Andrew J. Russell

Andrew Joseph Russell (1830 – 1902)

One of a handful of landscape photographers who shaped our perception of the American West in the 19th century, A. J. Russell’s work stands alongside of Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge and Timothy O’Sullivan in its aesthetic power and technical virtuosity. A large group of Russell’s original glass-plate negatives are preserved in the Collection of the Oakland Museum of California.

A painter as well as photographer, Russell worked for Matthew Brady before documenting the U.S. Military Railroad as a captain during the Civil War. After the war, he secured a position as official photographer for the Union Pacific Railroad in its massive endeavor to construct a transcontinental railroad. His photographs, culminating in the iconic “Joining of the Rails” at Promontory, Utah, capture the majestic scale of western lands, the gritty enterprise of railroad building, frontier boom towns, and the effect of railroads on Native Americans.

Russell’s photographs brought the railroad, and the American West, to a mass audience. Disseminated internationally as stereo views and engravings in newspapers, and filtered through Hollywood films and even advertising, Russell’s visual style continues to influence our image of western history and mythology.

In 1969 the Oakland Museum acquired nearly 650 collodion “wet plate” negatives in both stereo and “imperial” (10 X 13 inch) formats. The original glass camera negatives were made in the field by Russell himself, making the collection unique, among major 19th century landscape photographers. The Museum also holds one of the few surviving copies of The Great West Illustrated, an album of vintage albumen prints by Russell, as well as mounted stereo views and more than 100 glass lantern slides.

Russell’s photographs illuminate powerful themes in American history: westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, the displacement of native peoples, attitudes toward landscape and the natural environment, technological history (both engineering and photographic), and the important role of art and photography in shaping and expressing cultural concerns.

For the first time, high-resolution digital scans of the original glass-plate negatives are now available for online viewing. These scans are highly detailed and rich in searchable content.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. National Endowment for the Arts

View results as Grid View results as List Browse Full Collection Advanced Search
Brigham Young's Cotton Woolen and Factories
Weber Canyon, Devil's [Gate]
[Grader's Cabins, Aspen]
Miss Seymour and Favorite
Carmichael's Work near Green River
Dale Creek from above the Bridge
Grader's Camp, Casement's Cabin near Quaking Asp Hill
Side Cut, Green River, Instantaneous View
Approach to Dale Creek Bridge from the West
Dale Creek Bridge from Above
Laramie Hotel
Rock Cut, Red Buttes
Lime Kiln [Fill], Near Granite Canyon
[Bushnell and Party, Rock Creek]
Tunnel at Head of Echo, Miller and Patterson's Work
Laying Track Teams for Transporting Material in Foreground
Looking down Echo Canyon from Death's Rock
Pulpit Rock, Mouth of Echo Canyon
Bowman's Cut
Fill No. 2, West of Granite Canyon
Brigham's Monument, Head of Echo Canyon
Devil's Post Office, Echo Canyon
Interior of Tent
Clerical Excursionists at Laramie City, 1868
© 2019 Oakland Museum of California