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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Malloy's Cut from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.The print shows a man standing beside train...

Granite Rock, Near Beaufort Station from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.The print shows a landscape with boulders,...

Granite Canon, From The Water Tank from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.The print shows train tracks with patches...

Carmichael's Cut, Granite Canon from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.The print shows a man standing next to the...

The Great West Illustrated from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.Printed in black capitalized letters in the...

Annotated Table Of Contents from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph. On the front page, printed in black ink...

Annotated Table Of Contents from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.On the front page, printed in black ink in...

Annotated Table of Contents from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.Printed at the top of the front page is "...

Preface from The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.Printed in black font at the top center of...

The Great West Illustrated In A Series Of Photographic Views Across The Continent; Taken Along The Line Of The Union Pacific Railroad, West From Omaha, Nebraska.
1869

This is a single page from "The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent" that contains an albumen print photograph.Printed on the title page in black...

The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views Across the Continent; taken along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad, west from Omaha Nebraska
1869

Book. Description: Book, The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photogrpahic Views Across the Continent; taken along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad, west from Omaha Nebraska. Volume 1...

R.R. Station House at Echo City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: R.R. Station House at Echo City 133 Image Description: See title. Men posing on platform. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13". Sub. Cat...

Officers of Fort Bridger, Colonel Morrow Commanding
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No 85 Officers of Fort Bridger Col Morrow Commanding (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1923. (85a) Physical Description: "Imperial...

Reed's Rock, Sherman Summit of U.P.R.R.
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: Men standing on rock above grassy area. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13 ". Sub. Cat.: Transportation --...

Valley of Bitter Creek from Coal Mines near Point Rocks
circa 1868

No 63 Bitter Creek Valley from Coal Mine near Point Rocks. (Scratched on negative). 69.459.1901 similar view.

Fort Bridger
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No 84 Fort Bridger (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1920. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13"....

Fort Bridger, Judge Carter Store in Middle Distance
circa 1868

83 No Fort Bridger Judge Carter store in Middle Distance (Scratched on negative). See also 69.459.1921.

Rocky Mountain Glee Club, Echo City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 138 Rocky Mountain Glee Club Echo City (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Ten men posing in front of tent. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate"...

Wind Mill, Laramie City
circa 1868

51 1/2 Wind Mill Laramie City (Scratched on negative). Buildings, train and men also in view. "Water was in scant supply on the Wyoming plains, and a monumental windmill and water tank had been...

Mr. Bushnell and Party at Rock Creek Station U.P.R.R.
circa 1868

No 56 Mr. Bushnell & Party at Rock Creek Station U.P.R.R. (Scratched on Negative)."Cornelius Bushnell was a railroad executive and one of the founders of Union Pacific. He is standing, second...

Bryan Station with Engine No. 65, Seen from Rear
circa 1868

80 1/2 Bryan Station with engine No 65 seen from rear."Bryan Station engine 65 seen from rear" from the title sheets pasted on the verso of the photographs in the collection of the Union Pacific...

Untitled
1876

Chinese laborers on a handcar during construction of Central Pacific Railroad line between Bakersfield & Los Angeles in 1876; negative also. This is a copy print made from a lantern slide...

Promontory Trestle Work
1869

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (223) Group of men standing by engine "Jupiter" of the Central Pacific Rail Road. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"...

East and West Shaking Hands at Laying Last Rail
1869

Photograph. Title: 227 East and West shaking hand at Laying Last Rail (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative,...

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