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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Valley of Bitter Creek, Panoramic View No. 2
1868

No 65 Valley of Bitter Creek Panoramic View No 2 (Scratched on negative). Left foreground shows wagon camp site."Russell's dark room wagon can be seen along the lower edge of this photograph. A...

Coal Bed of Bear River, Perpendicular Vein of 7 Feet
1868

Photograph. Title: No 88 Coal bed of Bear River Perpendicular vein of 7 feet (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

Laying Railroad Track on U.P.R.R.
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s159) Laying railroad track on U.P.R.R. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8". Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Brigham's Monument, Echo Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: Brigham's Monument Echo Canon Image Description: (s285) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

[Countess and Party, Green River]
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s195) Group of people in buggies in front of tent camp. Middle distance. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat...

Miller and Patterson's Tunnel
1868

Photograph. Title: Miller and Patterson's Tunnel Image Description: (s267a) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

[Men, Women and Children in Front of a Brush Shelter]
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s232) Men, women and children in front of a brush shelter. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

Mormon Toll Bridge at Mouth of Weber Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: No 213 Mormon Toll Bridge at Mouth of Weber Canon (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative,...

Group of Engineers at Echo City
1868

Photograph. Title: Group of Engineers at Echo City Image Description: (s611) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

[Cut Green River]
1868

Photograph. Title: No 82 ( ) Cut Green River Inst ( ) (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s174) See title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8...

Rock Great Eastern, Echo Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: 114 Rock Great Eastern Echo Cannon (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1939. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

Rock Great Eastern, No. 2, Echo Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: 113 Rock Great Eastern No 2 Echo Cannon (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1940 Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

Miller and Patterson's Tunnel at Head of Echo Canyon
1868

Photograph. Title: Miller and Patterson's Tunnel at Head of Echo Canon Image Description: (s267c) see Title Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.:...

Castle Rock, Green River
1868

(77b) Castle Rock, Green River Valley. See also 69.459.1913."Russell's darkroom wagon can be seen on the right side of the image in the middle ground" remarks per Glenn Willumson. "Castle Rock,...

Valley and Bridge of Dale Creek, General View
1868

Valley and bridge of Dale Creek, general view.

Carmichael's Camp, Bitter Creek Valley No. 2
1868

66 No Carmichael's Camp Bitter Creek Valley No 2 (Scratched on negative). See also 73 and 75."Behind the construction camp, right center of the photograph, one can see one of the cuts made into...

[Mormon Camp, Echo Canyon]
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: shows Mormon Village in Echo Canyon (s286a) Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads...

Red Buttes or Vase Rock, sometimes called Dial Rock, near Red Buttes Station
1868

(36) Red Buttes or Vase Rock, sometime called Deal Rock, near Red Buttes' station.

Hall's Cut, Sherman Station
1868

Snow banks visible in cut.

Looking up Echo Canyon towards [...]
1868

Photograph. Title: Looking up Echo Cannon towards... Image Description: (s299) see Title. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Bear River City
1868

Photograph. Title: Bear River City (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Many buildings with signs are shown. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative,...

Hanging Rock, Echo City
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: Hanging Rock, Echo City (s337) Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative. Sub. Cat.: Transportation -- Railroads.

Side Cut, Green River
1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (s186) Side Cut, Green River. Men standing near truck. (scratched on negative) Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5...

[Cut near Green River]
1868

Photograph. Title: 173 (scratched on negative) Image Description: (s173) Cut near Green River. Physical Description: Stereographic collodion glass plate negative, 5"X8". Sub. Cat.:...

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