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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Looking down into Ripple Lake from Mount Emma
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 149 Looking down into Ripple Lake from Mount (?) Emma (?) (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

Rear View of Laramie Shops from Southeast, No. 4
circa 1868

Rear view of Laramie Shops from South East No 4.

Miller and Patterson's Work Cut No. 5 near Red Buttes
circa 1868

(33) Miller and Patterson's work cut No 5 near Red Buttes."UPRR print notes West of Dale Creek. Miller and Patterson were contractors for this portion of the railroad construction" remarks per...

Rock Cut No. 3, West of Dale Creek Bridge
circa 1868

(31) Rock Cut No 3 West of Dale Creek Bridge.

Great Embankment, Granite Canyon, Looking West, Huts of Construction in the Valley
circa 1868

"This appears to be the same location as the next negative (no. 10) but with the camera in front of the buildings (seen in negative 10) and facing east." Remarks per Glenn Willumson for the NEA...

Narrows of the Weber, No 2
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (174) Narrows of the Weber, No 2. See also 69.459.1988, 1989, 1991. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13 ". Sub. Cat...

Monument Rock, Mouth of Echo Canyon
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: 116 Monument Rock, Echo Cannon, nearly 250 feet high; conglomerate with sandstone base. See also 69.459.1941. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate...

Dan Casement and Clerks at Echo City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 137 Dan Casement and Clerks at Echo City (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10...

Employees of U.P.R.R. at Laramie Offices
circa 1868

No 50 Employees of U.P.R.R. at Laramie Offices (Scratched on negative).

North Platte Bridge
circa 1868

Low bridge over wide river. Three men standing on bridge."North Platte Bridge is located in Nebraska." Remarks per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June 2015.

Looking up Weber Valley from the Narrows
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 177 Looking up Weber Valley from the Narrows (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13...

Narrows of the Weber, No. 3
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 176 Narrows of the Weber No 3 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1987, 1989, 1991. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion...

Construction Train on Embankment, Granite Canyon
circa 1868

Construction train on embankment, Granite Cannon. Wagons and men on train."This appears to be the same location as negatives 9 and 10, camera facing East." Remarks per Glenn Willumson for the NEA...

Machine Shops, Omaha, Nebraska
circa 1868

A group of buildings and railway equipment. Snow on ground.

Mormon Family, Echo City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: Image Description: (131a) Mormon Family, Echo City. Three women in foreground. Buildings in middle ground. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative...

Directors of North Western R.R. at Echo City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 128 Directors of North Western R.R. at Echo City (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Group posing on porch of building. Concord coach with team in front...

Pulpit Rock, Mouth of Echo Canyon
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No Pulpit Rock Mouth of Echo Cannon 117 Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13". Sub. Cat.: Transportation...

The Narrows of Weber Canyon, No. 1
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 175 The Narrows of Weber Cannon No 1 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1987, 1989, 1991. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate"...

Wyoming Station, Engine No. 23 on Main Track
circa 1868

No 55 Wyoming Station Engine No 23 on Main Track (Scratched on negative). Men gathered around station. Engine head lamp decorated with rack of elk antlers.

Bird's-Eye View of Cotton Wood Canyon, No. 2
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 170 Birds Eye View Of Cotton Wood Canon No 2 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1984. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion...

Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution, Salt Lake City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No 154 Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution Salt Lake City Store in which Brigham has an interest. (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Also shows...

Officers at Fort Bridger, No. 2
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No 85 Officers at Fort Bridger No 2 (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1922. (85b) Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion...

Dale Creek Bridge from Below
circa 1868

25 Dale Creek Bridge from below (Scratched on negative). Light snow on ground below bridge. Copy negative for this image is found under 25a."Note inclusion of scale figures in center to give the...

Head of White Pine Canyon, Parley's Park
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 148 Head of White Pine Cannon Parleys Park (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. See also 69.459.1962. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion...

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