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Identifier: WH283


Twenty-two letters, written by George B. Chittenden to his mother during Ferdinand Hayden's Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, comprise the collection. The letters span 1873 to 1877 and are arranged chronologically. Although sent out in twenty-two separate mailings, the correspondence includes forty-six separately dated entries penned from approximately forty different survey locations. Chittenden wrote the bulk of the correspondence during survey work in Colorado Territory from 1873 to 1875. Two additional letters, written from Wyoming Territory in 1876 and 1877 are also included.

Chittenden's letters primarily describe mountainous areas of Colorado Territory, many of which were, at the time of his writing, previously unexplored. In addition to geographic features, Chittenden provides observations of contemporary Colorado settlements such as Fairplay, Fort Collins, Del Norte, Idaho Springs, Central City and Blackhawk. He also describes the ruins at Mesa Verde. He chronicles survey activities and comments on camp life, gear, clothing and occasionally his colleagues. Chittenden may have intended these letters for publication. He mentions this in one of his letters.

Copies of envelopes related to the collection's correspondence are also included. The envelopes were removed prior to the library's acquisition of the collection, presumably for their philatelic value. Cancellation dates on some envelopes do not correlate exactly to letters within the collection and copies are included only for the Colorado Territory correspondence. Envelope images for the Wyoming correspondence are missing.


  • 1873-1877


The collection is open for research.


Records are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


George Benjamin "Ben" Chittenden was born December 25, 1849, the son of Samuel C. and Amanda A. (Munger) Chittenden. Although the Chittendens had farmed near East River, Connecticut, the 1850 census identifies Samuel Chittenden as a lumber dealer, with the family residing in Madison, Connecticut. George Chittenden was undoubtedly raised in Madison, Connecticut. His family resided there according to census records from both 1860 and 1870.

George Chittenden followed his older brother, Samuel H. to Yale University, where both studied engineering. While it is not clear when he graduated, Chittenden mentions receiving congratulatory letters regarding his degree in a letter to his mother in 1873. Chittenden later identified himself as a civil engineer.

In 1872, James T. Gardner hired Chittenden as a topographer for the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, conducted under the direction of Ferdinand V. Hayden. Chittenden surveyed portions of Colorado Territory during the 1873 through 1876 summer seasons. Initially assigned to the Middle Park Division, Chittenden soon became assistant topographer in the San Luis Division. During 1874, Chittenden was the topographer assigned to a special party working directly with Ferdinand Hayden. In 1875, Chittenden became chief topographer for the San Juan Division, and in 1876 he became director of the White River Division.

Upon completion of its work in Colorado, the Hayden Survey moved north into Wyoming and Idaho Territories. Chittenden was placed in charge of the Sweetwater Division of the Wyoming survey. The party set out from Cheyenne May 31, 1877 and disbanded at Fort Steele on September 23.

Chittenden married Ella (Elmira) Spencer "Kittie" Delano on January 25, 1876. She was the daughter of James S. and Mira Delano. She may have been a niece of Columbus Delano, then U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Shortly after their marriage, Chittenden was diagnosed with rheumatism. He suffered a lengthy, painful illness, which prevented him from preparing maps to document his Wyoming work. Upon recovering, Chittenden and his brother, Samuel, formed the Chittenden Brothers engineering firm in Washington, D.C. According to the 1930 U.S. census, Chittenden lived with his daughter in Madison, Connecticut. Chittenden died on February 24, 1939.


1 boxes (.25 linear feet)

Language of Materials



The Denver Public Library purchased this collection from Edward J. Craig of 18th Century Americana, Jamestown, Rhode Island, March 8, 1982. On September 13, 1982 Craig provided copies of some of the envelopes associated with the letters.


The Western History/Genealogy Department has additional manuscript collections with material related to the Hayden Survey, including:

Explorations in the Rocky Mountains, 1872-1887 -M362

William Henry Jackson Collection, circa 1902 WH1677

Ernest L. Ingersol Engravings WH1337

Hayden and Gardener Report -M340

Ferdinand V. Hayden Biography -M1210


Number of Boxes: 1 (.25 linear feet)




Dennis Hagen

January 2009


Ellen Zazzarino

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States