany

1899 Wake Island 3 sq. mi. Annexation of unoccupied area

1903 Panama Canal Zone 553 sq. mi. Leased from Panama for $10 million, plus $250,000 annually; ceded to Panama in 1999

1917 Virgin Islands 136 sq. mi. Purchased from Denmark for $25 million; currently an organized, unincorporated U.S. territory under jurisdiction of Office of Insular Affairs of the Dept. of the Interior

1922 Kingman Reef. 4 sq. mi. Annexed 1922; later airline refueling; currently uninhabited; National Wildlife Refuge

1938 Kanton and Enderbury Islands 3.5, 3.0 sq. mi. Joint occupation with Britain; independent as Kiribati in 1979

1947 Mariana Islands 179 sq. mi. United Nations Trust Territory; self-governing as Northern Mariana Islands

1947 Caroline Islands 500 sq. mi. United Nations Trust Territory; 1986 most islands adopt commonwealth status as Federated States of Micronesia

1947 Marshall Islands 70 sq. mi. United Nations Trust Territory; 1979 self-governing; 1986 independent as Republic of the Marshall Islands

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"Seeing the Elephant," a mid-nineteenth-century lithograph designed by William B. McMurtrie. Printed and published by Benjamin F. Butler. California Historical Society, FN-30610.

The "Seeing the Elephant" statue was designed and sculpted in bronze by DiAnne Cooper of DL Cooper Arts. A bit of trivia... you can find the initials of one of the team of artists she used (Levi Cunningham, Brooke Howell, and Randy Buckle) on the back support piece of the miner's suspenders!

The following information was copied from her professional website.

At the age of seventeen, DiAnne Cooper, began her career as a professional artist when she was commissioned to paint a mural for the Spanish Royal Navy.


After serving 11 years in the U.S. Navy, she completed her studies in film production and an internship with Oscar winning documentary producer Donna Dewey. 


2001-2005 - Senior Project Manager- Condit and Peak Exhibits - Managed the design, engineering, fabrication and installation of museum, tradeshow and visitor center exhibit projects with budgets totaling $70 million in 15 countries.


2005 - Opened DL Cooper Arts. Her paintings and sculptures are included in public and private collections in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Ms. Cooper also teaches Sculpting and Art Business courses at the Sculpture Depot in Loveland, Colorado.

Major Projects


Oracle World Tour – 22 International cities tour of information and new media technologies; Keynote, breakout, demonstrations and training. Co-design and Project Management.


Communis, City of Thornton, Colorado - Gateway Bronze Sculpture


California National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, Elko, Nevada – I Saw the Elephant, Bronze Sculpture – U.S. Department of the Interior.


California National Historic Trail Interpretive Center, Elko, Nevada - Pioneer Camp Grouping, Bronze Sculptures - U.S. Department of the Interior.

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These illustrations are from a portfolio of original drawings by J. Goldsborough Bruff that is held in the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at UC Berkeley. They can be found on pages 97 and 99 in that volume.

The diaries describe an 1849 expedition by way of St. Joseph, Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie, South Pass, Sublette's Cut-off, Bear River, Cantonment Loring, Raft River, the Humboldt, Lassen's Route to Deer Creek, and Bruff's camp. They contain maps and sketches from the journey and notes on life in California. The journals were written from the diaries. The notebooks contain more sketches from the trip and of equipment. There are memoranda of supplies and equipment, routes, and remedies.

Joseph Goldsborough Bruff (1804-1889) is best known as a topographer, journalist, and artist of the gold rush era. Bruff was born in Washington, D.C., on October 2, 1804. He attended West Point from 1820 until his resignation in 1822. From 1827-1836 he worked as a topographical engineer, predominantly at Gosport Naval Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. He returned to Washington, D.C., in 1837 and from 1838-1849 worked for the U.S. Bureau of Topographical Engineers. Bruff then organized the Washington City and California Mining Association, which he accompanied to California. While in California he produced extensive journals and drawings of the mining camp experience. In 1853 Bruff returned to Washington, D.C., where he worked in office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department until his death on April 14, 1889.

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Ko-Kwow Arts and Exhibits is an award winning exhibit design/build company. Ko-Kwow’s dioramas fill the California Trail Interpretive Center’s exhibit spaces, and help transport our visitors to various places along the trail.

Under the direction of its principal owners Peggy O’Neal (painter of many of the CTIC murals) and Larry Watson the company is dedicated to the use of the arts and the highest level of craftsmanship in the creation of custom exhibitions and interpretive information. The team considers the value of exhibitions as not just information resources, but as environments for learning, where viewers are entertained, and numerous senses touch to stimulate discovery. The focus of the company is on permanent exhibition environments (dioramas): frequently interactive, always user friendly, and sensitive to the needs of physically challenged viewers and young audiences. From planning a fabrication or part of a production team, Ko-Kwow delivers quality, creativity and great attention to detail.

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In this photograph from the Kansas State Historical Society, a wagon is approaching the ferry to cross the Missouri River. in 1859, when Albert Bierstadt took this photo in St. Joseph, the ferry to Belmont was boarded adjacent to the corner of Main and Felix streets. The building in the background housed Penton, White and Company's Pike's Peak Express which was at the corner of Main and Felix.

Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 - February 18, 1902) was a German-American painter best known for his large landscapes of the American West. In obtaining the subject matter for these works, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.

Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School, not an institution but rather an informal group of like-minded painters. The Hudson River School style involved carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism.

Peggy O'Neal painted many of the murals in the California Trail Interpretive Center. She is also co-owner of Ko-Kwow Arts and Exhibits, which is responsible for producing the 3-D diorama elements which blend so seamlessly into the background murals. Kodiak Studios produced the life size and realistic figurines and animals which populate the dioramas.