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date: 20 September 2019

Hague, Arnoldfree

(03 December 1840–14 May 1917)
  • Carol A. Edwards
  •  and Clifford M. Nelson

Hague, Arnold (03 December 1840–14 May 1917), geologist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Hague, D.D., a Baptist minister, and Mary Bowditch Moriarty, a relative of astronomer-mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch. In Arnold’s twelfth year, the family moved to Albany, New York, where he graduated from the Boys’ Academy in 1854. They then moved to New York City. In 1861, after being rejected on physical grounds as a Union army volunteer, Hague entered Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School, where he was educated by professors George Brush, James Dana, and Samuel Johnson, and befriended by senior Clarence King. Hague received a Ph.B. in chemistry from Sheffield in 1863. Failing again to be accepted by the army, he spent the next three years in chemical and mineralogical studies at the university in Göttingen, in Wilhelm Bunsen’s laboratory at Heidelberg, and with Bernard von Cotta at the Bergakademie at Freiberg in Saxony. White at Freiberg in 1865, Hague met Samuel Franklin Emmons, a Harvard graduate trained by Bunsen and at Paris’s École des Mines, who had entered the Bergakademie the previous summer. Emmons became Hague’s informal adviser.

Hague returned to the United States late in 1866, as King sought sponsorship by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a survey of the economic resources of a wide strip across the West, from the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada to the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains, that included the lines of the Central and Union Pacific railroads. When Congress and President Andrew Johnson authorized the U.S. Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel on 2 March 1867, King appointed Hague’s older brother James, a graduate of Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School who also had studied at Göttingen and Freiberg, as the civilian-staffed survey’s principal assistant in geology. King made Arnold Hague his second assistant and “Frank” Emmons (whom Arnold introduced to King) joined the organization as its unsalaried third assistant. Between 1867 and 1872, King’s field parties systematically and comprehensively mapped (for publication at 1:253,440) and assessed the topography, geology, and natural resources of 87,000 square miles of western lands flanking the transcontinental railroad. James Hague left the survey in 1870 for consulting as a mining engineer, but Arnold remained with King. James Hague’s Mining Industry (1870), the initial volume of the survey’s final reports, set standards for the contemporary federal surveys of the West. The text and its atlas contained Arnold Hague’s analyses and maps (with topographer Frederick Clark) of Nevada’s Comstock and White Pine mining districts; Arnold’s improvements of Washoe chemical smelting saved “millions in formerly lost silver and gold” (Thurman Wilkins, Clarence King [1988], p. 139). Also in 1870, King, Hague, and Emmons studied the dormant volcanoes of the Cascade Range; their discovery of active glaciers on Mounts Hood, Rainier, and Shasta, and on Lassen Peak, refuted the popular belief that no true glaciers existed in the United States outside Alaska. King’s team completed field work in 1872 and began, using the latest laboratory methods and instruments, to prepare their folio atlas and the remaining quarto final reports as parts of Engineer Department Professional Paper 18. These volumes included Arnold Hague and Emmons’s Descriptive Geology (1877) of the entire region surveyed, in which they introduced the term “Laramie Formation” to encompass the age-troublesome stratigraphic units that straddled the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary associated with the demise of the dinosaurs. King merged his field data with those of Hague and Emmons as the basis for King’s own volume Systematic Geology (1878), his geologic-orogenic synthesis of the results of the reconnaissance.

On 3 March 1879 the Forty-fifth Congress and President Rutherford Hayes established the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), adopting in part recommendations the legislators had requested of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). King, who had advised the NAS’s committee and helped to write the plan and the statute, became the new agency’s director. King appointed Arnold Hague and Emmons two of the USGS’s five principal geologists. Since 1877, Hague had served as a contract mining geologist to national governments, first in Guatemala (where he also studied volcanoes) and then in China. Early in 1880 Hague returned from China and, with assistants Joseph Iddings and Charles Walcott and topographer Clark, began an examination of Nevada’s Eureka mining district as one of the primary investigations by the agency’s Mining Geology Division. The results of this study appeared as the atlas (1883) and the text volume (1892) of the “Geology of the Eureka District, Nevada” that form USGS Monograph 20. In this volume, Hague and Iddings introduced the descriptive term phenocryst for the larger crystals found in generally fine-grained porphyritic rocks. They also published innovative microscopical analyses of the Fortieth Parallel survey’s rocks and those in new collections from the Comstock and Central America.

In 1883 Hague, Iddings, and a new team, including geologist Walter Weed, physicist William Hallock, and chemist Frank Gooch, began to map and study the geology of more than 3,000 square miles in the decade-old Yellowstone National Park and adjacent areas of Wyoming and Montana. Hague focused his own investigations on the nature and origin of the park’s geysers and hot springs, spending nine years in continuing and expanding work begun during the 1870s by federal geologist Albert Peale to include the forest-reserve areas west of the park. Hague also studied the Tertiary volcanic rocks at the north end of the Absaroka Range. He recognized that protecting the park’s resources depended on the conservation of adjacent forests, watersheds, and wildlife. He recommended successfully in 1891 the establishment of the Yellowstone Forest reserve east and south of the park. Most of the results of the Yellowstone project appeared as the text (part 2, 1899) and 1:125,000-scale atlas (1904) of “Geology of the Yellowstone National Park” as USGS Monograph 32. Earlier versions of the topographic and areal geologic maps of the six quadrangles in the 1904 atlas comprise folios 30 (1896) and 52 (1899) of the Geologic Atlas of the United States.

Beginning in the 1880s, Hague’s work won him many academic and professional honors, including election to the NAS (1885; home secretary, 1901–1913) and the American Philosophical Society (1903), and the presidency of the Geological Society of America (1910). In 1893 Hague married Mary Anne Bruce (Robins) Howe, of New York City, the widow of attorney-legislator Walter Howe; the Hagues had no children. Hague’s stepson Ernest, who served as a USGS geologist during 1900–1910, accompanied Hague to two of the three International Geological Congresses—at Paris in 1900 and at Toronto in 1913—where Hague served as a vice president. Hague also joined several prominent social organizations, including the Cosmos Club in the Capital and the Century Club in New York City. Hague died in Washington, D.C. Ernest Howe, a consulting geologist since 1910, acted as Hague’s executor.

In addition to Hague’s studies of the areal geology and mining districts of Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, his work with Gifford Pinchot in 1896 on the NAS’s Committee on the Inauguration of a Rational Forest Policy for the Forested Lands of the United States led directly in the next year to the establishment of thirteen new reserves. Hague’s influence on geology continued to be felt through the work of his collaborators Iddings, Weed, volcanologist Thomas Jaggar, and others who served with him in the West. The work Hague directed in the Yellowstone National Park, or undertook there himself, has recently been described by an earth scientist with extensive experience in the area as “the largest and most in-depth study of Yellowstone that has ever been done, or probably ever will be done,” and the “foundation for future research” (USGS geologist-emeritus J. David Love, quoted in Mary Fritz, American Association of Petroleum Geologists Explorer 16, no. 12 [Dec. 1995], p. 23.


The Geologic Division’s portion of Record Group 57 (Geological Survey) at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Archives II facility in College Park, Md., contains the records of the Fortieth Parallel Exploration, “Arnold Hague Papers, 1880–1916” and other documents, including his field notebooks, that Hague generated during his federal service. Other manuscript materials are in the James Hague Papers at the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 746 (1923): 437 lists Hague’s principal publications; most of these data also are available on CD-ROM as part of the American Geological Institute’s “GeoRef” online bibliographical database. Three articles by two of Hague’s contemporaries in the USGS provide personal and career data and perspective, and bibliographies: Joseph S. Diller, “Arnold Hague,” American Journal of Science, 4th ser., 44 (1917): 73–75; Joseph P. Iddings, “Memorial of Arnold Hague,” Geological Society of America Bulletin 29 (1918): 35–48; and Iddings, “Biographical Memoir of Arnold Hague,” National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs 9 (1920): 21–38. Hatten S. Yoder, Jr., reevaluates the Hague-Iddings collaboration in “Joseph Paxson Iddings, 1857–1920: A Biographical Memoir,” National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoirs 69 (1996): 3–34. Mary C. Rabbitt, Minerals, Lands, and Geology for the Common Defence and General Welfare, vol. 1: Before 1879 (1979), vol. 2: 1879–1904 (1980), and vol. 3: 1904–1939 (1986), place Hague’s work in the context of federally sponsored geology.