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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Dan Tilden and Friend
1869

Photograph. Title: Dan Tilden & Friend Image Description: (s592) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads.

Slaughterhouse, Promontory
1869

Photograph. Title: Slaughter House Promentory (sic) Image Description: (s514) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Steamer Kate Conner, Bear River, Wasatch Mountains in Foreground
1869

Photograph. Title: Steamer Kate Conner Bear River Corinne Image Description: (s502a) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

Group at S.B. Reed's Office, Echo
1869

Photograph. Title: Group at S.B. Reed Office Echo Image Description: (s606) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Distant View of Castle Rock Station
1869

Photograph. Title: Distant view of Castle Rock Station Image Description: (s272) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Eagle Rocks, Echo
1869

Photograph. Title: Eagle Rocks, Echo Image Description: (s343) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads. Remarks...

Echo City from Conglomerate Peaks
1869

Photograph. Title: Echo City from Conglomerate Peaks Image Description: (s342) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Front Street, Columbus
1869

Photograph. Title: 39 Front Street Columbus (Scratched on negative) Image Description: (39) Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8". Sub. Cat.:...

Ripple Lake, White Pine Canyon
1869

Photograph. Title: Ripple Lake White Pine Canon Image Description: (s464) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Tunnel No. 4, Weber Canyon, Eastern Portal
1869

Photograph. Title: Tunnel No. 4 Weber Canon, eastern portal Image Description: (s384) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

Looking across the Summits of the Wasatch Mountains
1869

Photograph. Title: Looking across the summits of the Wasatch Mountains Image Description: (s431) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.:...

Castle Rock Station
1869

Photograph. Title: Castle Rock Station Image Description: (s271) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads.

Castle Rock, No. 2, [Echo]
1869

Photograph. Title: Duplicate 270 Castle Rock No. 2, Echo. Image Description: (s270b) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

Temporary Bridge, Devils Gate
1869

Photograph. Title: No 210 Temporary Bridge Devil's Gate 210 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13 "....

Temporary and Permanent Bridge, Green River, Citadel Rock in Distance
1869

78 Temporary and Permanent Bridge Green River Citadel Rock in Distance (Scratched on negative). Train of track, snow on ground, men and buildings also visible."A handcar sits on the old bridge,...

Promontory Trestle, Engine on Trestle, West, No. 3
1869

Photograph. Title: 221 Promontory Trestle Engine on Trestle West (?) No 3 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

Bird's Eye View of Weber Canyon
1869

Photograph. Title: Bird's Eye view of Weber Canon Image Description: (s443) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Birds Eye View of Cheyenne
1869

Photograph. Title: 64 Birds Eye View of Cheyenne (Scratched on negative) Image Description: (s64) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8"....

Warner and Whitman's Group, Echo
1869

Photograph. Title: Warner & Whitman Group Echo Image Description: (s609) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Dan Casements at Echo
1869

Photograph. Title: Dan Casements at Echo Image Description: (s608) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads....

Green River Bridge, Temporary
1869

Photograph. Title: 185 Green River Bridge Temporary (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s185) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8"....

Looking down on Salt Lake Valley from the Wasatch Mountains, from Elevation of 2000 Feet
1869

Photograph. Title: Looking down on Salt Lake Valley from the wasatch Mts. from elevation of 2000 feet Image Description: (s442) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass...

Excursion Party on Devil's Gate Bridge
1869

Photograph. Title: Excurtion (sic) Party on Devil's Gate Bridge (Scratched on negative) 212 Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.2015. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate"...

Rawlings, Machine Shops from West
1869

Photograph. Title: 149 Rawlings Machine Shops from West (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s149) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8...

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