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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Meadows, Bear River
circa 1869

"Meadows Bear River #263." Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file.Titles derived from the lists on the verso of Russell stereographs published after his return to New York in...

Down from Echo
circa 1869

Down from Echo. Shows engine, smoke escaping, on tracks. Across the Continent. 2. Echo Canyon;Bear R.; Unita Mts. - In wood file cabinet. In this next section, I have grouped the slides,...

Summit of the Uintahs
circa 1869

"Sedgwick #256" Summit of Uintas. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Summit of the Uintahs" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June 2015....

Citadel Rock Elevation, Green River
circa 1869

"Citadel Rock elev. Green Riv. # 176." Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file.Titles derived from the lists on the verso of Russell stereographs published after his return to...

Spectre Lake, Looking West
circa 1869

"#247" Spectre Lake looking west. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file.Titles derived from the lists on the verso of Russell stereographs published after his return to New...

Tunnel No. 2, Western Portal
circa 1869

"Tunnel #2 Western Portal."#288. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file.

Temporary Bridge, Bear River, Corinne
circa 1869

Sedgwick. Unidentified water storage tank Russell? Across the Continent. 4a. Miscellaneous railroad photographs. In this next section, I have grouped the slides, photographer unknown, according to...

North Platte Machine Shops
circa 1869

Original cataloging:North Platte machine shops. Russell? showing the three arched shopdoors closed, two men in foreground. Across the Continent. 1. Omaha to Green R. - In wood file cabinet. In...

Lake of the Sounding Shore, 11,500 Feet High
circa 1869

"Sedgwick #246" Lake of Sounding Shore 11,500 ft. high. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Lake of the Sounding Shore, 11,500 feet high" title per Glenn Willumson for the...

Dale Creek Bridge From Ape Rock
circa 1869

"Dale Creek Bridge, Ape Rock #104". Old Number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."104. Dale Creek Bridge from Ape Rock" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013...

Dale Creek Bridge from Below
circa 1869

"Sedgwick #112 from - " Dale Creek Bridge. Old Number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."112. Dale Creek Bridge from below" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July...

Church Buttes
circa 1869

"Sedgwick #203 Church Buttes." Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Church Buttes" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June 2015. Titles derived...

Supply Train, Going Down
circa 1869

"Sedgwick #296" Supply tram going down. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Supply Train going down" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June...

Among Pines, White Pine Canyon
circa 1869

"#458 Among pines, W.P. Canyon." Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Oakland's 458 is a different image. I have this as 243. Forest View, Uintah Mountains. Other than the...

Mormon Cottage, Parley's Park
circa 1869

Photograph. Image Description: Shows pioneer family posed outside their log cabin, in Utah (presumably; this would suggest Mormon family). Physical Description: Albumen stereo view mounted on...

Churches No. 2
circa 1869

"Sedgwick #15" Churches no. 2 Omaha. Probable Russell photograph, stored in Russell drawer. Across the Continent. New York and Niagara Falls. In this next section, I have grouped the slides,...

Chinese Washing Clothes, Sacramento
circa 1869

"Chinese laundry" Sacramento S570. Old number Russell negative number. See donor file."Chinese Washing Clothes, Sacramento" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June...

Moore's Lake, No.2
circa 1869

"Moore's Lake Unitah Mts." #251. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Moore's Lake, no.2" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June 2015. Titles...

The Old Saw Mill, Parley's Park
circa 1868

"Sedwick #450 Parleys Park" Boy seated on lumber with buildings in background. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file.

Snow and Timber Line, Uinta Mountains
circa 1868

"Sedwick #451 White Pine Canyon. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."This lantern slide is derived from imperial 90. Snow and Timber Line, Uintah Mountains." Remarks per...

Looking Down Temple Street, Salt Lake
circa 1868

"Sedgwick #479" Great Salt Lake City. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."This lantern slide is derived from imperial 168. Looking Down Temple Street, Salt Lake " remarks...

Mummy Rocks, Black Butte
circa 1868

"Mummy Rock #163 Black Buttes. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."163. Mummy Rocks Black Butte" title per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June 2015....

Residence of Mormon Bishop, Parley's Park
circa 1868

"Sedgwick #467 Snyder Parleys P." Group on porch of building. Old number may be Russell negative number. See donor file."Residence of Mormon Bishop, Parley's Park" title per Glenn Willumson for...

Conglomerate Peak of Echo
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 134 Conglomerate Peak of Echo (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Women posing at foot of peak. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

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