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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Brigham Young's Cotton Woolen and Factories
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (153) #50 Brigham Young's Wollen and Cotton Factory near Salt Lake City. Fields in foreground. Mountains in background. Physical Description: "...

Weber Canyon, Devil's [Gate]
1868

Photograph. Title: Weber Canon below Devil's Gate Image Description: (s422) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

[Grader's Cabins, Aspen]
1868

Photograph. Title: 209 (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s209) Earth/sod dwellings. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

Miss Seymour and Favorite
1868

Photograph. Title: Miss Seymour & Favorite Image Description: (s585) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Carmichael's Work near Green River
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s161) Carmichaels Work near Green River? Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8". Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Dale Creek from above the Bridge
1868

Photograph. Title: 107 Dale Creek from above the Bridge (Scratched on Negative) Image Description: (s107) See title. Men, equipment, and buildings also seen. Physical Description: Stereographic...

Grader's Camp, Casement's Cabin near Quaking Asp Hill
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s208) Grader's Camp, Casement's Cabin near Quaking Asp Hill (source unknown) Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub....

Side Cut, Green River, Instantaneous View
1868

Photograph. Title: Side Cut Green River Instantaneous View No 28 (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s196) See title. See also 69.459.2170, 69.459.2171, and 69.459.2172. Physical...

Approach to Dale Creek Bridge from the West
1868

Photograph. Title: 106 Approach to Dale Creek Bridge from the West (Scratched on Negative) Image Description: (s106) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative...

Dale Creek Bridge from Above
1868

No 21 Dale Creek Bridge from above. Shows bridge with men, crude buildings and equipment in gulch below.

Laramie Hotel
1868

(45) Laramie Hotel. Railroad tracks are adjacent.

Rock Cut, Red Buttes
1868

"Rock cut Red Buttes #145" Train on tracks. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Red Buttes likely located in Wyoming but not certain" remarks per Glenn Willumson for the NEA...

Lime Kiln [Fill], Near Granite Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: 73 Lime Kiln Fill, near Granite Cannon (Scratched on negative) Image Description: (s73) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"...

[Bushnell and Party, Rock Creek]
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s146b) Bushnell and Party, Rock Creek. See also 69.459.2178 and 69.459.2129. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8...

Tunnel at Head of Echo, Miller and Patterson's Work
1868

Photograph. Title: No 102 Tunnel at Head of Echo Miller and Patterson's Work (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion...

Laying Track Teams for Transporting Material in Foreground
1868

Photograph. Title: 199 Laying Track Teams for Transporting Material in foreground (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s199) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion...

Looking down Echo Canyon from Death's Rock
1868

Photograph. Title: No 110 Looking down Echo Cannon from Death's Rock (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"...

Pulpit Rock, Mouth of Echo Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: Pulpit Rock mouth of Echo Canon Image Description: (s332) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Bowman's Cut
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s77) Bowman's Cut. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8". Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads. Remarks...

Fill No. 2, West of Granite Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s76) Fill No 2 West of Granite Cannon. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8". Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Brigham's Monument, Head of Echo Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: Brigham's Monument, Head of Echo Canon Image Description: (s287) Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Devil's Post Office, Echo Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: Devil's Post Office, Echo Canon Image Description: (s280) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Interior of Tent
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s615a) Interior of Tent Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads. Remarks: See also...

Clerical Excursionists at Laramie City, 1868
1868

No 44 Clerical Excursionists at Laramie City 1868 (Scratched on negative). Group os people standing in front of Union Pacific Railroad cars.

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