In 1899, wealthy railroad magnate Edward Harriman arranged for a maritime expedition to Alaska. He brought with him an elite community of scientists, artists, photographers, and naturalists to explore and document the Alaskan coast.
The Harriman Alaska Expedition explored coast of Alaska for two months, from Seattle to Siberia and back again.
He contacted Clinton Hart Merriam, the head of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy at the United States Department of Agriculture, and one of the founders of the National Geographic Society. Harriman told Merriam that he would cover the expenses of scientists, artists, and other experts who would join the voyage. He asked Merriam to choose the scientific party.
Merriam held a flurry of meetings and sent out dozens of telegrams. He organized a broad range of experts: arctic experts, botanists, biologists and zoologists, geologists and geographers, artists, photographers, ornithologists, and writers.