Missed it by a day, but Happy Birthday to the US Geological Survey!
The USGS was established on 3 March 1879, almost as an afterthought in a Federal budget submittal. It’s stated mission was “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.”
The first part of that mission, “classification of the public lands,” was what drove a lot of the USGS’s early efforts. The US had acquired a lot of land as the result of the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican War, but we didn’t have a very good picture of just what it was we had gotten our hands on. The USGS launched a standardized mapping effort that continues to this day, and will never really be completed. Mapping the United States is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, as soon as you finish at one end it’s time to go back and start again at the other.
I’m hard pressed to name another federal agency that has done so much good work for both the nation as a whole and its citizens.
So here’s the the US Geological Survey. Happy one hundred and thirty second birthday!