Roland D. Irving, Wisconsin’s first true geologist, established the Lake Superior Division of the USGS in 1882 in Madison, Wisconsin. As head of the Division, Irving began a detailed survey of the Upper Midwest during which he pioneered the application of microscopic petrography (thin sections). After Irving’s untimely death in 1888, the Division’s fieldwork continued under subsequent directors C.R. Van Hise and C.K. Leith as geologists from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan studied the geology of the Lake Superior area and laid the groundwork for all later investigations of the region’s Precambrian rocks (Dott, 2001).
In 1905, the Lake Superior Division was discontinued as a separate unit, but Division geologists carried out intermittent work for almost another 20 years.
Mineral exploration was one of the primary drivers for the survey, and much of the Lake Superior Division’s work was concentrated in copper- and iron-rich areas of the Lake Superior area, including the Marquette region of Michigan, the Menominee and Gogebic regions of Michigan and Wisconsin, the Lake Vermilion and Mesabi regions of Minnesota, and the Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury areas of Ontario. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a thriving area for iron mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, received the most attention. Parts of the peninsula were mapped in highly detailed large-scale, hand drawn maps, and of the 35,000 hand samples described in the field notebooks, more than half were taken from there.
Geologists from the Division, especially Charles Van Hise and C.K. Leith also traveled widely throughout the United States and even overseas. Some of the samples and field notes cover Appalachia, New England, Utah, Colorado, eastern Canada and even Germany and the United Kingdom. However, metadata for many of these samples is vague. One of the products of this research was a massive volume on the Precambrian geology of the United States (Bulletin 360, Van Hise and Leith).
Over the years, the Division produced a large number of publications, including nine monographs, four bulletins, and a professional paper.
The physical samples and paper records used to produce these publications comprise the Lake Superior Legacy Collection. A complete list of what we possess, compared to what, as much as we know, was in the original collection, can be found in the collection page. (Some of the thin sections are from samples taken outside of the Lake Superior area. These will not appear in the data viewer, but can be found in the data set downloads.)
|Monograph 5||The Copper-Bearing Rocks of Lake Superior||Roland Duer Irving||1883|
|Bulletin 62||The Greenstone Schist Areas of the Menominee and Marquette Regions of Michigan||George Huntington Williams and Roland Duer Irving||1890|
|Bulletin 86||Correlation Papers: Archaen and Algonkian||Charles Richard Van Hise||1892|
|Monograph 19||The Penokee Iron-Bearing Series of Michigan and Wisconsin||Roland Duer Irving and Charles Richard Van Hise||1892|
|Annual Report||Principles of North American Pre-Cambrian geology (not available online from the USGS Publications Warehouse)||Charles Richard Van Hise||1896|
|Monograph 28||The Marquette Iron-Bearing District of Michigan, with Atlas||Charles Richard Van Hise, Wiliam Shirley Bayley, and Henry Lloyd Smith||1897|
|Monograph 36||The Crystal Falls Iron-Bearing District of Michigan||Julius Morgan Clements, Henry Lloyd Smith, William Shirley Bayley, and Charles Richard Van Hise||1899|
|Monograph 43||The Mesabi Iron-Bearing District of Minnesota||Charles Kenneth Leith||1903|
|Monograph 45||The Vermilion Iron-Bearing District of Minnesota, with an Atlas||Julius Morgan Clements||1903|
|Monograph 46||The Menominee Iron-Bearing District of Michigan||William Shirley Bayley||1904|
|Monograph 47||A Treatise on Metamorphism||Charles Richard Van Hise||1904|
|Bulletin 239||Rock Cleavage||Charles Kenneth Leith||1905|
|Bulletin 360||Pre-Cambrian Geology of North America||Charles Richard Van Hise and Charles Kenneth Leith||1909|
|Monograph 52||The Geology of the Lake Superior Region||Charles Richard Van Hise and Charles Kenneth Leith||1911|
|Professional Paper 184||Pre-Cambrian Rocks of the Lake Superior Region, a Review of Newly Discovered Geologic Features, with a Revised Geologic Map||Charles Kenneth Leith, Richard J. Lund, and Andrew Leith||1935|