LENS AND LANDSCAPE:
19TH-CENTURY AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHS IN THE DENVER ART
MUSEUM'S PERMANENT COLLECTION
Jane D. Fudge
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1992
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities
1997 by Jane D. Fudge
This thesis for the Master of Humanities
Jane D. Fudge
has been approved
Charles L. Moone
m / ? ?
Fudge, Jane D. (Master of Humanities)
Lens and Landscape: 19th-century American Photographs in
the Denver Art Museum's Permanent Collection.
Thesis directed by Professor Kent Casper.
In 1991, the Denver Art Museum acquired the personal
collection of 19th Century American landscape photographs
assembled in the 1970s and 1980s by the art collector and
dealer, Daniel Wolf. The images it contains are of great
aesthetic and cultural significance; many images are
acknowledged masterpieces of photography and most are
The focus of the collection is the American landscape.
All regions of the United States are depicted, including
New England, the Southwest, and the Deep South. However,
the majority of the images are of the West. Here the
exploration of new territories, the expansion of the
railroads, early studies of Native American life, and the
germ of our first national parks were documented by the
best practitioners of the newly-invented medium.
The photographs show the enormous changes wrought in
every section of the young United States, and as objects
of art, they reflect many of the aesthetic pursuits and
experiments of the artists of the day.
Photography as art and science grew up with America, and
its rapid development paralleled that of the young
country and its institutions. This is a chronicle of the
role photography played in 19th-century America, as
flattering mirror, historian, and conscience.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candid........... ~ its publication.
Dr. Kent Casper
To my mother, who always thought I should be a writer,
and to Juliet Wittman who gave me the chance.
First, I want to thank the members of my thesis
committee, Dr. Kent Casper, Charles Moone, and Dr. Thomas
Noel, for their time, suggestions, information, and
support and confidence in my work as I made my snail-like
way toward completion of this thesis. I also owe a
special debt to Robert Nauman, who likewise has been
generous with his time and with his enormous expertise in
the history of photography in spite of his teaching
commitments and work on his own doctoral thesis.
Over the last several years, I've had the good fortune to
consult with a large number of women and men whose
knowledge of American landscape photography and the whole
history of the medium have been important to me. There
are so many that I probably couldn't count them all, much
less thank them all in print, but I'm especially
appreciative of the help given me by Elizabeth Kohloff of
the University of Colorado at Denver; Eric Paddock,
curator of photography at the Colorado Historical
Society; James Enyeart of the College of Santa Fe; Robert
Sobieszek, curator of photography at the Los Angeles
County Museum; and several enthusiasts of photography,
Joyce and Ted Strauss, Hal Gould, Ginny Williams, and
Paul and Teresa Harbaugh. I regret to write one
acknowledgement because it is posthumous: to the late
Augie Mastrogiuseppe, curator of photographs at the
Western History Collection of the Denver Central Library.
Every lover of photography lost a friend and a fount of
useful and astonishing photography and railroad minutiae
when he died.
At the Denver Art Museum I've been lucky to work with
people who have been encouraging and tolerant when I was
really obsessed with these 19th-century American
landscape photographs and this writing. Therefore, many
thanks to Dianne Perry Vanderlip, curator of Modern and
Contemporary Art, and my colleagues in that department,
Nancy Tieken, Dr. Gwen Chanzit, and Mimi Ruderman, and
long-time volunteers Ruth Tomlingson and Gail Kennedy.
I first heard of the collection of photographs about
which I have written the following essays when I was
working at the California Museum of Photography in
Riverside; I was amazed to learn "on the grapevine" that
it was being considered for purchase by the Denver Art
Museum. I returned to Colorado and the DAM, fortuitously
enough, just as the photographs arrived from their then-
owner, Daniel Wolf.
I want especially to thank Lewis Inman Sharp, director of
the Denver Art Museum, for placing the responsibility for
the care and study of these masterworks of American
photography in my hands when we were scarcely acquainted,
and for providing the impetus for this research. A large
slice of the appreciation pie goes also to Daniel Wolf,
whose fine taste and passion for photographs gave this
extraordinary collection its special form.
Great gratitude is owed the visionary individuals and
foundations that made the Denver Art Museum's acquisition
of this unique assemblage of photographs a reality. My
greatest personal thank-yous go to my husband, John
Fudge, who gets a lifetime award for patience and
kindness (not to mention reading draft after draft of
this), and to my daughter, Quenby Moone, whose warmth,
courage, and intelligence make me think I turned out all
right, after all.
1. INTRODUCTION: THE MARRIAGE OF LIGHT AND
2. THE AMPLE LAND: THE EAST AND SOUTH .12
3. AMERICAN EDEN: THE WEST AND ITS
The Iron Horse and the Talking Wire. .64
4. SHADOW CATCHERS AND ORIGINAL AMERICANS. 79
Lost Photographers I:
Banguo' s Camera...............89
5. THE RANGE OF LIGHT: CALIFORNIA. . . 122
Lost Photographers II:
Forest Friends: John Muir and
Theodore Parker Lukens. .140
6. WORDS AND PICTURES......................198
A. FIGURES..................Following page 206
B. GLOSSARY OF PHOTOGRAPHIC TERMS..........251
Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are in the
collection of the Denver Art Museum.
Figure 2.1 Alexander Gardner. Annie Guy, Choctaw, ca. 1872, print later. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.258.134
Figure 2.2 Unidentified photographer. Federal prisoner from Libbey or Belle Isle prison, ca. 1864. Albumen silver print photograph. Reproduced in Vicky Goldberg, The Power of Photography, 1989. Page 22.
Figure 2.3. Cover of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, June 18, 1864. Reproduced in Vicky Goldberg, The Power of Photography, 1989. Page 23.
Figure 2.4 George Barnard. Tennessee River from Lookout Mountain, 1865, from Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign, 1866. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.93
Figure 2.5 Thomas Cole. The Oxbow (Connecticut River near Northampton), 1836. Reproduced in Albert Boime, The Magisterial Gaze, 1996. Page 85.
Figure 2.6 Claude Monet. Untitled photograph, 1860s.
Figure 2.7 Claude Monet. Women in a Garden (detail), 1867. Oil on canvas. The Louvre, Paris.
George Platt Babbitt. Niagara Falls, ca.
1857. Ambrotype. 1991.64
Caspar David Friedrich. Moonrise over the
Sea, date not given. Oil on canvas.
Reproduced in German Ministry of
Information, Caspar David Friedrich, His
Life and Work, 1940. Cover illustration.
Frederic Church. Niagara Falls from the
American Side, 1857. Oil on canvas. The
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Reproduced in Franklin Kelly, Frederic
Edwin Church, 1989. Page 92.
Asher B. Durand. Kindred Spirits, 1849.
New York Public Library. Reproduced in
A.B. Durand 1796-1886, published by the
Montclair (New Jersey) Art Museum, 1971.
Color plate 56.
George Barker. Niagara, ca. 1880.
Albumen silver print. 1991.70
Figure 2.13 Unidentified photographer. Shelter
Island, 1880s. Albumen silver print
mounted on linen. 1991.401
Figure 2.14 Unidentified photographer. Shelter
Island, 1880s. Albumen silver print
mounted on linen. 1991.402
Figure 2.15 William Merritt Chase. Shinnecock Hills,
Peconic Bay, ca. 1892. Oil on canvas.
Reproduced in D. Scott Atkinson and
Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., William Merritt
Chase, Summers at Shinnecock 1891-1902.
Figure 2.16 William Merritt Chase. Morning at the
Breakwater, Shinnecock Hills, ca. 1897.
Oil on canvas. Reproduced in D. Scott
Atkinson and Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr.,
William Merritt Chase, Summers at
Shinnecock 1891-1902. Page 84.
Detroit Photographic Company. White
Mountains from Kilburn Crag, Littleton-
Franconia, 1900. Gelatin silver print
Detroit Photographic Company. Up the
Tomoko-Down the Tomoko, Florida, ca. 1900.
Gelatin silver print photograph. 1991.280
Detroit Publishing Company. Grand Circus
Park from Fyfe Building, Detroit,
Michigan, ca. 1910. Gelatin silver print
William Rau. Longwood Picnic Grounds,
L.V.R.R., 1890s. Albumen silver print
William Rau. Cayuga Lake, Table Rock,
Near Mile Point, L.V.R.R., 1890s. Albumen
silver print photograph. 1991.326.
Unidentified photographer. Old Mountain
House, Catskill Mountains, 1880s. Albumen
silver print photograph. 1991.428
Unidentified photographer. Untitled
(Waves breaking on rocks), 1890s. Gelatin
silver print photograph. 1991.482.79
Frederick Childe Hassam. Seaweed and
Surf, Appledore, 1912. Oil on canvas.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Reproduced in David Park Curry, Childe
Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited.
Figure 2.25 Unidentified photographer. Untitled (Men
with guns and hunting dog), 1890s.
Gelatin silver print photograph.
Figure 2.26 Unidentified photographer. Untitled
(Sailing boats by moonlight), 1890s.
Gelatin silver print photograph.
Figure 2.27 Unidentified photographer. Untitled
(Children in a garden), 1890s. Gelatin
silver print photograph. 1991.482.3
Figure 2.28 John Singer Sargent. Carnation, Lily,
Lily, Rose, 1880s. Oil on canvas. The
Tate Gallery, London. Reproduced in
Richard J. Boyle, American Impressionism,
1974. Page 192.
Figure 2.29a Unidentified photographer. Untitled
(Woman on a porch), 1890s. Gelatin silver
print photograph. 1991.482.14
Figure 2.29b Unidentified photographer. Celia Thaxter
in her Garden, Isles of Shoals, ca. 1888.
Albumen silver print photograph.
Reproduced in David Park Curry, Childe
Hassam: An Island Garden Revisited.
Figure 2.30 John Horgan, Jr. The Alabama Club at
Nocalula Falls, 1893. Albumen silver
print photograph. 1991.188
John Horgan, Jr. Jno. P. Richardson's
Property, ca. 1891. Albumen silver print
John Horgan, Jr. River View, Dahomey
Property, ca. 1891. Albumen silver print
John Horgan, Jr. Black and White Mixed in
the Press Room, 1893. Albumen silver
print photograph. 1991.206
Winslow Homer. Sunday Morning in
Virginia. Cincinnati Art Museum.
Reproduced in Albert Ten Eyck Gardner,
Winslow Homer, American Artist: His World
and His Work, 1961. Page 133.
Figure 3.1 Carleton Watkins. River View,. Mirror Lake (Yosemite), ca. 1866. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.375
Figure 3.2 Albert Bierstadt. Domes of the Yosemite, 1867. Oil on canvas. St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Figure 3.3 William Henry Jackson's darkroom tent, Echo Canon, Utah, 1869. Reproduced in Peter B. Hales, William Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American Landscape. Page 26.
Figure 3.4 Timothy O'Sullivan. Black Canon, Colorado River, from Camp 8, Looking Above, 1871. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.483.8
Figure 3.5 Timothy H. O'Sullivan. Canon de Chelle, 1871. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.483.49
Figure 3.6 William Bell. Perched Rock, Rocker Creek, Arizona, 1872. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.483.30
Figure 3.7 William Bell. Canon of Kanab Wash, Colorado River, Looking South (Arizona), 1872. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.483.20
Figure 3.8 John K. Hillers. Mummy Cave Ruins, Canon del Muerto, Arizona, 1881. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.168
Figure 3.9 William Henry Jackson. Mount of the Holy Cross, 1873. Albumen silver print photograph. International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House. Reproduced in Robyn G. Peterson, American Frontier Photography. Page 20.
Figure 3.10 Thomas Moran. Mount of the Holy Cross,
1874. Watercolor on paper. Collection
Denver Art Museum. 1981.16
Fanny Frances Palmer. Westward the Course
of Empire Takes Its Way, 1868. Lithograph
published by Currier and Ives. Reproduced
in Albert Boime, The Magisterial Gaze.
Andrew Joseph Russell. Skull Rock, Dale
Creek Canon (Wyoming), 1867-68, from The
Great West Illustrated. Albumen silver
print photograph. 1991.108.6
Andrew Joseph Russell. Union of Rails,
May 10, 1869, (Promontory Point, Utah),
1869. Union Pacific Historical Museum.
Reproduced in Naomi Rosenblum, World
History of Photography. Page 168.
William Henry Jackson. Royal Gorge.
Grand Canon of the Arkansas, after 1881.
Hand-colored albumen silver print
William Henry Jackson. Pueblo de Taos,
(near Embudo, N.M.), after 1881.
Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.220
Charles Graham. Pueblo de Taos, 1880s.
Gouache on paper. Collection Denver Art
Figure 3.17 Unidentified photographer. Frank Jay
Haynes cleaning a glass plate with alcohol
and rottenstone, ca. 1875. Albumen silver
print photograph. Reproduced in
Montana Historical Society, F. Jay Haynes.
Figure 3.18 Unidentified photographer. Frank Jay
Haynes' "Palace Studio Car," ca. 1901.
Albumen silver print photograph.
Reproduced in Montana Historical Society,
F. Jay Haynes. Page 13.
.19 Frank Jay Haynes. Rooster Rock, Oregon,
1880s. Albumen silver print photograph.
.20 Carleton Watkins. Rooster Rock, Oregon,
probably 1883. Albumen silver print
.1 Engraving after painting by William Beard,
Lo, the Poor Indian, ca. 1878. Reproduced
in G.W. Sheldon, American Painters, 1881.
.2 Edward Sheriff Curtis. The Vanishing
Race-Navajo, 1904. Gelatin silver print
.3 Alexander Gardner. Vua-Lluh-Ko-Ke-Pah
(One Afraid of the Eagle), ca. 1872.
.4 Alexander Gardner. Vua-Lluh-Ko-Ke-Pah
(One Afraid of the Eagle), ca. 1872.
Albumen silver print photograph.
.5 William Henry Jackson. Betsey, Omaha,
1868. Albumen silver print
.6 William Henry Jackson. Standing Hawk and
Squaw, 1868. Albumen silver print
.7 Attributed to E.A. Howard. Minneconjou
Sioux Village at Spotted Tail Agency,
1874-76. Albumen silver print photograph.
.9 Attributed to E.A. Howard. Sioux Village
on White River, 1874-76. Albumen silver
print photograph. 1991.214
Detail map of the Pine Ridge Country in
the middle 1870s, showing the location of
the Spotted Tail and Red Cloud Agencies.
Reproduced in Nebraska History, vol. XXI,
no. 4. (October-December, 1940). Pages
Map of Nebraska with area in Figure 4.9a
outlined. Reproduced in Nebraska History,
vol. XXI, no. 4. (October-December,
1940). Page 268.
Photocopy of Spotted Tails Beef Issue,
photographer unidentified, ca. 1875.
Courtesy Fort Robinson Museum, Crawford,
Photocopy of untitled photograph of Camp
Sheridan, photographer unidentified, ca.
1875. Courtesy Fort Robinson Museum,
Figure 4.12 Unidentified photographer. Untitled
(Indian with Deer), ca. 1905. Gelatin
silver print photograph. 1991.449
Figure 4.13 F.W. Glasier. The Invocation, 1912.
Gelatin silver print photograph. 1991.209
Figure 4.14. Eanger Irving Couse, Crouching Indian by a
Fire, ca. 1910. Oil on canvas.
Collection Denver Art Museum. 1981.8
Figure 4.15 Karl (or Carl) Moon. Navajo Man-Tom of
Ganado, Arizona, 1904. Gelatin silver
print photograph. 1991.312
Figure 4.16 Adam Clark Vroman. Mary, Acoma, Painting
Pottery, 1902, from an untitled album of
Arizona and New Mexico pueblos. Bromide
print photograph. 1990.107.24
Figure 5.1 Charles Leander Weed. The Valley from the Mariposa Trail, ca. 1865. Albumen silver print photograph. Reproduced in The Era of Exploration, 1975. Text illustration 46.
Figure 5.2 Carleton E. Watkins. [Yosemite] Valley from the Best General View, 1866. Albumen silver print photograph. Reproduced in The Era of Exploration, 1975. Text illustration 47.
Figure 5.3 Carleton E. Watkins. Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite, ca. 1866. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.359
Figure 5.4 Carleton E. Watkins. River View, Yosemite, ca. 1865. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.380
Figure 5.5 Carleton E. Watkins. View on the Merced, 1872. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.390
Figure 5.6 Eadweard Muybridge. Pi-Wi-Wack (Shower of Stars), Vernal Falls, California, 1872. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.314
Figure 5.7 Eadweard Muybridge. Looking down Yo- semite Valley, ca. 1870. Albumen silver print photograph. 1991.316 (recto).
Figure 5.8 Eadweard Muybridge. Looking down Yo- semite Valley, ca. 1870. Ink on cardboard. 1991.316 (verso).
Figure 5.9 Otto Knirsch after Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait. The Prairie Hunter: One Rubbed Out, 1852. Hand-colored lithograph.
Figure 5.10 Eadweard Muybridge. Horse Running, from Animal Locomotion, 1887. Photogravure.
Frederic Remington. The Cheyenne, 1901-
03. Bronze, 3rd cast. Collection Denver
Art Museum. 1981.14
Celia Crocker Thompson. John Muir and
Theodore P. Lukens at Crocker's Station
near Yosemite, 1895. Gelatin silver print
photograph. Reproduced in Shirley
Sargent, John Muir in Yosemite. Page 30.
Theodore Parker Lukens. Our Forest Home,
two miles above the sea, ca. 1907.
Gelatin silver print photograph.
Figure 5.14 Theodore Parker Lukens. With my Forest
Friends, ca. 1907. Gelatin silver print
Figure 5.15 Theodore Parker Lukens. And the ferns
came up to our Horses' backs, ca. 1907.
Gelatin silver print photograph.
Theodore Parker Lukens. Summit of San
Jacinto, 10600 ft., ca. 1907. Gelatin
silver print photograph. 1991.313.23
Theodore Parker Lukens. Call us for
Breakfast, ca. 1907. Gelatin silver print
Theodore Parker Lukens. Charlotte D.
Lukens Seated on Porch of Lukens Family
Home with Grandchildren Ralph and
Charlotte Jones, late 1890s. Photocopy of
a double-printed gelatin silver print
photograph with fern leaves surrounding
the figures as marginal decoration.
University of the Pacific Archive.
(?) Terry. Sweeping Back the Flood, ca.
1913. Line drawing originally published
in the San Francisco Call. Bancroft
Library, University of California,
Berkeley. Reproduced in Holway Jones,
John Muir and the Sierra Club: The Battle
for Yosemite. Page 183.
.20 Theodore Parker Lukens. Fern Palm at
Home, San Jacinto, ca. 1900. Gelatin
silver print photograph. 1991.313.10
.21 Theodore Parker Lukens. Alder trees a
fine stream cover, ca. 1900. Gelatin
silver print photograph. 1991.313.17
.22 Theodore Parker Lukens. Near //// //
Oaks, ca. 1900. Gelatin silver print
.23 Unidentified artist. A lone palm in
Andreas Canyon. Line drawing illustrating
"desert surprises" in George Wharton
James, The Wonders of the Colorado Desert,
1906. The Bancroft Library, University of
California, Berkeley. Reproduced in Anne
Farrar Hyde, An American Vision. Page
INTRODUCTION: THE MARRIAGE OF LIGHT AND SILVER
In 1991, the Denver Art Museum acquired a personal
collection of more than 1,200 19th-century American
landscape photographs assembled in the 1970s and 1980s by
the art collector and dealer, Daniel Wolf. The images it
contains are of great aesthetic and cultural
significance; many images are acknowledged masterpieces
of photography and many very rare.
The focus of the collection is the American landscape.
All regions of the United States are depicted, including
New England, the desert Southwest, and the Deep South.
However, the majority of the images are of the West.
Here the exploration of new territories, the expansion of
the railroads, early studies of Native American life, and
the germ of our first national parks were documented by
the best practitioners of the newly-invented medium of
photography. The photographs show the enormous changes
then being wrought in every section of the young United
States. As objects of art, they reflect many of the
aesthetic pursuits and experiments of the artists of the
Photography as art and science grew up with America, and
its rapid development paralleled that of the young
country and its institutions. The essays that follow
chronicle the complex role that photography played in
19th-century America, as historian, conscience, and
If, as the Greeks and Romans did, we were to personify
the arts as beautiful and generous immortals, we would
quite recently have welcomed the birth of a lovely new
Muse, the young art of photography, which officially came
into being in 1839. To continue our allegory, we could
say that like Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, this
brand-new art had two distinguished parents, the sciences
of optics and chemistry.
However, the most important beings in photography's early
days were ordinary humans. The infant art had three very
mortal godfathers, who, like the good fairies who gave
Princess Aurora all the gifts she would ever need, gave
photography its basic attributes.
They were probably the oddest group of scientific types,
country gentry, and Barnumesque showmen ever to hold a
baby art form over the font. A French painter, Louis
Jacques Mande Daguerre, gave photography its first
permanence with the sharply-focused and durable "mirror
with a memory" (which he immodestly named for himself),
the daguerreotype. It was a unique photographic image
printed on silver-plated metal.
At about the same time, and without being aware of
Daguerre's work, the wealthy Englishman William Henry Fox
Talbot searched for ways to make photographs capable of
being produced in editions of identical images like
etchings or lithographs. He invented the photographic
negative from which multiple prints can be made, the
basic process followed for all photographs until the
invention of the Polaroid-Land "instant" photograph in
Fox Talbot's countryman, Sir John Herschel, actually gave
the new art its name. He coined the terms "photography"
(writing with light), and "negative" and "positive" to
describe respectively the value-reversed image formed
inside the camera and the print made from it. He also
discovered "photographer's hypo"the hyposulphite of
soda (really sodium thiosulphate) still used to wash away
excess silvering salts from the photograph and make a
reproducible image that was stable and unfading, like the
Photography was the result of the conjunction of two very
old technologies: photosensitive chemicals and the
camera obscura. The knowledge of photosensitive
materials was very ancient. The dye known as Tyrian
purple, famed in antiguity, was the end product of
chemical processes involving solutions made of crushed
murex snails and other ingredients in which bolts of
cloth were soaked. When exposed to the bright
Mediterranean light, the cloth changed from white to a
range of red-to-magenta hues which then could be made
In Russia, Count Aleksandr Bestuzhev-Riumin, a statesman
and amateur chemist, discovered in 1725 that solutions of
iron salts change color when exposed to light.1 In 1727,
1 David Elliott. Photography in Russia 1840-1940.
(London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd, 1992), 24.
the German Johann Heinrich Schulze saw photosensitive
silver salts darken when exposed to the sun, and he
predicted that if the darkening could be stabilized, one
could "write with light." For generations, others tried
various experiments, and around 1800, Thomas Wedgwood,
son of the famous British ceramicist (responsible for the
ultra-classicizing Wedgwood pottery), made the first
known attempt to record the image in a camera obscura.2 3
The camera obscura was a very old device, known to
Aristotle and reexamined in the Baroque period in Europe.
A small hole in the wall of a darkened chamber was found
to project an upside-down image of the scene outside on
the wall of the room. But the camera obscura was more
than a novelty. It, or a smaller version of it, the
camera lucida, was used as a drawing aid by artists from
1500s on, certainly by many Dutch realists, including Jan
2 Beaumont Newhall. The History of Photography,
1839 to the Present. (New York: The Museum of Modern
Art, 1982), 13.
3 Van Deren Coke. The Painter and the Photograph
from Delacroix to Warhol. (Albuquerque, New Mexico:
University of New Mexico Press, 1964. Rev. and enl. ed.,
Thomas Wedgwood was disappointed to find, as had earlier
researchers, that his "sun prints" were not permanent,
and nothing like photography was realized until the
French lithographer Joseph Nicephore Niepce searched for
an easy way to produce drawings or sketches. After a
series of trials and mostly errors, he tried a substance
called bitumen of Judea applied to pewter plates.
Exposed for eight hours in a camera obscura pointed out
his window, the method produced a fuzzy image of his
street. Although the only surviving example of his
camera work is dated around 1827, he seems to have
succeeded in fixing an image as early as 1817.4 Niepce
went into partnership with painter Daguerre in 1829, but
died after only four years of collaboration. Daguerre
continued the work, experimenting with silver salts, and
by 1837 had managed to stabilize an image.
On January 7, 1839, Daguerre got a patent from the French
government for his method of fuming a silver-plated sheet
of copper with iodine, exposing it in a good camera
obscura in bright light, then developing and fixing the
image with mercury vapors and sodium salt solutions. The
4 Newhall. History of Photography, 13.
result was a precise and detailed image that was fixed
forever, but each daguerreotype was unique, and the
search was on for an image of comparable quality that was
In England, Fox Talbot experimented with sensitizing
paper with silver chloride and exposing it in a camera
for a half hour. That resulted in an image that was
reversed in tonelight areas dark and vice versa. Then
the original sheet was pressed onto another sensitized
paper and exposed to light again, resulting in a
"positive" image that could be repeated. But these
images sometimes faded or were fuzzy compared with the
durable and already popular daguerreotype.
With the speed of the fastest clipper ships and packets,
photography spread around the world. It arrived in the
United States the same year Daguerre received his patent,
welcomed by artist Samuel Finley Breese Morse, soon to
invent the telegraph. His invention, like photography,
was to play a key role in the expansion of railroads and
white settlements into the Trans-Mississippi West.
Inspired by newspaper accounts and scholarly reports of
Daguerre's and Fox Talbot's methods, the St. Petersburg
Academy of Sciences dispatched one of its number, I.
Hammel, from Russia to London to find out more. In May
1839, Hammel sent two of Fox Talbot's "photogenic
drawings" (cameraless photographs, or photograms, of
plant specimens) back to St. Petersburg for Academy
members to study. The next year, a professional portrait
photographer, Aleksei Grekov, was in business in Moscow,
making daguerreotypes and experimenting with negative-
Even in Japan, where trade with the West was not really
opened until 1854, photography arrived in 1848, when a
merchant named Ueno Shunnojo imported a daguerreotype
camera from Holland.6 Now, of course, Japan is one of
the world's pacesetters for photographic products,
processes, and pictorial experimentation.
5 Elliott. Photography in Russia, 24-26.
6 Kohtaro Iizawa. "The Shock of the Real: Early
Photography in Japan," in Photography and Beyond in
Japan: Space, Time and Memory. (New York: Harry N.
Abrams, Inc., 1995), 39.
Between 1839 and 1850, there were few innovations, but
existing techniques for making photographs got better and
better. Paper negatives refused to produce sharp images,
so many inventors continued to try to make glass work as
a base for negatives. The problem was getting the light-
sensitive salts to stick to the glass. In 1851,
Frederick Scott Archer identified collodion,
(nitrocellulose or guncotton, dissolved in ether and
alcohol) as the proper binder or emulsion to hold the
silver nitrate and potassium iodide to the glass.
The prepared plate had to be exposed within about fifteen
minutes; once dry, the emulsion lost its sensitivity to
light. Yet at last the photographer was truly freed from
the studio and the finicky daguerreotypes precise
requirements for light and lengthy exposures. Collodion
wet-plate photography quickly supplanted both
daguerreotypes and paper negative-positive (calotype)
photographs for both landscape work and portraiture.
Photographers packed up and went into the field in
droves, prepared to satisfy both scientific curiosity and
simple tourist impulses about sites near and far.
It was collodion wet-plate technology coupled with a fine
new type of photographic printing stock, albumen paper,
invented by the Frenchman Louis-Desire Blanguart-Evrard
in 1850, that provided virtually all outdoor and studio
photographs everywhere from 1850 until the 1880s.
Photographs made on albumen paper, in which the
photosensitive silver nitrate salts were affixed to
smooth writing bond with albumenfresh egg whiteshad a
naturally warm tonality sometimes enhanced with gold
chloride or other metallic toners, and a wealth of minute
pictorial detail. It was only in the 1890s, when the dry
plates and papers to which the silver salts were bonded
with gelatin became reliable, that the albumen print
photograph from collodion wet-plate negatives became
Many photographers became celebrities, at least for a
time, and though photography was not held in the popular
esteem that painting was, photographic prints and albums
were sought after by scientists and ordinary people, who
wanted souvenirs of places they had visited, or a picture
that, they were assured, was the next best thing to being
Aesthetes such as poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and
his circle invited the photographer into their midst.
Enchanted with the seeming veracity of the camera, the
writer Emile Zola became a skilled photographer, seeing
in the photograph the unstinting realism he wanted in his
own novels and other writings. One of the most
enthusiastic welcomes given to photography was that of
France's great artistic lion, Eugene Delacroix. He was
no realist, but he appreciated the photograph as a tool
for recording landscape and model for future reference.
Another controversial and flamboyant painter, Gustave
Courbet, and a host of lesser artistic lights also took
Photography, the world's youngest art, was growing up and
showing off its special strengths and attributes to the
other Musesnot only to the arts but also to the even-
younger disciplines of anthropology and enthnology, to
politics and social sciences.
THE AMPLE LAND: THE EAST AND SOUTH
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in
the light, Ohio's shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover'd with grass
Walt Whitman, When Lilacs Last in the
Nature and humankind's relationship to it are overarching
subjects in nineteenth-century art and literature; for
Americans they still hold a special fascination. The
European discovery of a land of awe-inspiring scale and
diversity, the spiritual lives of the native peoples,
immigrant wanderlust and the promise of endless booty,
the search for nationhood and identity, were central to
the myth and meaning of America.
In the settled East and South, nature wore a friendly
face. Originally tilled and hunted by the aboriginal
people of North America, the land had been known and
worked by European settlers since colonial times. Its
bounty was a source of wealth and pride for citizens of
the United States, and the envy of many a foreign
traveler. The novel, if rough, ways of Americans, their
energy, inventiveness, and love of show, made the country
a magnet for curious and educated Europeans like the
French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville's mixture of admiration and skepticism about
the young United States extended to its arts. In
Democracy in America, first published in 1835, three
years before his countryman Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre
obtained a patent from the French government for the
first permanent photographic process, Tocqueville
identified the affinity for verisimilitude that would
make photography the perfect art form for America:
The social condition and the institutions of
democracy impart, moreover, certain peculiar
tendencies to all the imitative arts, which it is
easy to point out. in a word, they put the Real
in the Place of the Ideal.7
Photography reached America in 1839, the year of
Daguerre's patent, enthusiastically supported by
inventor-artist Samuel F.B. Morse, soon to add
7 Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America.
Ed. and abridged by Richard D. Heffner. (New York: The
New American Library, Inc., twelfth printing, 1956), 172.
photography and the all-important telegraph to his
accomplishments. The apparent veracity of the
daguerreotype did indeed appeal to the realist taste of
Americans and photography swept into every city.
Although French agent Frangois Gouraud arrived in late
1839 with franchises for the sale of photographic
eguipment, Americans characteristically did not think it
necessary to purchase rights or use authorized
apparatus.8 Improvised studios spread and itinerant
photographers soon plied their trade everywhere.
For all its wealth and vigor, America's most remarkable
feature (and sometime export) was its political system.
The democratic experiment was still young and changing
rapidly from the Enlightenment ideals of the Virginia
presidents to the brawling personal style of an Andrew
Jackson. No visitor could fail to notice that lofty
American values were blemished with two galling
contradictions: the genocidal treatment of the Native
Americans, and the "peculiar institution" of slavery.
8 Naomi Rosenblum. A World History of
Photography. Rev. ed. (New York: Abbeville Press,
The former problem was addressed by a federal Indian
policy of ruthlessness cloaked in pious and hypocritical
rhetoric. During the administration of Andrew Jackson,
Indians who inconveniently dwelled in areas desired by
white farmers and gold seekers were removed by guile and
force to territories in the West. Many tribes were
driven out of their homes in the dead of winter, crossing
the great Mississippi without moccasins and thinly clad,
to the inhospitable lands that are now Oklahoma.9
All the more remarkable and poignant, then, is the
portrait of Annie Guy (fig. 2.1) by the Scottish-
American photographer, Alexander Gardner (1821-1882),
from a disassembled, untitled album in the Denver Art
Museum's collection. Matching the loose pages reveals a
long sequence of small albumen print photographs of
Indians, mostly by Gardner, some possibly by A(ntonio)
Zeno Shindler, and others by William Henry Jackson. The
subjects are identified by their names, English
translations if Indian names are given, and tribe, on the
9 Edward Pessen. Jacksonian American: Society,
Personality, and Politics. Rev. ed. (Urbana and Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1985), 300.
album page below each picture.
In the 1870s Jackson, with Ferdinand V. Hayden, created a
series of Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs using
negatives from the Hayden Surveys. In 1877, he published
a Descriptive Catalogue of Photographs of North American
Indians, for which he printed Gardner's negatives, among
others, as well as his own. Thus Jackson himself may
have assembled the album, or perhaps it is the work of a
descendant. Several of the images are certainly copies
made by rephotographing existing pictures. Most of the
Sauk and Fox leaders are represented in copy prints
rather than prints made from original Gardner negatives.
Their portraits lead the sequences, which suggests that
the maker of the album was aware of the chronology of
Gardner's work. One of Gardner's first commissions for
his English patron, William Henry Blackmore, was
photographing the Sauk and Fox delegations at the White
House in 1867.10
10 D. Mark Katz. Witness to an Era: The Life and
Photographs of Alexander Gardner. (New York: Viking
Penguin Books, 1991), 235, and Peter B. Hales, William
Henry Jackson and the Transformation of the American
Landscape. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press,
But for a certain lack of coquettishness in her
expression, Annie Guy might be any pretty young woman of
the time, dressed in her best: low-necked, tightly
corseted frock, hair in long corkscrew curls. A
handwritten legend on the album page describes the girl
as a Choctaw, one of the five white-named "civilized"
Indian tribes pressured to cede their lands under the
Removal Act of 1830. The Choctaw were marched off to
Oklahoma in 1832 and later "detribalized," a euphemism
for having their government, religion, dress, and
traditions systematically eradicated.
Gardner photographed most of the Indian delegations that
came to Washington in the late 1860s and early 1870s to
negotiate the futile treaties between the U.S. Government
and the tribes, and was made official photographer for
the Office of Indian Affairs in 1872.11 What Annie Guy
was doing in Washington, if indeed she did not live
there, when she sat for Alexander Gardner (in the same
fringed studio chair in which Gardner posed many of his
other Indian subjects) is not recorded in the album.
Despite her beauty, to modern eyes her non-Indian
appearance and fully assimilated European dress is a sad
reflection of her people's cultural impoverishment in the
forty years that had elapsed between the loss of their
homeland, and her portrait, probably datable to around
Gardner was the photographer who had carefully documented
the events of the 1868 Fort Laramie (Wyoming Territory)
Treaty between the Indians and U.S. Government. His
treaty photographs are generally as candid as the
exposure time would allow, and as respectful of Native
American subjects as of whites. Nevertheless, it seems
that Gardner kept a box of props (as Edward Sheriff
Curtis was to do later) in his Washington, D.C., studio
to enhance the dress of his Indian sitters if it did not
seem suitably picturesgue.12
It was precisely these kinds of imagesstudio portraits,
official records of marriages, meetings, surrenders, and
so forthat which photography excelled. Its
truthfulness seemed unguestionable, especially when
augmented with written documentation. Yet photography
12 Nancy Hathaway. Native American Portraits
1862-1918. (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1990), 4.
was as susceptible of manipulation and subjective
impressions as other art forms, and could readily produce
ambiguous, sometimes intentional, social or political
Slaverythe "peculiar institution"would be the
exciting factor in a horrific and costly civil war that
would shake the country to its foundations. The
treatment of the Native Americans would have less
dramatic but no less far-reaching effects, and would form
the subtext of the whole era of western expansion and
exploration. Each phenomenon served and was served by
photography in different ways.
After doing Civil War battlefield photography for Mathew
Brady, Alexander Gardner had, in a sense, pioneered
photojournalism with his pictorial stories of the
execution of the Lincoln conspirators and the hanging of
the commandant of Andersonville Prison, Captain Henry
Wirz, the only prison official to be executed after the
In 1864, an exchange of prisoners between the Union and
the Confederacy had confirmed the worst about prison
camps such as Libby, Belle Isle, and Andersonville.
Through photographs of the survivors, atrocities beyond
the battlefield entered public consciousness (fig. 2.2).
The press in the North, which felt aggrieved by the
South's treatment of Union prisoners, used the
photographs to whip up hatred of the rebels and a thirst
Though photography still depended on the artist and
engraver for mass distribution, published pictures
derived from photographs of sick and emaciated released
prisoners were sufficient to raise Northern indignation
to a fever pitch (fig. 2.3). Predictably, Southern
prison officials insisted the engravings were faked or
exaggerated by the artists. However, actual photographs
of the maltreated Union prisoners admitted into evidence
in the Andersonville case helped convict and hang Henry
The popular (and largely unexamined) belief in the
13 Vicky Goldberg. The Power of Photography: How
Photographs Changed Our Lives. (New York: Abbeville
Press, 1991), 20-21.
14 Ibid., 24.
truthfulness of the camera's image compared with the
subjectivity of painting or drawing made photography a
most suitable art to promote powerful political notions.
After the Civil War, photographers created albums about
the reunification of the states and Southern
reconstruction. Some of these albums and series of
photographs were commissioned by the military or by the
federal government. During and after Reconstruction,
Southern railroad companies, plantation owners, and
others keen to demonstrate the restoration of order and
prosperity in the South, had photographic albums made
that featured views of their businesses.
At the same time, photographers who had learned or
perfected their art and craft in the war found themselves
at loose ends after the surrender of the Confederacy.
Skilled and intrepid, they had been tested in wartime
situations and were eager for commissions. Even the
well-established Alexander Gardner closed his Washington,
D.C., studio, packed up for Kansas, and photographed the
early construction of the Union Pacific Railroad for the
company in 1867. George N. Barnard, Dr. William Bell,
William Henry Jackson, and Timothy H. O'Sullivan were
among the veterans who continued as expeditionary and
railroad photographers in the 1860s and 1870s.
Photography's power persuade as well as to record and
educate would be honed in the newspapers of both South
and North, and in views of the defeated South following
the Civil War. The medium and its practitioners were
ready to document and justify expansion westward.
By and large, eastern photographers, like eastern
painters, saw in the landscape material abundance and
transcendent peace. This ideal of the landscape pervades
some of the post-civil War pictures of George N. Barnard
(1819-1902). In the early 1860s, he was in Mathew
Brady's employ, working in Brady's Washington studio
taking official portraits and views of Lincoln's
inauguration. In 1864, he accompanied General William
Tecumseh Sherman as official photographer for the
Military Division of Mississippi. Barnard's Photographic
Views of Sherman's Campaigns (1866) contains many
photographs of great beauty, including views of
Chattanooga, the Tennessee River, and Lookout Mountain
which conclude the album.
Although Barnard made many pictures of captured
Confederate works and ruins, in this Chattanooga view the
serene and luxuriant scenery belies the fact that a
savage battle of the Civil War had taken place here (fig.
2.4). The long, "godlike" perspective and asymmetrical
composition of the view of the seemingly unspoiled valley
(with features partially masked to emphasize the dramatic
meander of the river) suggests that a victorious Union
had gathered lands shattered by secession back into its
fold and made them whole. Barnard's composition shows
that he certainly knew such paintings as Cole's depiction
of the Oxbow of the Connecticut River (fig. 2.5),
probably through engravings. In Barnard's Chattanooga
photograph the picturesque functions as a metaphor for
appropriation and control of territory as it was soon to
do in photography of the West.15
With the Civil War at an end, just past mid-century most
Americans, at least Northerners, were optimistic, and
their arts reflected the collective mood. The
daguerreotype, which had been demanding both of light and
exposure time, was supplanted by the freely reproducible
15 Timothy Sweet. Traces of War: Poetry,
Photography, and the Crisis of the Union. (Baltimore and
London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), 154.
negative-positive process formulated by two English
gentleman-scientists, William Henry Fox Talbot and
William Herschel, in the early 1840s. The advent of the
collodion wet-plate glass negative, invented by their
fellow subject Frederick Scott Archer in 1850, further
liberated photographers from the confines of the studio
and created a population explosion in portraiture.
Despite the chanciness of the collodion wet-plate method,
the volatility of the chemicals, and the fragility of
glass negatives, photographers moved into the great
outdoors with alacrity. They visited landmarks, took to
streets and battlefields when the situation arose,
photographed celebrities and exotic people and places.
The public sat for, exchanged, bought, and collected
photographs of all kinds, and continually clamored for
Photography, initially dependent upon painting for
compositional devices, was manifesting some unique
esthetics. The daguerreotype, dependent on long
exposures and highly controlled, usually studio, light
had not lent itself easily to outdoor work. However,
albumen negatives on glasswhich allowed light reflected
on objects to shine through the chemical emulsionalso
resolved pictorial detail in a way that eliminated the
need for literary or mythical antecedents and references.
The viewer of a mammoth-plate albumen silver photograph
was confronted by a faithful representation of nature an
sich. This was particularly so in the realm of landscape
art, where photography's inherent realism and certain
vagaries of chemistry and exposure placed it in the
mainstream of what much later would be termed
Some European critics, the most vocal and articulate of
whom was the French Symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire,
feared that photography might usurp the place of painting
and drawing entirely:
I am convinced that. this industry, by invading
the territories of art, has become art's most mortal
enemy. If photography is allowed to supplement
art in some of its functions, it soon will have
supplanted or corrupted it altogether.17
16 Weston Naef, "'New Eyes'Luminism and
Photography," in John Wilmerding, et. al. American
Light: The Luminist Movement 1850-1875. (New York:
Harper and Row, Publishers, 1983), 269.
17 Charles Baudelaire. The Mirror of Art.
Translated by Jonathan Mayne. (New York: Phaidon
Publishers, Inc., 1955), 230.
However, artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including
Eugene Delacroix, Claude Monet, and Albert Bierstadt,
whose brothers were professional photographers,
gratefully adopted photography as a reliable medium for
pictorial source material and all-purpose aide-memoire.
While artists on the Continent most frequently utilized
photography for figure studies (figs. 2.6, and 2.7),
American painters regularly employed it to capture
details of the landscape. Painters and photographers
alike were inspired by rugged sites in the Hudson River
Valley, and the sublime Niagara.
The mighty falls were already a favorite destination for
sightseers prior to 1857, when George Platt Babbitt
(active 1848-1878) was granted a monopoly to make tourist
photographs of Niagara.18 In an ambrotype in the DAM's
collection, the tiny gesticulating figures are viewed at
such a distance (fig. 2.8) as to be unrecognizable as
individuals. This renders the image useless as a
souvenir of anyone's specific visit and generalizes the
18 William Welling. Photography in America: The
Formative Years, 1839-1900. (New York: Thomas Y.
Crowell Company), 127.
experience of standing before the roaring cascade. At
the same time, Babbitt's composition, with its rather low
perspective and modest detail, needs this vivid relief of
human silhouettes to articulate the middle distance of
the photograph and establish the proper scale of the
falls. Human figures with backs turned to the viewer
constituted a pictorial device called Riickfiguren by
German artists. It had long been used in landscape
painting. It became an expressive element in German
Romantic painting in particular, where insignificant
people, as in Babbitt's photograph, serve only to
underscore the heedless and awful grandeur of nature
While it is unlikely that Babbitt knew works by such
German painters as Caspar David Friedrich and Otto Runge,
he may well have been acquainted with Hudson River School
artists' work at least through engravings. And perhaps
they with him.
Frederic Church (1826-1900) completed Niagara Falls from
the American Side (fig. 2.10) in 1857, the year Babbitt
cornered the tourist market at the site. The two may not
have actually met at Niagara, but they shared their era's
Transcendentalist enthusiasm for "sermons in stones," and
a rather Germanic tendency to nature-worship. Their
works show a similar theatricality.
Church's painting of course was not limited by scale or
lack of color, and he makes the falls seem especially
awesome by employing a panoramic perspective unbroken by
human intrusions. For his part, Babbitt combats the
limitations of his photographic apparatus and processes
by falling back on the older Romantic construct of
figures in a landscape as Asher B. Durand (1796-1886) had
done in his memorial painting Kindred Spirits (fig. 2.11)
Yet while Durand's friendspainter Thomas Cole (who had
recently died) and nature poet William Cullen Bryant
appear to commune with nature and with each other,
Babbitt's anonymous people salute the falls with
ambiguous and ineffectual gestures. Babbitt has placed
them almost at the brink of the cataract, far from a
camera that views the scene as impersonally as the eye of
Of Kindred Spirits, historian of photography Sandra S.
Phillips writes: "Nature in this work is a beautiful and
holy eminence, still untouched," in spite of the invasion
of artists, poetsand tourists.19 At first glance,
Babbitt's vision of nature is prosaic by comparison,
driven by commercial interests and circumscribed by
photographic technology. Yet the ambrotype has a
modernity Babbitt could not have anticipated and Durand's
beautiful painting cannot match. The photograph is
morally null, showing no interaction between humanity and
nature, and implying no transcendence, and no
intercession of intellect, art, or religion between the
inchoate and irresistible forces of nature and the
pitifully small human creatures who posture impotently
The popularity of the falls, which straddle the U.S.-
Canadian border, continued unabated throughout the 19th
century. In a prelude to the environmental drama of the
Trans-Mississippi wilderness, throughout the middle years
of the century improved roads and railroads brought all
sorts of tourists, including traditional honeymoon
19 In her essay, "To Subdue the Continent:
Photographs of the Developing West," in the exhibition
catalogue Crossing the Frontier: Photographs of the
Developing West, 1849 to the Present. (San Francisco:
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1996), 15.
couples, to the landmark. George Barker, active in the
1880s, made whole sets of albumen prints of Niagara (fig.
2.12). Like Church, he dispensed entirely with figures
for scale, centering on the awesome dynamism of water
Although there were spectacular landscapes in the East,
the ocean that lapped the "stern and rock-bound coast" of
New England (according to the poetess, Mrs. Felicia
Hemans), and the more gentle beaches and barrier islands
of the Southeast still dominated the lives of most
Easterners. The Atlantic was the United States' cultural
bulwark against the European Old World. At the same
time, the sea was the lifeline of trade and transport for
the maritime cities of the East, and the avenue via which
most newcomers from Europe, Africa, and the Near East
arrived at America's shore.
In parts of the country where the lie of the land
precluded expansive vistas, photographers often
compensated by making extreme long shots, again including
figures to suggest human mastery over all the eye can
see. These views of Shelter Island, New York, a popular
resort area, were made by an unidentified photographer in
the late 1880s or early 1890s (figs. 2.13 and 2.14).
That photographic devices influenced painting as much as
painting lent photography subjects and compositions is
borne out by comparing later works like William Merritt
Chase's (1849-1916) view of the beach and the hills at
Shinnecock, New York, barely ten miles from Shelter
Island (figs. 2.15 and 2.16) In both photographs and
painting, the point of view is artificially elevated the
better to show the water and horizon. The photographer
probably positioned the camera on a hillock or small
structure to achieve this prospect. Chase, whose
viewpoint is even higher, may have utilized a building or
In any case, such long vistas in late 19th-century
painting, especially Impressionism, were inspired by two
very different sources. Japanese artists, particularly
printmakers, employed "transom" or high-angle views which
served to flatten and stylize forms, their heritage from
the long Japanese pictorial tradition of representing
relationships between objects in terms of overlapping
planes rather than in Western Renaissance-style
perspective. These prints had been making their way into
European and American collections at least since the
early 1800s. Even more compelling was the evidence of
photography, which began providing panoramic views as
early as 1845, when daguerreotypes still dominated the
field, and aerial views as early as the French
photographer Nadar's (Gaspard F61ix Tournachon, 1820-
1910) 1858 picture of Paris taken from a balloon. The
Renaissance "bird's-eye," view could now be made without
the agency of artistic license, right in the birds' own
True panoramic photographs remained extremely popular
throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The
peripatetic photographer William Henry Jackson (1843-
1942) bought a partnership in the Detroit Photographic
Company in 1897, pulled up stakes and left Denver, where
he had lived and worked since 1879. Detroit Photographic
(later Detroit Publishing) was one of the nation's
largest producers of photographic views, albums, and
postcards, and to supply his company with fresh images,
Jackson and his many assistants traveled widely, making
plenty of these wide-angle photographs (figs. 2.17 and
2.18) in places as different as long-settled Vermont and
the sub-tropical paradise of Florida. Fostered by the
railroad companies, tourism in the United States was
booming in the last decades of the old century and the
first years of the new. What could be more inviting than
photographs that showed with the camera's unsentimental
clarity the attractions of distant places?
However, it was in urban environments that the panoramic
photograph came into its own. The wide angle and high
viewpoint that enhanced the panorama format showed
seemingly logical interactions between streets, parks,
and neighborhoods, while celebrating the great hotels and
office buildings (fig. 2.19) that rise up commandingly
before the lens as gnomons of civilization itself.20
As the 19th century drew to a close, the increase in
travel and leisureat least for the privilegedwas
encouraged and recorded by photography. The easy
accessibility of the fine new public parks from the city
center was promoted by William Rau (1855-1920) in his
strange view of Philadelphia's Longwood park (fig. 2.20).
With the railroad lines rushing off to the left and a
20 Peter B. Hales. Silver Cities: The
Photography of American Urbanization, 1839-1915.
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984), 90-94.
truncated bit of passenger car showing, the photograph
looks to a modern viewer rather like criticism a la
Robert Adams of urban sprawl into the countryside.
However, the extension of railroad and streetcar lines
and paved roads out to new neighborhoods and recreational
areas was greeted with pride and enthusiasm by
contemporary urbanites. These facilities and their use
were encouraged by city fathers and mothers.
Rau was careful to include such a picture, one that
showed the finished lines, a sign that indicates the
park's station stop, and an available car, in his
boosterish portfolio of views of Longwood Picnic Grounds.
While in the employ of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, Rau
took many enticing pictures of the amenities (fig. 2.21)
that were only a short train ride away.
Indeed, leisure was becoming an important commodity in
America. Spas, resorts, hotels, and second homes were
available to those who could afford them. These
accommodations provided jobs in service industry for the
less affluent. For the shamelessly rich there was
Newport and the Grand Tour. For people of more modest
wealth, there was Long Island and the Catskills (fig.
2.22) in New York, and the New England coast, where
"summer places" and hotels were popping up at such scenic
(and nearly inaccessible) sites as the Isles of Shoals,
off Portsmouth, New Hampshire. An advertising broadside
circa 1898 trumpeted, "an ideal summer resort of the
highest class. . . perfectly safe bathing. . . excellent
table." The tutelary goddess of this American Cythera
was the writer Celia Thaxter (fig. 2.29b), who kept a
circle of artists and literati, including the painter
Frederick Childe Hassam, in residence at Appledore Island
for the very brief summer season her hotel, Appledore
House, was open.21
By the 1890s, photography, like travel, was becoming a
middle-class hobby. In 1888 George Eastman introduced
the Kodak camera to the marketplace, causing in short
order a deluge of family and tourist "snapshots" to flood
America and the rest of the world. Although most of
these images were amateurish at best, some aficionados of
the hand camera displayed an unusual aptitude for
composition and effects.
21 David Park Curry. Childe Hassam: An Island
Garden Revisited. (New York and London: W. W. Norton &
Company, 1990), 21-25.
An untitled family album in the Denver Art Museum's
collection by a photographer as yet unidentified attests
to its maker's mastery of camera and darkroom practice
and considerable knowledge of contemporary styles in the
arts. Although there are no legends or captions in the
book, it seems to document the activities of a prosperous
New England family living or vacationing near the
Atlantic coast, circa 1890-95. The photographs are all
small, carefully pasted one to a page in several
sequences. Technically, they are well made and have
survived a century without much deterioration.
Although where these pictures were made remains to be
discovered, the sensibility that pervades the album and
some of the locations represented recall the Isles of
Shoals and their genteel summer visitors.
One group of photographs depicts the surf breaking on
large rocks, and the photographer, whoever she or he was,
waited for the most spectacular waves to arrive and crash
ashore before clicking the shutter (fig. 2.23) These
romantic views resemble several of Childe Hassam's Isles
of Shoals works, especially Seaweed and Surf, Appledore
(fig. 2.24). It was painted in 1912, years after the
photographs were made, but displays a similar framing of
the scene, high horizon, and the flattening spatial
effect of rocks rising in the foreground.
Other photographs include carefully posed portraits of
men and their dogs going fowl hunting and returning with
their catch (fig. 2.25); beautiful pictures of the
yachts, fishing boats, and other small vessels that plied
the nearby waters (fig. 2.26); and two nearly identical
portraits of small children in a garden in full bloom
(fig. 2.27). The gaiety and sentiment of this lovely
little photograph very much accords with the mood of John
Singer Sargent's painting, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
(fig. 2.28), with its informality, intimacy, and
association of little girls with the flowers they stand
This unknown photographer's sensitivity to beauty and her
or his narrative flair strongly suggests a person who had
taken advantage of privilege, of books, education,
leisureand a camera. Whether she or he was acquainted
with the circle of literary and artistic types who
congregated at the Isles of Shoals is imponderable at
this writing. However, the photographer's own milieu
seems to have been presided over by a female figure as
formidable as Celia Thaxter (fig. 2.29a). Who might this
lady be, tricked out in a splendid dress complete with
train, standing on the porch of a substantial house, and
looking for all the world like a Nantucket ship's buxom
While well-heeled Yankees were enjoying the dozy
prosperity of the fin de siecle, Southerners were
energetically renewing their war-ravaged land and
infrastructure. The South, although crushed by the
Union, had managed to successfully fight off subseguent
Reconstruction, and before the 1880s dawned practically
all industry and agriculture was firmly in the hands of
whites.22 Many blacks were still relegated by custom and
coercion to virtual serfdom.
John Horgan (1859-1926), born in LeRoy, New York, had
arrived in the young city of Birmingham, Alabama by 1887,
after years of working as an itinerant photographer and
22 Eric Foner. Reconstruction: America's
Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877. (New York: Harper &
Row, Publishers, 1988), 602 and passim.
sales representative for the Union View Company of
Rochester, New York, and making pictures for the Cambria
Ironworks in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Horgan followed
the footloose life shared by many 19th-century
photographers. His wife and family were left on their
own for years at a time while he pursued assignments as
far away as Ecuador, where he took photographs of the
building of the Guayaguil and Quito railway in 1901 and
1902. In the 1890s Horgan found his work much in demand
in the new iron capital of the South and was soon
employed by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and several
railroad and land companies.
In 1891 Horgan was commissioned to make a series of
photographs illustrating the cotton industry for Colonel
J. S. Richardson of New Orleans. Richardson, owner of 52
cotton and sugar plantations in the Deep South, was by
then "the largest cotton planter in the world," according
to a breathless article in the August 9, 1893 LeRoy
Gazette, Horgan's hometown paper.
With the support of railroad interests, Horgan made a
trip from Washington, Mississippi to the Gulf Coast in a
special railway car, stopping along the way to take
photographs of daily life and work on Richardson's and
neighboring plantations. This trip lasted took four
months during which Horgan took 241 mammoth-plate
photographs,23 thirty-five of which are in the Denver Art
In the plantation photographs Horgan made the most of the
pictorially unrewarding, low-lying terrain through which
he passed. Occasionally, he had the opportunity to take
in more photogenic sites. In his print of the Alabama
Club on a social outing to Nocalula Falls, the picnickers
who were the subject of his photograph are reduced to
mites creeping under huge ribs of rock past an ominously
spectacular waterfall (fig. 2.30). The effect is
downright Faustiana remarkable and possibly
unintentional achievement by an artist whose mission was
to expound upon the delights of the area to potential
visitors and settlers.
If Horgan's Yankee sensibilities were aroused by the hard
23 Chester J. Kulesa, and Gwendoline E. Percival.
"The Life and Work of View Photographer John Horgan, Jr.,
1859-1926." The History of Northeastern Pennsylvania:
The Last 100 Years, 5th Annual. (Nanticoke,
Pennsylvania: Luzerne County Community College, 1993),
lot of the black field hands, servants, and sharecroppers
he photographed in the New South, he kept it to himself,
for he was in the employ of the plantation owners and the
railroads. Some prints sport cartoon-style captions
etched into negatives that reflect the ugliest
contemporary racist stereotypes. But most are simple,
beautifully realized landscapes dotted with people or
animals for scale (fig 2.31).
Again, the camera's elevated prospect suggests an orderly
realm where hardworking blacks are supervised by
paternalistic white overseersand presided over by the
all-seeing eye of the camera. (In these utterly flat
bottom lands, he probably had his camera mounted on top
of a railroad car.24) Straightforward and detailed, the
photographs proclaim, "we have nothing to hide" on behalf
of the white plantation owners (fig. 2.32).
On a plantation outing, blacks go along too, but in a
separate little barge, trailing the white family in its
sleek rowboat, presumably to be on hand if their services
24 I am greatly indebted to Professor James
Enyeart of the College of Santa Fe (New Mexico), for this
be required. Yet it was black workers at a cotton gin,
not the white picnickers at Nocalula Falls, who provided
Horgan with the only close-up among the Denver Horgan
photographs. It is an image that approaches greatness.
Black and White Mixed in the Press Room (fig. 2.33), for
all its implicit Jim Crow attitude, is a sympathetic and
powerful image worthy of Winslow Homer (fig. 2.34). The
contrast between the expression of surprise of the man on
the right and the fatigue and melancholy of his co-worker
speaks volumes about the estate of these free yet unequal
workers in the white man's world.
It was from such places in the United States, the farms
and villages, cities and towns of the East and South with
their established, even sedentary, ways and worrisome
social problems that millions of Americansand newly
arrived men and women from almost everywhereturned to
the West and its lure of freedom, wealth, and boundless
AMERICAN EDEN: THE WEST AND ITS EXPLORATION
I cross the Laramie plains, I note the rocks in
grotesque shapes, the buttes. .
I see in glimpses afar or towering immediately above me
the great mountains, I see the Wind river and
the Wahsatch mountains,
I see the Monument mountain and the Eagle's nest, I
pass the Promontory, I ascend the Nevadas,
I scan the noble Elk mountain and wind around its base,
I see the Humboldt range, I thread the valley and cross
I see the clear waters of lake Tahoe, I see forests of
Or crossing the great desert, the alkaline plains, I
behold enchanting mirages of waters and meadows. .
Walt Whitman, Passage to India
Dauntlessness, ingenuity, and practicality: three traits
modern citizens of the United States hold as a proud
legacy of their forebears. In the 19th century, these
characteristics were augmented simply by performing the
monumental task of charting America's real estate.
Revolution had wrested the thirteen original states from
the English empire; wars, purchases, and treaties would
quickly build a nation that stretched between the
Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Old Northwest, whose
outpost of civilization was Chicago, suddenly found
itself in the middle of the country, not on the frontier.
The boundary between Canada and the United States was
finally fixed at the 49th parallel, ending the border
dispute over what were to be the states of Washington and
Oregon. The United States' defeat of Mexico in 1848
brought as spoils the huge territory that included Texas,
New Mexico, Arizona, and California. A year later, gold
was discovered near Sacramento, setting off a stampede to
the Far West.
Before the country could catch its breath, San Francisco
had blossomed into a great mercantile and mining center,
and other maritime cities of the Pacific coastPortland,
Seattle, Los Angeleswere growing, too. The enormous
interior was attracting some settlers and speculators,
but between the Mississippi River and the Pacific coast
the United States was a country divided by itself. It
was not really terra incognita, but it was enigmatic and
challenging. And much of it was supposedly reserved for
Indian tribes for their use.
Obviously it was time to take stock. The photographer's
lens, like the surveyor's theodolite, was a tool that by
capturing a permanent record of what could be seen, could
assist in literally and figuratively appropriating a
continenta continent occupied by thousands of
indigenous Americans. Rarely has the equation of
knowledge and power been as elegant as it was in the
taking of the American West, the hightide of Manifest
While adventurers, farmers, and gold-seekers surged west
to quest for fortunes, stay-at-home Americans wondered
what their strange new land might be like. Photographers
went right along to the West, and the views they
captured, distributed as prints, stereograph cards, or
albums complete with descriptions of the sites, showed an
America more expansive and dramatic in form than
previously dreamed of. The photographs seemed to depict
an unspoiled American Eden, a nation whose destiny was
unfolding right before the camera's lens.
25 Albert Boime. The Magisterial Gaze: Manifest
Destiny and American Landscape Painting c. 1830-1865.
(Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press,
1991), 150-151, and passim.
Photographers were artists, but they were supremely
practical people, too. Many of the great landscape
photographers of the 19th century joined railroad or
government expeditions, and their views were used to
promote railways and settlements. The effect of
photography in exploration was paradoxical. It became a
powerful instrument for the exploitation of the
continent's riches, yet it was also the primary force in
the movement to create national parks and wilderness
Likewise, the photographers were an integral part of the
expansionist impulse that displaced America's native
peoples and irreparably changed their lives. At the same
time, their photographs are an invaluable document of the
Native Americans at the very moment their cultures were
overtaken by history. The pioneer photographers were
impelled by some of the same ideals (and commissions)
that drove painters like George Catlin and Karl Bodmer
into the field.
Photography was truly a mammoth undertaking in the 19th
century. Enlargements from small negatives were not
practical, and photographers carried heavy cameras, many
sheets of fragile glass for various sizes of contact
prints, and sometimes-unreliable photographic chemicals
across rugged terrain by mule pack, or in wagons, or
later in jolting railroad cars. Bad weather regularly
interrupted their work, and exposed glass plates,
finished and ready to print, were often broken.
Clarence S. Jackson remembered with admiration the skill
of his father, William Henry Jackson, in preparing the
I recall. seeing my father coat an 18 x 22
plate. He balanced it carefully on the thumb and
fingers of his left hand, poured a pool of collodion
in the far, left-hand corner of the plate, and then
slowly worked the thick fluid about he edges and all
over the plate until it reached the near, right-hand
corner. So sure and careful was his hand that
never a drop was spilled. This was hard enough
to do in the studio, let alone on the top of a
mountain in driving gales. .(fig. 3.3) 26
Even after the advent of reliable gelatin dry-plate
photography early in the 1880s, rough (or non-existent)
roads and fragile glass conspired to make photography an
adventure in the wilderness.
26 Clarence S. Jackson. Picture Maker of the Old
West, William H. Jackson. (New York: Bonanza Books,
In 1867, with the Civil War behind it, the United States
began the task of exploring, mapping, and studying its
new possessions in the West. That year Clarence King's
Fortieth Parallel survey was organized; its activities
were the model for the subsequent expeditions for the
next twenty years.
A new appointment on these post-war surveys was the
position of official photographer, and almost all
important western landscape photographers of the last
quarter of the century worked for one of the major
government surveys (which were staffed partly by military
men, partly by civilians), or for the railroads, which,
with the mining industry, were the most immediate
beneficiaries of these studies. Many were employed by
In California, the independent photographer Carleton
Watkins (1825-1916) was attached to a survey party. He
became associated with the California State Geological
Survey in 1865, but he had earlier worked for individual
members.27 He was in the Yosemite Valley at about the
same time as Josiah Whitney and his crew, who were
measuring the valley after Congress declared it a public
pleasure area in 1864. After they became acquainted,
Whitney used some of Watkins' 1861 Yosemite images
(reproduced as woodcut engravings) for his Report of
Progress for 1860-1864. However, Watkins was never on
the U.S. Government payroll.
Around 1863, Watkins had met up with the German-born
artist Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) in Northern
California. Bierstadt had traveled with the Frederick
Landers party in the Wind River Range of Wyoming and
other parts of the West in 1859. Bierstadt was a fairly
good amateur photographer who used prints as aides-
memoires for his Wagnerian studio paintings of Western
scenery. (Bierstadt's brothers, Charles and Edward, were
professional photographers.) It is possible that Watkins
and Bierstadt took some pictures side by side in the
Yosemite. (figs. 3.1 and 3.2) Yet most of Watkins'
shooting excursions had been either speculative or
27 Peter Palmquist. Carleton E. Watkins,
Photographer of the American West. Foreword by Martha A.
Sandweiss. (Fort Worth, Texas: The Amon Carter Museum
of Western Art, 1983), 24.
informally subsidized. That was to change when the
federal government got into the survey business.
Surveys and expeditions regularly had distinguished
artists and draftsmen in tow. For reasons of both
convenience and safety, solitary painters like George
Catlin, who peeled off from civilization to work and live
among the Indians, were exceptional. John Mix Stanley
traveled with Colonel Stephen Kearny's party to the
Southwest in the 1840s. Thomas Worthington Whittredge
(who trained as a photographer, but became disillusioned
with the profession after a disastrous partnership in an
Indianapolis daguerreotype studio in 1842)28 accompanied
John Pope to Colorado and New Mexico during the war.
Sanford Gifford left traveling companions Whittredge and
John Kensett behind in Denver to join Ferdinand V.
Hayden's survey to the Northwest in 1870. A year later
Thomas Moran attached himself to Hayden's Yellowstone
However, the guick acceptance of photography as an
28 Anthony F. Janson. Worthington Whittredge.
(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press,
objective medium with the capacity for recording
information in a scientific manner made it the pictorial
medium of choice for the government surveys.
The post-Civil War surveys were fortunate in having the
pick of a generation of highly-trained photographers
younger than Watkins and as footloose and daring as any
mythical pioneer. Many of these men had been
photographers during the war. Some, like Alexander
Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan, worked in the atelier of
the successful but ungenerous Mathew Brady, who fell out
with them and several other of his staff photographers.
Brady had denied them credit for images they had taken,
and published the pictures under his own name. The
practice was common enough at the time, but Brady's fame
and success during the Civil War perhaps made his
operatives' forced anonymity especially galling.
When Clarence King set out to chart the lands along the
40th Parallel, he had with him Timothy O'Sullivan, whose
photographs of the dead at Gettysburg inspired (through
contemporary engravings) Lincoln's sentiments in the
The survey took them to the
trackless regions of what are now the states of Nevada,
Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. When the survey ended in
1870, O'Sullivan attached himself to the Central American
Darien expedition that was exploring the best route for a
canal to cross the Isthmus of Panama.
The very next year O'Sullivan was back in North America,
and was hired on (or rather, lent out by King, to whose
survey he was still attached) by Lt. General George
Wheeler for the grandly-titled United States Geographic
Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian.30 For the
next four years but one, O'Sullivan, with surveyors,
geologists, and paleontologists, crossed and recrossed
the Southwest. The photographer, whose eye was sensitive
to the astonishing natural architecture of the area, made
some of Western America's most celebrated landscape
photographs (figs. 3.4 and 3.5).
29 William Welling. Photography in America: The
Formative Years 1839-1900. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell
Company, 1978), 217.
30 Rick Dingus. The Photographic Artifacts of
Timothy O'Sullivan. (Albuguergue, New Mexico: The
University of New Mexico Press, 1982), 10.
For such an uncanny landscape there were few pictorial
models, yet there is an assurance in O'Sullivan's
compositions that shows careful consideration of formal
devices that isolate and enhance his subjects. While
some writers have surmised that O'Sullivan was a
"primitive," untouched by the concerns of art, it is
likely that he was exposed at least to the Ruskinian
perspective through his association with Clarence King,
who was widely read, an enthusiast of both American and
European painting, and a member of the Society for Truth
in Art, which was devoted to Ruskinian principles.31
The English critic and social theorist John Ruskin (1819-
1900) was at that time the most eminent authority in
European and American art. At mid-century, he had both
made and collected daguerreotypes, but later dismissed
photography as a trivial and slavishly mechanical form.
However, he appreciated its superlative powers of
observation, which he regarded as a signal virtue in high
art. Like the American Transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, Thoreau, and the poet William Cullen Bryant,
31 Ibid., 52.
Ruskin decried the wastefulness and ugliness of
commercialism, but did not abjure urban living as the
Americans did (at least in theory). Like them, Ruskin
believed that art, when suitably attuned to the
representation of nature and guided by the illuminati,
could lead to social improvement in the masses. Thought
from both sides of the Atlantic effortlessly conflated
materialism and mysticism in ways that surprise a late
In the youthful United States, Transcendentalism was the
philosophical underpinning of Manifest Destiny. This
ideathat the duty of white Americans was to inexorably
move westward into new territories, improving themselves
and it,(and possibly the natives) on the wayexpressed
itself in the contemporary surveys. Mensuration, naming,
and description of land (in which photography was an
invaluable tool) were tantamount to claiming it.
Conquest of territory was not as important to Ruskin,
living in long-settled Britain. Yet his emphasis on
truthfulness, on faithful representation of detail, on
the rejection of the "Pathetic Fallacy" in art (imputing
human feelings to animals or things), accorded with the
principal character of photography,
on keen observation also reflected a microcosm-macrocosm
duality that saw the order and structure of the great in
the very smallsomething else the Transcendentalists
used to infer the numinous workings of the Deity revealed
through nature. Photography's apparently mechanical and
deadpan imagery seemed incapable of deceit and was
gloriously attuned to the imposition on the continent of
a Euro-American vision. In O'Sullivan's survey prints,
the quite intentional combination of grand vistas banked
with dark areas and contrasted with minutely-detailed
passages strongly suggests that he knew about Ruskin's
notions of observation at least by hearsay.
In the field season of 1872 O'Sullivan was recalled by
King, and was replaced on the Wheeler expedition by
William Bell, a British-born doctor-photographer who had
made medical photographs documenting war injuries, the
use of prostheses by maimed veterans, and other
scientific images. Bell's aesthetic was, if anything,
more radical than O'Sullivan's, and he was strongly
attracted to the abstract qualities of the weird
geological formations and the harsh, angular light of the
Southwestern deserts (figs. 3.6 and 3.7). Regrettably
for desert landscape photography, Bell detested the West.
When his hitch with the Wheeler Expedition was over, he
lived in the Colorado Springs area for a time, then
returned with all speed to Philadelphia, where he
operated a successful portrait studio for the rest of his
life. His son-in-law was the Lehigh Valley Railroad's
photographer, William Rau (figs. 2.20 and 2.21).
The conditions for work, even survival, were especially
appalling on the Wheeler survey as it passed through
Arizona and Death Valley. The collodion plates could
scarcely be kept from drying out before exposure;
volatile chemicals boiled in 120F temperatures. Men and
pack animals were sickened by the dust and heat;
O'Sullivan fell out of his studio boat, The Picture, into
the Colorado River and nearly drowned.
After completing the printing of the survey views in
Washington, D.C., in 1876, O'Sullivan continued to make
photographs. He was appointed to the post of chief
photographer for the U.S. Treasury Department in 1880,
but held the job only five months. His health broken by
tuberculosis and the rigors of the many expeditions on
which he had served, O'Sullivan died at Staten Island,
New York, in 1882, at the age of 42.
Clearly, the life of an itinerant landscape photographer
was for the resilient and lucky. German-born John K.
(Jack) Hillers (1843-1925) learned the art and craft of
photography only after a stint as a Union artillery
soldier during and after the Civil War. In 1870,
mustered out in New York City, where he grew up, Hillers
guickly became fed up with city living. Like thousands
of other rootless men, Hillers was looking for
employmentprospecting for silver or working as a
teamsterwhen he met the energetic explorer, Major John
Wesley Powell, in Salt Lake City. He joined Powell's
1871 survey that set out from Green River City, Wyoming.
Thus began Hillers' lifetime association with Powell and
a distinguished career as a professional photographer.
Hired as a boatman, Hillers showed such a positive
facility for photography that he replaced the survey's
original photographer, E.O. Beaman, when Beaman left
after falling out with Powell only a few months into the
32 Don D. Fowler. Myself in the Water: The
Western Photographs of John K. Hillers. (Washington and
London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), 15, 21,
Hillers' images (fig. 3.8) possess unusual clarity and
sharpness of detail, and a definite, clearly intentional
style resembling contemporary painting with in
comparison to O'Sullivan's architectonic views and Bell's
penchant for the grotesque in natural forms.
The longest-lived of all the adventurous frontier
photographers (and certainly the best self-promoter) was
William Henry Jackson (1843-1942). He was born in
upstate New York, and by the age of fourteen was working
as a retoucher in the studio of a local photographer. He
fancied himself an artist and great diarist, and he drew,
painted, and wrote profusely throughout his long life.
Like many another young American of his time, he had a
sharp case of wanderlust. After leaving home abruptly
upon quarrelling with his sweetheart, he went through a
series of jobs, including portrait painting, cattle
droving, and "bullwhacking"driving a freight wagon and
team of oxen out West. Soon he and his brother, Ed,
borrowed some money from their parents and set up a
photographic studio in Omaha, headquarters of the Union
Pacific Railroad.33 In this boom town they took the
outdoor and studio pictures that constituted the
photographer's bread and butter: "straight portrait
jobs; group pictures of lodges; church societies, and
political clubs; and outdoor shots that gratified civic
pride. Now and then, too, somebody would order
pictures of his new house. . . "3^
Even this life was too settled for him, and leaving the
studio in the care of his brother, he set off in 1869 in
the company of photographer A.C. Hull on a jaunt that
took them all over the West. They hustled photographs to
customers in the settlements and end-of-track hells, even
convincing, (with the help of a couple of bottles of
wine), the tough madam of Cheyenne, Wyoming's best
whorehouse that she needed some pictures for her walls.35
33 Weston J. Naef, and James N. Wood. Era of
Exploration: The Rise of Landscape Photography in the
American West, 1860-1885. Essay by Therese Thau Heyman.
(Buffalo: New York, and New York: The Albright-Knox Art
Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975), 220.
3^ William Henry Jackson. Time Exposure. (New
York: Cooper Sguare Publishers, Inc., 1970), 173.
35 Ibid., 177, and Naef and Wood, Era of
On what manner of any compensation over and above the
sixty dollars Madame Cleveland paid the youthful Jackson
and Hull, Jackson's biography, Time Exposure, remains
In his travels, he met Andrew Joseph Russell (1830-1902),
who with Charles Savage had taken the photographs of the
Golden Spike ceremony joining the Union Pacific and
Central Pacific railroads at Promontory, Utah, and
Jackson made some admiringly similar views along the
Union Pacific route. The meetings seemed to have
inspired him to take landscape photography seriously, for
in 1870 he joined geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden's survey
party, and was to remain with it every field season until
In 1871, the party visited the little-known Yellowstone
country, and the photographs he took there that year
were printed and bound into albums or issued in the form
of stereograph card sets. One version of the album was
presented to members of the United States House and
Senate, and was instrumental in making Yellowstone the
United States' first national park in 1872.
It was on the 1873 Hayden survey that Jackson took the
famous first picture of the Mountain of the Holy Cross in
Colorado (fig. 3.9). It was only one of many pictures
Jackson made during that season, but the image became a
popular sensation when it was published. Hayden refers
to Jackson's work with his customary matter-of-factness
in his transmittal letter to the Secretary of the
Interior that precedes the report published in 1874:
Mr. W.H. Jackson performed his duties in the field
with his usual success. His triumphs in the
mountain regions of Colorado are already well known
all over the country. and have proved of much
interest to the public generally.36
The picture spoke to the sensibilities of people reeling
under the scientific revelations of Alfred Russell
Wallace, and of Charles Darwin, who had published the
Origin of Species in 1859, and The Descent of Man in
1871. The curious natural formation seemed to reveal a
nature symbolic of a divine plan at work, a sign to
affirm the Christian faith as the proper vehicle to carry
God's will and word into the savage fastnesses of North
America. Jackson later took his colleague on the survey,
36 F[erdinand] Vfandiveer] Hayden. Sixth Annual
Report of the United States Geological Survey of the
Territories. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1874), 7.
the painter Thomas Moran, to view the landmark, and Moran
devoted numerous paintings in both oil and watercolor to
the subject (fig. 3.10).
Yet the myth of photography's truth to reality was as
powerful as the sentiment of the image itself, and it was
Jackson's photograph that was more admired. It won
medals at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876. A print
of it was bought by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
who hung it next to the portrait of his wife, Fanny, who
had perished in a fire, and was inspired to write The
Cross of Snow, which closes:
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.
William Henry Jackson was now a famous and successful
man, and he was beginning to feel seriously underpaid as
a government employee. He had been remarkably fortunate
to work on the survey. When he started out in 1870, he
was one of scores of photographers scrambling for jobs in
the West. The survey seasons in the company of
scientists and artists sharpened his observational skills
and talent for expository prose. By 1878, Jackson was
able to produce a long, detailed account of Chaco Canyon
and other Indian ruins in Southwestern Colorado for the
archaeology and ethnology section of the survey's annual
report.37 And he was a renowned photographer.
The Hayden expeditions came to a close in 1879, when the
United States Geological Survey was created. Jackson
bought his photographic equipment from Hayden and, coming
to roost at least for a while, opened the first of
several photographic studios in Denver, in a new building
at 413 Larimer Street. Though he was now a married man
with a young and growing family, he remained committed to
as liberated a profession as possible: "I was still firm
in my resolve never to coop myself up indoors again. .
In the summers. I could work for the railroads and
the big picture jobbersand for my own pleasure. In the
winters, I would stick to my bench and make money.1'38
37 F[erdinand] V[andiveer] Hayden. Sixth Annual
Report of the United States Geological Survey of the
Territories. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1878), 409-450.
38 W.H. Jackson. Time Exposure, 255.
The Iron Horse and the Talking Wire
There is more poetry in the rush of a single railroad
train across the continent than in all the gory story of
Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872) was a remarkably
versatile man even for that dilettantish era when a
gentleman could respectably claim to be expert in several
artistic, literary, and scientific fields. Originality
was not a necessity; cleverness and novelty alone could
bring acclaim and sometimes great fortune.
Morse was both inventor and portrait painter. He was
chiefly known as the latter in 1844 when he presented to
the United States Congress, some of whose members had
been his sitters, a new and improved version of the
French scientist Andre Ampere's device for sending
messages by electric signal through wires. The politicos
were impressed. Morse received a patent, plus government
backing. His gadget, the electric telegraph, which
allowed almost instantaneous communication between
distant towns and cities, was in commercial use in three
In a little over a decade, more than 50,000 miles of wire
were strung, and the telegraph reached the Pacific Coast
in 1861.40 Its chattering tongue told of the gold and
silver strikes in the Rockies and in California, of the
fertility of the boundless plains and of unplatted farms
just waiting for the plow, of the desperate actions of
the Indians to keep their land and livelihood, and make
the whites keep their promises.
Like a noisy little herald, the telegraph darted west
ahead of the railroad, proclaiming its advent. But it
did not need to do so. The clanging of the iron-men
laying the tracks, the songs of the head spikers,
fishplate bolters, and track liners; the whoop and rumble
of the locomotives as the steam built up in their
boilers; the great cheer that rose when the railroad
39 Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. The Visible Hand: The
Managerial Revolution in American Business. Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, 1977), 89.
reached Rock Island, Illinois, reverberated faintly
across the country like very distant thunder. The
frontier stopped and held its breath as if waiting for
the onslaught of a line storm.
The storm broke in 1856 at Rock Island when the railroad
vaulted the Mississippi River on Henry Farnam's bridge,
crossing over to Davenport on the Iowa bank. The bridge
was short-lived; a mysterious accident caused it to burn
and fall after only a few days. Most likely it was the
victim of economic retaliation by riverboat captains. A
lawsuit that found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court
established the God-approved, "Manifest Destiny" of
Americans to move westward with all their conveniences,
and the right of railroads to bridge rivers in pursuit of
that goal.41 The lawyer who represented the Chicago &
Rock Island in the bridge case, and who argued eloquently
for Manifest Destiny, was Abraham Lincoln.42
41 The phrase was first used by John Louis
O'Sullivan in an article published in the United States
Magazine and Democratic Review (July-August 1845); "Our
manifest destiny is to overspread the continent allotted
by Providence for the free development of our yearly
42 Dee Brown. Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow.
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977), 12.
The Civil War slowed, but by no means halted railroad
building, and at its conclusion railroad fever broke out
afresh, spurred by both the need to restore the South's
broken and neglected lines, and to reestablish its
practical links with the rest of the Union. The
railroads became the Union's welcome to the prodigals
The post-war decade saw an incredible nation-wide boom in
railroads and they became the first recognizable American
big business, directed by far-sighted, usually rapacious
entrepreneurs, with layers of expert managers, a
hierarchy of skilled workers, and a vast communications
network made possible by the telegraph. The device
permitted instantaneous communication of news and changes
of orders among dozens of remote outstations, and the
regularizing of procedures throughout a vast and complex
network. Modern financing, labor relations, research and
development, promotion, and government participation and
regulation, too, were present in the system-building of
The machinations, stock-manipulations, takeovers,
failures, and relinquishments in the railroad industry in
the last half of the 19th century also have a modern air.
The hand-in-glove relationship of the U.S. government
with railroad barons during the great period of expansion
in the 1860s, 70s, and 80s, is still a provocative
subject, for many wholesale grants of land for railroad
rights-of-way were given over from property ceded
previously by treaty to Native Americans tribes for their
White Americans took great pride in the extension of the
rails into the frontier. The prospect of endless streams
of ore and other raw materials coming east and a
limitless supply of new consumers streaming west on the
trains painted a heady economic picture. This was the
vision that inspired the painter Emmanuel Leutze, whose
Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way (1862) adorns
43 Alfred D. Chandler, ed., The Railroads: The
Nation's First Big Business. (New York: Harcourt, Brace
& World, 1965), 9.
the United States Capitol. Another artist, Fanny Frances
Palmer's, designed a famous Currier and Ives lithograph
of the same title (1868) that actually features a train
delivering farmers and travelers to a thriving village
and points beyond while Indians look on, about to be
enveloped by the clouds from the engine's smokestack
The spread of the railroad caused the fiercely
chauvinistic adopted California poet, Joaquin Miller, to
crow, "There is more glory in one railroad train rushing
across the continent than in the whole gory story of
burning Troy," while the normally sardonic journalist and
short story writer Bret Harte composed a half-ironic,
half-patriotic paean to the railroad adventure, What the
"Listen! Where Atlantic beats
Shores of snow and summer heats
Where the Indian autumn skies
Paint the woods with wampum dyes,
I have chased the flying sun,
Seeing all he looked upon,
Blessing all that he has blessed,
Nursing in my iron breast
All his vivifying heat,
All his clouds about my crest;
And before my flying feet
Every shadow must retreat."
The sense of history was large at the period of railroad
building in the United States. Surely this great
civilizing influence and triumph of engineering needed to
be documented as it was taking place, and the advantages
of railroad travel for freight and supercargo needed to
be promoted to potential customers. What could be more
suitable to both these ends than photography? The
railroads built into territories right on the heels of
the Government survey parties, and they hired many of the
same seasoned photographers make pictures for them.
The race across the continent to create a railroad link
across the vast interior caught the popular imagination
like no other idea since the passions of the Civil War.
The Central Pacific, building east from San Francisco,
and Union Pacific, starting west from Nebraska, risked
shareholders' money and squandered the lives of many
workers in their headlong pursuit of the first
Each railroad had an official photographer. Alfred A.
Hart (who died before the transcontinental link was made
and was succeeded by Charles Savage) was the photographer
for the Central Pacific. The Union Pacific's
photographer for this venture was a Civil War veteran who
had been a penmanship teacher and painter in Nunda, New
York, Alfred Joseph Russell. After coming west, he
worked as a sometime correspondent for his hometown
paper. Frank Leslie's Magazine, a popular news and
entertainment publication, also reproduced engravings
after some of Russell's photographs.44
As his railroad edged west, Russell took pictures along
the route, showing the bizarre land formations of Wyoming
and Utah, raw railhead towns like Laramie, Wyoming, and
the Hells-on-Wheels. Gone were the grandiose and
uninhabited prospects envisioned by Carleton Watkins and
Albert Bierstadt in the 1860s, poetic glimpses of the
Edenic wilderness. This was progress in its unvarnished
form. Russell liked using figures for scale, a device he
undoubtedly picked up in his study of painting (figs.
3.12), but his photographs show the newsman's eye for
drama and immediacy.
In 1869, the Union Pacific published an album of
Russell's views of the building of the road, The Great
44 Naef and Wood. Era of Exploration, 202.
West Illustrated; a complete, never disassembled copy
resides in the Denver Art Museum's collection. However,
neither this book nor the renowned shot of the Golden
Spike ceremony, with the locomotives facing each other at
Promontory Point, Utah (fig. 3.13) brought Russell
lasting fame. When the photograph was reproduced in line
in Harper's, it was credited to Charles Savage, and the
confusion persisted for years. After the railroad was
completed, Russell took photographs in the Sacramento
Valley. Then he returned east and opened a studio in New
York City where he lived the rest of his life, a moderate
success with tremendous memories.
If the views along the lines and the pictorial documents
of the great day in 1869 did little for Russell, they did
a lot for the railroads. Like Albert Bierstadt's
paintings of the Sierras that were commissioned by the
Central Pacific, Russell's photographs of the route from
Omaha to California implied to investors and the public
a suggestion quickly reinforced with heavy advertising
that this spectacular scenery could be viewed from the
safety of the railroad coach, or better, in the comfort
of the Pullman Palace cars, invented in the 1850s and
steadily improved to a shameless level of luxury.45
hardships of wagon train days were over. Even the rough-
and-ready photographers were about to benefit.
In Denver, the indefatigable William Henry Jackson found
a good customer in Denver and Rio Grande Railway, from
which he received a large commission in 1881 (fig. 3.14).
Shuttling up and down the line in a special studio car,
he produced spectacular views of the chasms and gorges
through which the railroad wound, and breathtaking
pictures of the expansive scenery of New Mexico This
kind of contemplative view did much to sell the idea of a
leisurely trip through glorious country, with time for
little side trips, perhaps, to such sites as the Taos
pueblo and encounters with suitably pacified and
romantic-looking Indians, (figs. 3.15 and 3.16)
Jackson was first employed by the Santa Fe Railroad in
1892 and accompanied his old friend from Hayden Survey
days, Thomas Moran, to the Grand Canyon where they made
pictures together. In 1902 he toured the Southwest in a
45 William H. Truettner, ed., et. al. The West As
America: Reinterpreting the Images of the Frontier,
1820-1920. (Washington and London: The Smithsonian
Institution Press, 1991), 265.
Santa Fe Railway car specially outfitted to serve as a
traveling showroom for Detroit Photographic Company
views. Two years later (1904) the firm changed its name
to the Detroit Publishing Company and signed a contract
to produce picture postcards and other photographs for
hotelier and travel booster extraordinaire, Fred Harvey,
and the Santa Fe. The increased demand for views meant
not only reshooting but recycling; photographs were
retouched and cropped to look more "modern" or
"traditional" according where and to whom they might be
Between 1879 and 1897, Jackson presided over the most
prestigious national view company in Denver, specializing
initially in western landscapes but increasingly in
stereoscopic portraits of Native Americans as well. When
he joined Detroit Photographic, the company received
twenty thousand negatives of his own and other western
photographers. Their images, reproduced in line in
travel brochures, as souvenir chromolithographs and
postcards, and newspaper halftones and gravure
46 Marta Weigle, and Barbara A. Babcock. The
Great Southwest of the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa
Fe Railway. (Phoenix, Arizona: The Heard Museum, 1996),
illustrations, entered the world of mass culture and
Jackson became known as the "Father of the Picture
The railroad photographer par excellence was a younger
man than Jackson, however. He was Frank Jay Haynes
(1853-1921), born in Saline, Michigan, near Detroit. To
eke out his family's shaky finances, he worked as a
traveling salesman without great success, then took a job
in the photographic studio of one S.C. Graham in Beaver
Dam, Wisconsin. After a few months, he moved on to a
better-known photographer, William Lockwood of Ripon, and
worked there as a general studio hand and printer.48
A romance that developed between Haynes and Lockwood's
young sister-in-law, Lily Snyder, led Lockwood to fire
Haynes in 1876. Haynes moved on to Moorhead, Minnesota,
a small town near Fargo, and outfitted a studio (fig.
3.17). There he came into contact with the local
superintendent of the Northern Pacific Railroad, a line
48 Montana Historical Society. F. Jay Haynes,
Photographer. (Helena, Montana: The Montana Historical
Society Press, 1981), 8.
based in Brainerd, Minnesota. He obtained a contract to
produce photographs and stereo views along the N.P.R.R.
track which ended in Bismarck, Dakota Territory.
After a couple of years of studio and field work, Haynes
had become prosperous enough to overcome the Lockwood
family's resistance, and he returned to claim Lily as his
spouse. They set to work raising a family and running
their photographic concern in Moorhead as the typical
"mom-and-pop" operation seen in photography studios to
this day: the husband taking the photographs, and the
wife doing the retouching, and perhaps the accounts and
some printing as well.
By 1881, Haynes was working as "authorized photographer"
for several railroads near the U.S.-Canada line. When he
had completed these assignments, the Northern Pacific
sent him to take pictures of Yellowstone National Park.
Once there, Haynes sagely perceived the commercial
possibilities of Yellowstone landscapes, and he
petitioned at once for a concession which was finally
granted by the park service in 1884.49 He returned to
49 Ibid., 13.
the park every year from 1882 until his deathafter 1885
in the Palace Studio Car outfitted for him by the
Northern Pacific (fig. 3.18). He also had a stationary
headquarters in the park itself, near Mammoth Hot
The views that Haynes made were taken with a view to
encouraging ridership on the Northern Pacific, and
tourism to the Yellowstone. As if it were symbolic of
the contradictions in the entire history of the West,
Haynes' work shows burgeoning settlements side by side
with the grandeur of unspoiled landscape.
For all Haynes' matter-of-factness as a photographer and
a businessman, there could hardly be a more striking
demonstration of subjectivity in landscape photography
than a comparison of two views of the natural landmark,
Rooster Rock, in Oregon, in the Denver Art Museum's
collection (figs. 3.21 and 3.22). Carleton Watkins had
photographed the site on more than one occasion. In this
version, he shows the rock as a very striking feature of
the landscape, nothing more, with the railroad running
hard by as if inviting us to come there on the train and
admire this splendid natural monument. Haynes' picture
is much more dramatic. The rock looms up dark against
the sky. With much of the surrounding scene vignetted
out, the formation takes on a lonely, romantic, somewhat
sinister appearance. (Haynes may simply have cupped his
hand around the lens barrel rather than used a vignetter
or mask, for the shape of the image is somewhat
irregular.) Rooster Rock approaches the borders of the
sublime. Haynes discovered in nature the obdurate and
forbidding gualities that many of his American
contemporaries, whether photographers or painters,
overlooked. It is the landscape of the dream we see
here, the strange realm that Thomas Cole had earlier
investigated in his great painting serial, The Voyage of
Life. Yet this is a photograph, and so the dream must be
In less than twenty years, the country had been knit
together with iron rails. Travel had gone from being a
life-threatening experience to a safe, entertaiping, and
perhaps ultimately boring excursion. What had been the
frontier was evaporating, and the hardships of the era
were quickly enshrined in a nostalgic glow. More
poignant, however, because it was real, not imaginary and
sentimental, was the fate of the original Americans.
SHADOW CATCHERS AND ORIGINAL AMERICANS
But why should I mourn the untimely fate of my
people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows
nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the
order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time
of decay may be distantbut it will surely come,
for even the White Man whose God walked and talked
with him as friend with friend, can not be exempt
from the common destiny.
We may be brothers after all. We will see.
Chief Sealth, Speech to Governor Isaac Stevens
of the Washington Territory.
Okonee, Koosa, Monongahela, Sauk, Natchez,
Chattahoochee, Kaqueta, Oronoco,
Wabash, Miami, Saginaw, Chippewa, Oshkosh,
Leaving such to the States they melt,
charging the water and the land with names.
Walt Whitman, Starting from Paumanok
From the time of Columbus, Europeans' interest in the
native peoples of the Americas was intense. Even while
it was still believed that the tribes encountered in the
earliest explorations were inhabitants of India, their
customs, languages, and especially their appearance were