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Abstract

Preeminent nineteenth century American geologist James Hall was not only one of the most competent and ambitious paleontologists and stratigraphers of his day, he also had a firsthand early grasp of midwestern as well as Appalachian geology. In 1841 he joined David Dale Owen for a tour of the Ohio Valley to see how far west the New York State stratigraphie divisions could be extended. He was warmly rewarded. With similar motivation, he also joined the Foster-Whitney-Whittlesey Lake Superior Survey of 1850-51. Then, when the New York legislature terminated his salary during one of its feuds with the irascible paleontologist, Hall accepted an invitation to organize a survey for the young state of Iowa in 1855-59; and in 1856 he assumed an advisory role to the embryonic Wisconsin Survey. He also became a consultant for several other states and had helped to instigate the first Hayden-Meek western Survey to the South Dakota Badlands (1853).

Hall’s unique acquaintance with cratonic as well as Appalachian stratigraphy and structure equipped him to recognize the fundamental differences between cratons and orogenic belts. The great thickness and structurally complex nature of Appalachian Paleozoic strata then led to development of his famous theory of mountain building, which was first expounded in the 1857 AAAS presidential address soon after his princi-pal midwestern experiences. Although Hall’s inferred simplisitc causal relationship between sediment thickness and mountain building proved wrong, the observation that thick strata are somehow associated with active tectonism was of fundamental importance and is still very much

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