At the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1848, half a million square miles of land added to the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War remained largely unexplored. A defined boundary was needed between the two countries, and the Treaty required a survey commission from each country to establish this boundary. After numerous false starts, bitter disputes among survey party members, and the purchase of additional land from Mexico to resolve boundary discrepancies, the survey that had begun in 1850 was finally completed in August of 1855. Maps were completed by 1857, and the final report, written by Major William H. Emory of the Corps of Topographic Engineers, was printed in 1859. Its two volumes contain survey results, personal accounts by expedition officers, and a vast inventory of scientific data, complete with highly detailed illustrations.

Volume I of the Report contains many landscape and geographical drawings and 32 drawings of landscapes along the boundary showing a wide variety of Sonoran Desert plants. Volume 2 contains sections on botany (including a section on cacti) and zoology.

The botanical report, "Botany of the Boundary", was written by John Torrey, the prominent American botanist; the illustrator(s) of the 61 plates for this section is not noted in the Report.

The botanical report’s section on cactus, "Cactaceae of the Boundary", was written by George Engelmann, a physician and botanist living in St. Louis. The report was beautifully illustrated by Engelmann’s colleague Paulus Roetter whose 75 botanical illustrations were superbly rendered by a number of highly skilled steel engravers in America and Europe.