In 1853 Richard Hovendon Kern was hired as topographer and artist for a government-sponsored reconnaissance led by Captain John Williams Gunnison. Kern sketched landscape panoramas as the group made its way from St. Louis toward San Francisco. When the expedition reached Sevier Lake, Utah, however, it was attacked by a band of Indians. Seven men, including Kern and Gunnison, were killed, and Kern's drawings were stolen. The sketches were soon recovered and eventually carried to Washington, D.C.
Robert Shlaer, an accomplished daguerreotypist, came across Kern's sketches many years later at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He was inspired to locate the views depicted in the drawings and to photograph them, as nearly as was possible, from the same spot where Kern had stood when he sketched them. This collection juxtaposes Kern's drawings with Shlaer's photographs, presenting 389 illustrations in geographic sequence from east to west