The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters. Artifacts related to flood control, dam construction, and irrigation illustrate the nation's attempts to manage the natural world. Oil-drilling, iron-mining, and steel-making artifacts show the connection between natural resources and industrial strength.
Forestry is represented by saws, axes, a smokejumper's suit, and many other objects. Hooks, nets, and other gear from New England fisheries of the late 1800s are among the fishing artifacts, as well as more recent acquisitions from the Pacific Northwest and Chesapeake Bay. Whaling artifacts include harpoons, lances, scrimshaw etchings in whalebone, and several paintings of a whaler's work at sea. The modern environmental movement has contributed buttons and other protest artifacts on issues from scenic rivers to biodiversity.
- In the colonial period and throughout the nineteenth century, most American surveyors measured distances with chains. The favored form was the Gunter, introduced by the English mathematician, Edmund Gunter, in 1620. The standard Gunter chain has 100 links and measures 66 feet (or 4 poles) overall. Thus 80 chains equal a mile, and 10 square chains equal an acre. This example is a half-Gunter, with 50 links measuring 33 feet overall. It is one of several instruments that James Griswold used to lay out the New York and Erie Canal.
- Currently not on view
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- National Museum of American History