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Guide to the Early American West Photograph Collection
circa 1861-1900
  PR 266

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Kelly McAnnaney

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 10, 2022
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: New-York Historical Society
Title: Early American West photograph collection
Dates [inclusive]: circa 1861-1900
Abstract: The Early American West Photograph Collection spans the period from circa 1861-1900 and primarily contains photographs of landscapes of the American west taken by F. Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Andrew J. Russell, Isaiah West Taber and Carleton E. Watkins.
Quantity: 3.42 Linear feet (4 boxes & 3 flat files)
Language: The material in the collection is photographic, but any text is in English.
Call Phrase: PR 266

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Historical Note

The American west was an understandable draw for early photographers. Its grand, unspoiled views inspired artists and captured the imaginations of patrons willing to purchase such images. These stunning views of the western landscape are only made more impressive when one considers the work that went into creating them. Photographers traveled long distances with heavy equipment, worked in makeshift darkrooms coating massive glass plates, exposing and developing their photographs in the field. The fact that any of these images survived is a testament to the skill of photographers willing to take up the challenge of documenting the American west.

Photographers represented in this collection include:

F. Jay Haynes (1853-1921), a studio photographer from the North Dakota Territory, was commissioned in 1876 to photograph along the route of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Working from a railroad car equipped with a darkroom and studio, Haynes captured images of natural scenery as well as the transformation of the west by the railroad. In 1884 he opened a studio and gallery in Yellowstone, selling photographs of the park's scenery to tourists and serving as the official photographer of Yellowstone National Park.

William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) began his career at the age of 15 as a photographic retoucher and colorist. In 1862 Jackson enlisted in the Union Army. After his service he traveled west, opening a studio in Omaha, Nebraska with his brother Edward. The studio specialized in portrait photography, a subject that held little interest for Jackson. In 1869, he focused on his love of the landscape, traveling with A.C. Hull and photographing the Union Pacific Railroad, the new settlements along the line, and the surrounding landscape. He was soon hired on as a photographer for the U.S. Geological Survey of the Territories, commissioned by Professor Ferdinand Hayden, and photographed expeditions from 1870-1877.

After funding for Hayden's surveys was discontinued, Jackson relocated to Denver, Colorado, where he opened a new studio. There he worked primarily as a landscape photographer, selling images from his travels and creating new work. In 1897, Jackson became a partner in the Detroit Photographic Company, which produced postcards and other printed material. He continued to work, photographing, painting murals and writing two autobiographies, until his death in 1942.

Andrew J. Russell (1830-1902) became the first member of the armed services to officially photograph the Civil War. The majority of his work was done for the Military Railroad, documenting transportation and engineering projects as well as battle sites. Russell left the army in 1865 and found work with the Union Pacific Railroad Company, documenting the construction of a transcontinental railroad. He left the Union Pacific Railroad in 1870 and returned to New York. There he opened a studio and never traveled west again.

Isaiah West Taber (1830-1912), after working for a photographic studio from 1864-1871, opened his own gallery in San Francisco. There he worked as both a photographer and publisher, printing and distributing his own work and the work of others. In the 1870s, Taber acquired and printed negatives from Carleton Watkins after Watkins went bankrupt. These images were printed in Taber's name though many still bear Watkins numbers and titles. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed the majority of Taber's stock and ended his career.

Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916) traveled to California in 1851, during the gold rush, with his friend C. P. Huntington. After studying photography with Robert Vance, Watkins opened his own practice, photographing up and down the Pacific Coast, as well as taking spectacular images of Yosemite. Unfortunately his business skills were less spectacular and he declared bankruptcy in 1875, losing his studio and negatives to Isaiah Taber.

Watkins continued to photograph, attempting to create a new series of views and rebuild his inventory. He revisited locations he photographed in the 1860s, calling the images "Watkins New Series." By the mid-1890s Watkins' eyesight was failing. In 1906 he lost his new work when the San Francisco earthquake destroyed his studio. Watkins was admitted to the Napa State Hospital in 1910, where he died six years later.

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Scope and Content Note

The Early American West Photograph Collection spans the period from circa 1861-1900 and primarily contains photographs of the American west taken by F. Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Andrew J. Russell, Isaiah West Taber and Carleton E. Watkins. The collection contains several mammoth plate albumen prints by Jackson and Watkins, which are listed by title in the folder list. The collection is divided into four series by size: 8 x 10 Inches & Smaller; 11 x 14 Inches; 16 x 20 Inches; 22 x 28 Inches.

Series I. 8 x 10 Inches & Smaller contains photographs by the following photographers: F. Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Isaiah West Taber and Carleton E. Watkins. The photographs taken by F. Jay Haynes are images of Yellowstone National Park. Photographs taken by William Henry Jackson are souvenir cabinet cards of Colorado. Locations include Boulder, Central City, Colorado Springs, Denver, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Leadville and Silverton. Portrait images by Jackson, as well as other, unidentified photographers, show photographers and artists working in the western landscape.Isaiah West Taber photographs are all images of California and include photographs of Healdsburg, Los Angeles, Menlo Park, Monterey, Napa, San Diego, San Francisco, San Gabriel, San Rafael and Yosemite Valley. Photographs taken by Carleton Watkins include images of Arizona, California and Nevada. Many of these prints are from "Watkins' New Boudoir Series."

Series II. 11 x 14 Inches contains ten photographs by William Henry Jackson. Nine images are from the Hayden Survey. A single image appears to have been taken in New Mexico and is not part of the Hayden Survey photographs.

Series III. 16 x 20 Inches is comprised of albumen photographs by William Henry Jackson and Andrew J. Russell. Jackson's photographs were taken in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and are primarily scenic views. Andrew J. Russell photographs are all images of Utah.

Series IV. 22 x 28 Inches contains albumen photographs by William Henry Jackson and Carleton Watkins. Jackson's images are all scenic views of Colorado. Carleton Watkins photographs are all images of Oregon and Yosemite Valley. The titles given were transcribed from handwritten notes on each print.

Arrangement

Photographs are divided into series by size and arranged alphabetically first by photographer, then by geographic location.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Haynes, F. Jay (Frank Jay), 1853-1921
  • Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942
  • Russell, Andrew J.
  • Taber, I. W. (Isaiah West), 1830-1912
  • Watkins, Carleton E., 1829-1916

Document Type

  • Albumen prints.
  • Cabinet photographs.
  • Photographic prints.

Subject Topics

  • Landscape -- West (U.S.).
  • Landscape photography -- United States.
  • National parks and reserves -- United States.

Subject Places

  • California -- Pictorial works.
  • Colorado -- Pictorial works.
  • Utah -- Pictorial works.
  • West (U.S.) -- Pictorial works.
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yosemite Valley (Calif.) -- Pictorial works.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

For more information on making arrangements to consult the collection, please visit www.nyhistory.org/library/visit.

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, rightsandrepro@nyhistory.org. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Early American West Photograph Collection, PR 266, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Material at the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections

There are additional photographs of the west, some by photographers in this collection, in the Stereograph File (PR 065), the Postcard File (PR 054) and the Geographic File (PR 020). There are also photographs by William Henry Jackson in the Detroit Publishing Company Collection (PR 272) and in the Photographer File (PR 050).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection is made up of multiple purchases and gifts. Several cabinet cards came from donor George T. Bagoe.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Kelly McAnnaney, circa 2008.

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Container List

Series I. 8 x 10 Inches & Smaller

Scope and Contents note

Series I. 8 x 10 Inches & Smaller contains photographs from circa 1861-1900, by the following photographers: F. Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Isaiah West Taber and Carleton E. Watkins. The photographs taken by F. Jay Haynes are images of Yellowstone National Park. Included are thirteen round albumen photographs mounted on round board and labeled Bits of Scenery in Yellowstone Park. Another series of eleven photographs show a hunting party traveling through Yellowstone in 1888. Images show the group posed at their Snake River camp, men hunting, taxidermists working on trophies, men on horseback and images of their camp.

Photographs taken by William Henry Jackson are souvenir cabinet cards of Colorado. Locations include Boulder, Central City, Colorado Springs, Denver, Georgetown, Idaho Springs, Leadville and Silverton. Denver images make up the bulk of this group and contain images of the St. James Hotel, the Colorado National Bank and the Tabor Grand Opera House, as well as birdseye views of the city, including a series of photographs labeled Panorama of Denver. Portrait images by Jackson, as well as other, unidentified photographers, show photographers and artists working in the western landscape. Images include Jackson's photographic tent, portraits of Jackson with his horse and at a campsite, a group portrait that includes Thomas Moran during the Hayden Survey and a landscape, showing the photographer's shadow, taken during the Custer Expedition.

Isaiah West Taber photographs are all images of California and include photographs of Healdsburg, Los Angeles, Menlo Park, Monterey, Napa, San Diego, San Francisco, San Gabriel, San Rafael and Yosemite Valley. One folder of miscellaneous views contains three pages, possibly from a disbound album, with photographs mounted on each side. Photographs include the Old Colton Hall and Jail, San Gabriel Mission, Hotel Coronado in San Diego and several scenic views. There are also a large number of San Francisco photographs including images of the Palace Hotel, St. Ignatius College and several street views. Four images of Chinatown show Clay Street Hill, the dining room of a Washington Street Chinese restaurant, workers posed inside a butcher and grocery shop and a view looking down a Chinatown alley. Yosemite Valley images include Yosemite Falls and Sentinel Rock, as well as areas that are now part of Yosemite National Park, such as Hetch-Hetchy Falls.

Photographs taken by Carleton Watkins include images of Arizona, California and Nevada. Many of these prints are from "Watkins' New Boudoir Series." A single image of Arizona shows desert cactus. California images comprise the bulk of the Watkins photographs. There are images of Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, Monterey, North Bloomfield, Pasadena, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Gabriel, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and the Yosemite Valley. Along with scenic image of Monterey are two photographs of the fishing industry, one showing whale fishing and the other a Chinese fishery on the coast. San Francisco images include photographs of Woodward's Garden, the Palace Hotel, the Crocker residence and Golden Gate from Telegraph Hill. Chinatown images include a street scene, a portrait of a Chinese actor and several interiors of Chinese restaurants. Images of Santa Cruz County include photographs of ocean views, redwood forests and several views of the tracks and bridges of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Nevada photographs all show Lake Tahoe. One of these photographs includes Watkins traveling photo wagon with his studio information on the side.

F. JAY HAYNES

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1-3 Wyoming - Yellowstone

WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Colorado - Misc.
Box: 1 Folder : 5-6 Colorado - Denver
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Portraits (by Jackson and others)

ISAIAH WEST TABER

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 8-9 California - Misc.
Box: 1 Folder : 10 California - San Francisco
Box: 1 Folder : 11 California - San Francisco - Chinatown
Box: 1 Folder : 12 California - Yosemite

CARLETON E. WATKINS

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Arizona
Box: 2 Folder : 14 California - Misc.
Box: 2 Folder : 15 California - Monterey
Box: 2 Folder : 16 California - San Francisco
Box: 2 Folder : 17 California - San Francisco - Chinatown
Box: 2 Folder : 18 California - Santa Cruz County
Box: 2 Folder : 19 California - Yosemite
Box: 2 Folder : 20 Nevada

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Series II: 11 x 14 inches

Scope and Contents note

Series II. 11 x 14 Inches contains ten photographs by William Henry Jackson taken circa 1871-1878. Nine images are from the Hayden Survey and include views of campsites, men on horseback and one image of a Montana ranch. A group portrait shows five members of the survey: W.H. Holmes, G.B. Chittenden, Dr. F.V. Hayden, Ernest Ingersoll and W.H. Jackson. A single image of adobe houses appears to have been taken in New Mexico and is not part of the Hayden Survey photographs.

WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 21-24 Hayden Survey
Box: 3 Folder : 25 New Mexico

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Series III. 16 x 20 inches

Scope and Contents note

Series III. 16 x 20 Inches is comprised of albumen photographs by William Henry Jackson and Andrew J. Russell from circa 1869-1900. Jackson's photographs were taken in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah and are primarily scenic views. These mammoth plate photographs are slightly larger than 16 x 20 inches. Most are labeled with titles and numbers, which included in the folder list when available. Six photographs of Colorado appear to be from a disbound book or album and are found on three double-sided pages. Titles are paired in the folder list to reflect the recto and verso images.

Andrew J. Russell photographs are of Utah and range from approximately 11 1/4 x 7 3/4 inches to 12 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches but are mounted on larger paper or board. Six of these photographs are labeled "From S. J. Sedgwick's Illuminated Lectures." These images are mounted on board printed with a decorative border and are hand labeled. The titles given in the folder list are taken from these handwritten notes.

There is also one photograph by an unidentified photographer of a horse being led across water in the mountains.

WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 26 Colorado
 1001. Mount of the Holy Cross.
 1011. The Royal Gorge Grand Canyon of the Arkansas.
 1031. Gateway Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak.
 1161. Leadville.
 Cathedral Spires, Garden of the Gods.
 Long's Peak, Estes Park.

Box: 4 Folder : 27 Colorado
 1188. Toll Gate. Bear Creek Falls.
 1399. Toll Gate at Bear Creek Falls.
 1190. Mt. Abram - Ouray and Silverton Toll Road.
 [Silverton]
 1178. Cimarron Canon - D. & R.G.Ry.
 1181. Ouray. Col.

Box: 4 Folder : 28 New Mexico
 1029. Church of San Miguel, Santa Fe.

Box: 4 Folder : 29 Utah
 1062. The Book Cliffs Near Green River, Utah.
 1160. Castle Gate.

ANDREW J. RUSSELL

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 30 Utah
 Coalville, Weber Valley.
 Hanging Rock, Foot of Echo Canon.
 Mormon Turnpike Bridge, Mouth of Weber Canon.
 Sphynx of the Valley.

1869
Box: 4 Folder : 31 Utah, "from S. J. Sedgwick's Illuminated Lectures"
 Brigham's Residence.
 Salt Lake City. [rooftop view]
 Salt Lake City. [street view]
 Scene in Utah.
 Skull Rocks.
 Snow Sheds & Donner Lake.

UNIDENTIFIED

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 31A Photograph of horse being led across water by unidentified photographer
undated

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Series IV. 22 x 28 inches

Scope and Contents note

Series IV. 22 x 28 Inches contains albumen photographs by William Henry Jackson and Carleton Watkins from circa 1861-1896. Jackson's mammoth plate photographs are approximately 21 1/4 x 17 inches, mounted on 28 x 22 inch board. The images are all scenic views of Colorado, two showing railroad tracks cutting across the land. The titles and numbers in the folder list were transcribed directly from the prints.

Carleton Watkins photographs of Oregon and Yosemite Valley are approximately 20 3/4 x 15 3/4 inches mounted on 28 x 22 inch board. The titles given were transcribed from handwritten notes on each print.

WILLIAM HENRY JACKSON

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 32 Colorado (flat file)
 1009. The Royal Gorge - Grand Canon of the Arkansas.
 1054. The Sangre De Cristo from Marshall Pass.
 The Upper Twin Lake. Colorado.

CARLETON E. WATKINS

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 33 California - Yosemite (flat file)
 Catherdral Rocks, Yosemite
 Grizzly Giant and Mariposa Grove.
 Yosemite Valley. [The Domes, Yosemite.]
 [Yosemite Fall.]

Folder: 34 Oregon (flat file)
 Castle Rock, Columbia River.
 Mt. Hood & the Dalles.
 Multnomah Falls, Oregon.
 Tooth Bridge, Columbia River.

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