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

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Cut near Blue Creek
1869

Photograph. Title: Cut near Blue Creek Image Description: (s529) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads....

Face of Temple Rock, Echo
1869

Photograph. Title: Face of Temple Rock, Echo - Image Description: (s304) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Interior of Carpenter Shops, Omaha
1869

Photograph. Title: Interior of Carpenter's Shops Omaha 26 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: (s26) See title. Union Pacific Rail Road Emigrant Car No 16 in background. Physical...

Distant View of Machine Shops, Omaha
1869

Photograph. Title: 25 Distant View of Machine Shops Omaha (Scratched on negative) Image Description: (s25) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"...

Citadel Rock, Showing Elevation
1869

Photograph. Title: 178 Citadel Rock showing eleva(tion) (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s178) See title. Rail Road tracks and equipment in foreground. Physical Description:...

Cut No. 2, West of Wasatch
1869

Photograph. Title: 222 Cut No 2 West of Wasatch (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s222) See title. Engine on track in distance. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass...

Blowing off Steam, Wasatch
1869

Photograph. Title: 212 Blowing off Steam Wasatch (scratched on negative) Image Description: (212) See title. Engine No. 120, Rogers printed on side. Physical Description: Stereographic...

Constructing Permanent Bridge, Green River
1869

Photograph. Title: 176 Constr(uct)ing Permanent Bridge Green River (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s176) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate...

Mouth of Weber from Front Street, Uintah
1869

Photograph. Title: Mouth of Weber from Front Street Uintah Image Description: (s420) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

Bouquet, Echo City
1869

Photograph. Title: Rocky Mountain Boquet (sic) Image Description: (s312) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Looking up the Weber from the Top of Tunnel No. 4
1869

Photograph. Title: No 194 Looking up the Weber from the top of Tunnel No 4 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

Salt Lake from Trestle Work
1869

Photograph. Title: Salt Lake from Trestle Work Image Description: (s515) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Steamer Kate Conner, Bear River, Corinne
1869

Photograph. Title: Steamer Kate Conner Wasatch Mountains Bear River in foreground. Image Description: (s502b) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative....

Distant View of Salt Lake, Looking down the Weber from the Wasatch
1869

Photograph. Title: Distant view of Salt Lake Looking down the Weber from the Wasatch Image Description: (s430) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative....

16th Street, Cheyenne
1869

Photograph. Title: 65 16 Street (Scratched on negative) Image Description: (s65) See title. Commercial buildings. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8...

Old Woolen Factory, Utah
1869

Photograph. Title: Old Woolen Factory Utah Image Description: (s492) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads....

Promontory from West
1869

Photograph. Title: Promentory (sic) from West Image Description: (s536) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Eagle Gap, Dale Creek
1869

Photograph. Title: 123 Eagle Gap Dale Creek (scratched on negative). Image Description: (s123) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8". Sub....

R.R. Eating House, Grand Island
1869

Photograph. Title: 47 R.R. Eating House Grand Island (Scratched on negative) Image Description: (s47) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8...

Echo City from Witches Rocks
1869

Photograph. Title: Echo City, from Witches Rock Image Description: (s326) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Panoramic No. 1, Salt Lake Valley from Corinne, Brigham City in the Distance
1869

Photograph. Title: Panoramic No 1 219 Salt Lake Valley from Corinne Brigham City in the Distance (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Tracks of Rail Road. See also 69...

Untitled
1869

Photograph. Title: Image Description: View of unidentified bridge. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads.

Distant View of Wasatch
1869

Photograph. Title: 217 Distant view of Wasatch (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s217) See title. Engine in middle distance. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass...

Tourists on Ripple Lake, White Pine Canyon
1869

Photograph. Title: Tourists on Ripple Lake White Pine Canon Image Description: (s456) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

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